When it comes to virtual reality games and experiences, there’s odd and interesting things happening on the horizon. One studio is asking a question that has certainly been asked many times before: Have you ever wanted to wield magic in your very hands? That said, Carbon Studio isn’t just asking the question. They’re making it a reality with their latest VR game, The Wizards, which puts players behind the eyes and hands of a true wizard in a fantasy-fiction fight for survival.
Coming to Steam Early Access fairly soon, The Wizards is a game built for Oculus Touch and HTC Vive that challenges players to master arcane gestures, summon spells, and dispatch hordes of enemies with them. However, becoming a master of the arcane arts is no easy feat. That’s why GameWatcher reached out to Carbon Studio to talk about what’s going into this magical VR adventure. Game Designer Piotr Cieślak and PR and Project Manager Pawel Gajda were nice enough to answer the call. During our interview, we got to talk about what it takes to summon a spell in The Wizards, how your arcane studies progress, and the unique Fate Cards system Carbon Studio is using to allow players to alter difficulty and ease of the game.
GameWatcher: Carbon Studio has worked on a VR game before, which was a science fiction adventure title loosely inspired by the works of Lewis Carol, named Alice. How did the studio decide on the concept of The Wizards for the next chapter in its VR catalogue?
Paweł Gajda: When we started work on Alice, it was around the time when everyone was working with Oculus Development Kit 2. Motion controllers had not been introduced and no one had heard of Vive yet or Oculus Touch yet. When those advancements came along, we immediately knew we wanted to make something that utilized this new technology. As for the concept, casting spells felt like an awesome direction to go with it. Being able to wield magic in your hands and become a wizard is a fantasy dream that a lot of people can identify with. A lot of players and developers are at a point now where they grew up with either Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings and yet you can count on one hand how many VR spellcasting games are out there.
Piotr Cieślak: It was interesting too because four of our developers were actually on the Global Game Jam. When they came back from that, they brought the early concept back with them for this gesture-driven spellcasting VR game, which has turned out to be a pretty good game idea.
GameWatcher: There’s obviously some story and context here too. What’s going on in the world of The Wizards?
Gajda: You play as a young adept of magic who is still learning to become a full-fledged wizard under a master wizard. There was an attack on the kingdom you live in. It occurred many years before the game opens, but it has set the world on a path to destruction. With the master wizard’s guidance, you find a way to travel back to the past before the attack happened. It’s up to you to go to the origin of the attack and stop it in the past to change and save the future. With the help of this master wizard, you learn more magic and build your power to become a master like him so you can stop the attack and save the world in your own timeline.
Cieślak: The story here is thick with time travel, different dimensions, and twisted timelines. It leads to quite some twists and turns, but that’s something players will discover for themselves. That said, the time travel sort of gives us a convenient reason to allow players to jump back in levels as well. It is essentially the wizard going back in time with what they know and attempting to do better in each situation each time. You might not think about it when you replay a level in other games, but here there is actually a reason built into the story.
GameWatcher: A big part of this game is combat. Our wizard finds himself in scenarios fighting off hordes of goblins, trolls, and other creatures. What goes into our spellweaving and self-defense as a wizard?
Gajda: In the game we have six basic spells and each spell is attached to a certain gesture. To summon a spell, you have to press certain buttons and make certain movements on the HTC Vive or Oculus Touch controllers to make a gesture. That brings forth the spell into your hand and from there you can interact with your summoned spell in a variety of ways. For instance, in the beginning you might summon small fire balls and you can throw them just like stones, whereas a different variation of that fire ball spell would require you to push a larger fire forward from your chest. Additionally, there are things like a summonable bow which you use to shoot ice arrows at enemies and a magic shield you can raise up to defend against attacks. We also have various upgrades for each spell. Additionally, we are considering implementing a seventh spell as well in the form of a magic sword to fight off enemies that get too close.
Cieślak: When it comes to spells, there is no mana bar or cool down in this game. Spellcasting is all dependent on how fast and accurately you can use the right gestures to summon the correct spells for any given moment. After fifteen minutes of preparing spells rapidly to fight off enemies, it can be pretty exhausting and if you make mistakes and miss summoning a spell, it can make the game frantic and twice as hard.
GameWatcher: You mentioned we start off basic with our spells, but there are upgrades. How does our wizard progress? Is there a level-up or does The Wizards feature a different way to discover bigger and better spells?
