Virtual Reality

‘Among Us’ Could Have Been Too Scary In VR, Developers Say


“Among Us” was one of the video games that exploded in popularity during the pandemic. 2018’s social deduction murder mystery game set in outer space has transcended gaming, reaching Cakestoy stores and more.

Innersloth developers were a three-person team in 2018, working on the board game where a group of innocent people perform mundane tasks, while killers – called “impostors” – run free at night. The group of players can vote against whoever they believe is guilty of murder, so that the imposters are removed from the group before the innocents lose their majority.

In recent years, “Among Us” has expanded into multiple collaborations with other games, in virtual reality, merchandise, and fan art. It was all the fruit of hard work, said Forest Willard, the Innersloth programmer who also manages the company’s operations, sitting with The Washington Post in Los Angeles at The Game Awards, the annual event of industry Oscar-style awards.

“We certainly had no intention of [“Among Us”] to be a super prevalent cultural phenomenon,” Willard said. “But at the same time, we designed the game specifically to be accessible to ‘non-gamers.’ Considering virality and accessibility, that makes sense.

“Just looking at the gaming industry, we’re probably one of the best brands in terms of merchandising. Most games don’t care. It’s a lot of work.”

Victoria Tran, who manages Innersloth’s social media presence, said “Among Us”‘s biggest social media platform is TikTok, where the game has more than three million subscribers. She explained how she had worked to diversify Innersloth’s social media presence and how the company would not be influenced by Takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk.

“Growing up with social media, I don’t trust any platform to sustain myself, honestly,” Tran said. “I saw MySpace go down, I saw Vine go down. I don’t know what’s going on with Facebook. BeReal was the hot thing and now nobody talks about it.

Even if Twitter goes down, Tran said, the developers of “Among Us” also post news inside the game itself, so they have a direct line to players.

“Among Us VR” was up for best virtual or augmented reality game at The Game Awards on Dec. 8, where it lost to puzzle adventure game “Moss: Book II.” A team of more than 15 developers from Schell Games were tasked with bringing “Among Us” to virtual reality, launching the game a month ago.

One of the first things the team noticed during development was that “Among Us VR” would too good of a horror game.

“It quickly became clear how scary this game can be in VR, especially when you’re now in what could be a scary environment, surrounded by people who want to mess with you and kill you,” said Michal Ksiazkiewicz, game designer senior of Schell Games.

Ksiazkiewicz said that when adapting “Among Us” to virtual reality, they had to think carefully about how to adapt the killing actions, so that they are not too scary and horrifying for the players. . The developers also added colors and little jokes to lighten the overall tone of the game.

Schell also streamlined the game, abstracting out actions such as stabbing other players with a knife at the press of a button, so players don’t have to aim in VR, which Ksiazkiewicz says could be nauseous.

“It’s about the aspect of lying to your friends, and everything else should be in service of that,” Ksiazkiewicz said. “Our goal in VR was to keep the barrier of entry for a player as low as possible.”

Adapting in-game purchases to virtual reality has also proven to be a work in progress. While “Among Us” on console, PC, and mobile has rolled out collaborations with “League of Legends” and “Fortnite,” Ksiazkiewicz said they don’t currently know if they can sell more than just virtual hats in VR. The costumes and pets, which are available on the original game, have not yet entered virtual reality.

At The Game Awards, “Among Us” announced its biggest update this year, adding a hide-and-seek mode. Following the huge fan interest in “Among Us,” Willard talked about balancing adding in-game content with employee burnout. He said that since “Among Us” took off, he’s had a constant feeling of catching up on business and technical issues.

“It always feels like it’s catching up because people’s requests can come in much faster than any update,” Tran said. “It’s been exciting and stressful.”

Willard said for the most part they’re trying to eliminate crunch, or the practice of working long evenings or weekends in the gaming industry.

“You tell your prospects, ‘No, don’t crunch,’ and your prospects tell their direct [reports], ‘No, do not crack.’ Then everyone at least has this mental image of, ‘I don’t want to crunch, it’s wrong to crunch,’” Willard said. “We crunched, it’s not perfect, it’s still a work in progress. But we try to minimize it as much as possible. »

To avoid overwork, sometimes players’ requests can’t all be met, especially when they’re prioritized over other upcoming content and features, Willard said.

“This is the part where you start ignoring players, like ‘Sorry, that’s just not a high enough priority’, and you pace yourself.”

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