First blog posts are friggin awkward…
Ooof, with that out the way, Hi! If you’re reading this, you’re one of the first to come to check out RUST’s latest game, Null Operator. I’m Anton, and I’ll be the bearded fellow rambling and occasionally SHOUTING at you here through the interwebs.
Null Operator is a 6-degrees-of-freedom procedural action stealth roguelike for PC and VR. Or with less jargon and more wut, it’s kind of like if Descent and Binding of Isaac had a bastard hate-child, then raised it on 80s video art and mescaline.
The D Word
As many of you know, if you’re a space-game fan, it is a glorious time to be alive. We’re in the midst of a renaissance of that form, all the while watching VR go through a rebirth into the actual consumer market.
Amidst this, I found myself asking… What about Descent? Descent, for those of you youngins who weren’t yet gaming in 1995, was a 6 Degrees-of-freedom shooter that had you diving through maze-like dark environments, shooting mad robots, and blowing the whole damn level up at the end by blowing its reactor, and making a quick escape. It was followed by Descent 2, which honed the experience, and had one of the best damn soundtracks one could ask for.
Descent was the first truly 3d game I played as a kid (mom wasn’t so keen on Doom’s ultraviolence; spaceship on robot violence was cool tho?). It was my first love, and in many ways the reason I became a 3d artist in the first place. Sometime, if I’m high enough, I’ll post a pic here of the descent ship 3d model I made when I was nine. Anywho, its as near to my heart as any game could me. While everyone else was enjoying the 16-bit console era, I was blasting low-poly robots with my shitty two-button joystick.
I miss those days. And while I’m loving the wealth of space game goodness that’s happening this past year, it’s all been a touch too homogeneously wing-commander-ee for my tastes. Descent was first and foremost I feel, a horror game. It was about being alone, low on ammo, totally lost, steeling yourself for the next tense engagement. Its that dark claustrophobic essence that I want to resurrect.
State of the Game
While Null Operator is still a young project, about 3 months in at this point, it’s also the product of the half-dozen or so prototypes and experiments I’ve done over the past 2 years, trying to find the right marriage of game-feel environment and theme. It was the marriage of these flight and combat systems with my first deep dive into procedural level generation that had things finally click, and has since become my every-waking moment obsession.
So over the past 3 months, I’ve managed to get the following up and working:
A fully functioning physics-driven player ship with location based system damage, generativity configured weapon systems, radar.
Procedurally generated AI robots composed of a network of damageable/destroyable components, fly entirely by topological and heat sensors, which currently fight a little too well
A procedural level generation system composed of rooms configured through a voxel-dataset that controls the instantiation of tiles from about half a dozen tilesets
A semi-procedural weapon system er.. system with 8 weapons types composed of accelerators, power systems, mounting types and varying levels, totaling about 750 unique weapon systems at the moment. I’m sure that’ll grow.
Some in-house custom tool goodness.
It’s a solid enough foundation that I’m confident the core mechanic space is gelling well, enough so that production has now shifted towards getting a releasable combat alpha put together, and have launched this blog. We’ll be doing feature-highlight posts over the coming weeks where I’ll be diving into the nitty-gritty of each system, how it works, and where its going.
We had the fortune last month from attending Oculus Connect, which became the impromptu first public showing of our prototype thanks to the incredible demo machines Oculus made available both nights. The response was simply incredible, and served to light a fire under my ass to start sharing the project more publicly.
Null Operator is being simul-developed for both VR and traditional PC setups. I love VR, but I also know that there are many out there who love this sort of game, but can’t or won’t be jumping into VR for some time. Having done Museum of the Microstar, Courageous Cannonball Commander, as well as a number of smaller Rift projects, we’re confident that we can balance the twin platform demands while ensuring each experience feels like the native one.
So when do I get to play it?
Soon! Our goal is to first release a closed combat alpha that will contain a brief tutorial, a selection of the available weapon systems, and combat drones to fight. The goal of this release will be to get feedback on the control schema and physics game feel, as well as test on a wider swath of GPUs than we have access to. If you’d like to be part of it, sign up for our mailing list! We’ll be sending out a hardware/setup questionnaire along with the alpha sign up.
A VR release of this will follow shortly after (we’re still waiting on a display driver fix from Oculus that’s nuking our DX11 computer-buffer based vfx). That build will most certainly be hosted on Oculus Share.