'Raw Data' Wants to Create VR Worlds that Simulate Non-Reality 

"I’m not in VR just to shoot a gun. I’m in VR to do something I can’t do in real life."

An authentic VR experience should do way more than just let you shoot a gun. It should let you transform into a badass action hero that can do incredible things. According to Mike McTyre, the design director at Survios, the game developer behind the hit VR shooter Raw Data, they designed their game specifically to let people do amazing things they couldn’t in real life. According to McTye, that’s the “true magic of VR.”

If the $1 million in sales Raw Data made during its Early Access period are any indication, then Survios is doing something right.

The game itself offers a straightforward enough experience: You shoot or stab seemingly endless hordes or robots in the cyberpunk environments of the far-flung future. But because it’s VR, you feel like you’re actually reloading pistols, slashing swords, or drawing a bowstring back.

You control one of four hackers with special skills trying to take down the huge corporation that owns the world. It’s straightforward and visually stunning, with adrenaline-fueled action and dynamic environments — everything action VR should be.

In a recent conversation with Inverse, Mike McTyre spoke about how Raw Data’s became what it is today:

How did Raw Data’s unique combat styles evolve in the sci-fi setting?

We started Raw Data in an era before the VR hardware was really out. Everybody had a bunch of demos where you were shooting guns, right? None of it was special. Quite frankly, I thought to myself, “I could go to a shooting range in real life and shoot a gun.” I’m not in VR just to shoot a gun. I’m in VR to do something I can’t do in real life.

I can shoot a gun in real life but I can’t be an action hero, right? That’s where our various characters and archetypes come in.

So we developed a gun-wielding character in Bishop that can rapid-fire pistols and bend time. Then you’ve got Saija with telekinetic abilities and light swords — that’s just two. With these characters, we want you to feel like an action hero straight out of your favorite anime or action movie, the same ones that have inspired us.

What made you all want to tell this kind of story in VR?

Until you’ve really tried VR, you just don’t understand the power of it, the magic of it. It’s truly something new that most people haven’t truly experienced before. There’s nothing else quite like it.

We’re here and working in VR because we believe it’s not just amazing now, but that it’s going to be a huge part of entertainment in the future in all sorts of different media forms. We just want to be a part of that.

How did the game wind up with the four character archetypes?

That came down to a design decision that we made early on with the game. Before Raw Data emerged as a game, the team did a lot of prototyping. When I started on, they had prototypes for 20-plus weapons. A mini-gun, SMG, rocket launcher, this and that. I loved the ambition, but I knew we couldn’t do all of that. Rather than spread it out with more weapons that offered a shallow experience, we opted for a more Hero-focused design.

Each Hero focuses on one primary weapon, and then they get abilities and powers to enhance that weapon. Again, we’re aiming for that more action hero. Again, you can go to a gun range and swap between a whole bunch of weapons, but you can’t use telekinesis or fly through the air or make holographic images of yourself. So we wanted to focus on that.

Then it came down to focusing on four heroes focusing on four weapons. So we came to dual pistols — VR lets us point two pistols in different directions. Then dual swords with telekinetic powers. Then a shotgun character with powerful, cybernetic fists. Then an archer. Those are all mechanically — again focusing on VR mechanics — you do very different motions with your hands and body. We were trying to keep it as dynamic as possible.

A lot of people talk about the gun reloading mechanic. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

That went through many different iterations. It’s been one of those things we were trying to balance. The VR market itself is growing, and it’s maturing, but it takes time, right? For instance, a lot of the early adopters of VR, even the team at Survios, were very much focused on the immersion factor, which is the most improtant thing in VR. Part of that for a lot of people lends towards more simulator-like action.

“Okay I have a gun in my hand, so when the gun is empty, I have to eject the clip and manually grab a new clip and then cock the gun.” There are all these steps in real-life. So we initially had — and still kept to a degree — the mechanic that you have to manually reload the pistol when the clip runs out. While a lot of people love that, it’s slow.

After you’ve done it a couple hundred times, the novelty kind of wears off.

We eventually decided that after time, you unlock the Proximity Reload that allows you to just tap your hips to reload. It also solves the problem of how to reload two pistols at the same time.

We’ve updated the mechanic over time, but some people still just love that manual reload. It’s a simulator thing. Some players just love simulators, but ultimately, we decided to upgrade the character with the proximity reload because it was more fun and reached a broader audience.

Raw Data is currently available via Steam and for PSVR.

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