Exclusive Interview: How IKinema RunTime is helping Archiact transform Evasion VR to full-blown AAA

To develop a VR game from scratch which exudes both immersive bullet hell intensity and cinematic quality – to grab the gaming worlds’ attention and ricochet to triple-A proportions is kudos well earned for Vancouver studio, Archiact. Armed with our cutting-edge RunTime middleware from the games’ beginnings, Evasion is the result of superb technical skill and creative prowess – it’s without doubt, VR passion runs through this studios’ veins to launch their exhilarating sci-fi FPS VR genre to the world.

We delve into the cortex of Evasion’s Senior Producer, Jennifer Dowding to explore how the team are making use of our powerful real-time, full-body solving tech to accelerate development, cut cost and elevate performance levels in total immersion and whole body avatar locomotion, where gamers mobilise with greater realism and freedom in, under and around alien world environments – making this truly next-gen gameplay for all.

Tell us a bit about the origins of Archiact and Evasion, and what are the games’ core features and values
This has always been a passion project for the team. We started Evasion as a small VR multiplayer arcade wave shooter with a ‘head-and-hands’ avatar. Today we are building a full FPS action game that features four unique hero classes with full-body player avatars engaged in dynamic team play combat. It’s the most ambitious game the studio has ever made and we’re trying to stay focused on creating the game we as fans wanted to see made for VR. We can’t wait to share it with the VR gaming community.

Evasion is an intense VR sci-fi shooter where you play as a member of the Vanguard, an elite squad who are locked in a desperate battle against a malevolent alien race called the Optera. Our studio has built this game from the ground up for free-move locomotion and co-op team combat. Our goal was to create a VR game that recreates the feeling of a true FPS console-like experience. We are challenging some of the early assumptions made about what can and cannot be done in VR.

How did you learn about IKinema, what was your first experience like?
We found IKinema on the Unreal Engine forums and asked for a trial. We spent a day to test what we could do and had a first run on a VR character in about a week – the results were absolutely beyond our expectations.

Studios choose RunTime because it cuts production time and cost – how has this worked for the Archiact team?
Working with a middleware partner like IKinema let us get to work on a full body avatar in a short amount of time, drastically cutting down on what would have been months of R&D and reducing a lot of unknowns in terms of what we could achieve as a smaller team. With IKinema we were able to focus on animation and integrating player movement while we benefiting from what the IKinema team was doing on their end to keep the tool cutting-edge.

What were the decision clinchers which made you choose RunTime for this style of game?
A lot of games just have the characters as a floating head and hands, but our ambition was to offer more for players. Creating fun VR games is all about immersion, and we didn’t want to include anything that would take players out of the experience.

The positive press and industry reactions to our Evasion pre-alpha demo have really shown us that the IKinema integration was a smart move. Players are having a lot of fun as they fight their way through an incredibly immersive world where their teammates are physically present – reacting, moving and dodging for cover alongside them.

Companies choose IKinema because it delivers accuracy, believability and realism to their animated characters. Has RunTime also delivered this for the Evasion dev team, and in what ways does it effect your gamers overall VR experience?
We really felt the results on our avatars; full body movement allows us to bring our own physicality and personal traits into the game world. The first time we tried out the avatars in a co-op game made the experience immediately more engaging. Seeing your friends and teammates in VR and being able to fight alongside them (no matter where they are in the world!) is a totally new experience that everyone should try. 

Do you feel RunTime has taken Evasion to a higher level of game-play?
Since Evasion features full body avatars, it’s important to both look good and feel good when you’re dodging enemy fire, taking cover behind a rock face, or charging into a firefight. We want to make the player feel like an action hero. Seeing your squad peaking out for a quick snipe behind a wall or squatting down to avoid an enemy barrage truly makes for memorable gameplay moments. As a squad experience, it’s incredibly fun to give teammates a virtual ‘high five’ or a victory wave after a climactic boss fight encounter.

From a gamers perspective, how has RunTime improved their overall experience?
Each hero class in Evasion have their own signature weapons and a highly detailed combat outfit. For testing purposes, one of the first things we added was an in-game mirror. We had intended to take it out, but it proved so fun (dance moves and hero poses were popular) so we choose to build it into the lobby experience. It’s a great chance for players to get a feel for their “virtual avatar” and it really highlights the impressive tech.

Has IKinema lived up to your expectations to deliver realistic motion and behaviours on your characters?
We have very high expectations so it has taken quite a while to really refine our avatars to the highest level of quality, but we absolutely see the value. With diligent bug fixing and excellent support from the RunTime team we were able to get a demo with the desired movement that met the standards we wanted to deliver.

Thanks for sharing your journey with us! Will RunTime remain in your pipeline for future projects?
Going back to a virtual world without full-body avatars would be tough. I’m not sure the team would be very happy about it. We’ve really gotten used to having our own virtual bodies that allow us to be really expressive. We love looking like awesome action heroes in VR and we want to share that with everyone.

We hope everyone will check out our Evasion announce trailer on Archiact’s YouTube, wishlist us on Steam or visit www.evasionvrgame.com for more information. We can’t wait for FPS fans and new VR gamers to experience it for themselves.

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