Cieślak: We know a lot of games where you just invest points to level up spells and increase damage. We decided to try something different. Instead of lots of upgrades to attack damage and the sort, we currently offer only a couple upgrades to spells, but they change how the spell functions. For instance, you’ve got your normal throwable fire ball, but later on, you can upgrade to a spell we call pyro blast. It allows you to throw a different kind of fire ball into the environment where it will land and then act as a mine. Likewise, you can upgrade that ice bow to release an icy mist that slows surrounding enemies. They don’t change the statistics of the spell so much as adding different utilities to them as far as what you can do. Even further on, you can upgrade into master versions of your spells. These are huge redesigns that add something incredible to your normal spells.
GameWatcher: So each upgrade really does add a new wrinkle to be used in the way you handle your magic?
Gajda: Absolutely. So first you start with your basic spells, then you use those spells to complete levels and gain spell potential points that allow you to unlock the upgrades like the ice mist or the pyro blast. When it comes to the master spells, they can’t be upgraded with simple potential points. Each spell has a special task that must completed, which we call a master challenge. Only by completing those challenges can you unlock the final tier of a spell. So essentially, you truly do go from a beginner to a master, learning your six basic spells, followed by the new upgraded ways to utilize them, and finally culminating in completing the master challenges to each spell, which unlocks an even further and more powerful upgrade for a given spell.
Cieślak: And these master spells are where we really went all out with the magic. The basics and the upgrades are quite fun, but I think my favorite is the magic shield master spell. The magic shield is your main defensive option, but once you’ve mastered the spell, you can throw your magic shield at enemies like Captain America and it will bounce off of them before returning to you.
GameWatcher: Does upgrading a spell change the gestures used to summon it?
Gajda: Not at all. The gesture to summon a class of spell will always remain the same. That’s simply how you bring something like fire or ice to your hands. The difference will be context sensitive in whether you throw the spell directly at an enemy, push it to the ground, or other actions which denote the way you want to use it based on the upgrades you have. That said, we’re about to enter Early Access and we’re interested in player feedback. If players are interested in further gestures to access these spells or even new spells, we have the time and resources to make that a possibility.
GameWatcher: From what we’ve seen in trailers and screens, there also appears to be light environmental exploration. Will we spend a bit of time exploring in The Wizards world between killing hordes of monsters? Are there puzzles to be solved?
Cieślak: We have open levels in The Wizards which feature a start and an end. We have two regions so far, but there are chapters to this game which are exploratory as well. We went out of our way to avoid creating just another wave-based shooter. At some point it becomes more of a regular game where players will engage in exploration, solve puzzles, and come across encounters which lead to battle, but because it is an arcade game, we didn’t go incredibly overboard on puzzle elements.
Gajda: That is to say, this isn’t like an open world or sandbox, but it is a rather large map and there is some progression. You work your way through the map to new locations, new puzzles, and new encounters that make for interesting new experiences. With the time travel mechanic, things change as well, so the story is divided into regions and the regions are divided into stages. In Early Access, we’ll be ready to present two big regions with four or five different stages. There will also be leaderboards in each of these stages with plenty of opportunities to challenge and compete with your friends and the world. We also offer a thing that allows players to change the rules of the game to be harder or easier called Fate Cards. You can use the Fate Cards to affect point multipliers and that makes for a more competitive and malleable scene on the leaderboards when it comes to playing with the difficulty to suit your skills.
GameWatcher: Let’s talk a bit about the Fate Cards. How do they work? Do you already have the Fate Cards when you start The Wizards or do you go about collecting more and elaborate Cards as you play?
Cieślak: Players will have all of the currently existing Fate Cards available to them from the start, but it’s an easy opportunity for us to create more cards down the line – pretty much as many as we can come up with. For now, they’re simple, just as a means of adjusting difficulty of the levels. The basic cards can make enemies move faster, hit harder, and become harder to kill or slow them down, make their attacks weaker, and render them easier to kill. That said, we’ve got plans on paper to implement unique and interesting effects, such as one at cause enemies to explode when killed and damage all other nearby enemies. We’re also working on a card that makes you immortal. You won’t get any points, but you’ll be able to approach it as a completely casual game mode.
Gajda: Right, you gain access to the Fate Cards very early in the game to adjust it if it’s too easy or too difficult for you. We don’t require you to finish the game or anything like that to get to them. You can use Fate Cards very soon and whenever you feel like it. You don’t have to use them, but you can build a set and they will remain active throughout levels until you disband that set. Right now there are only a few, so we only allow players to field two cards at a time, but we’re prepared to up that cap when there’s more. Picking a certain card also makes other cards unavailable for obvious reasons. You can’t use a card that slows enemies with a card that speeds them up.
GameWatcher: Obviously replayability is a bit of the motive with the inclusion of Fate Cards to change up the game, but are there modes outside of the Campaign? Will we see something of an endless mode to see how long we can survive?
Gajda: Definitely. We feature a mode similar to endless modes, which is the Arcade Mode. It will be in the first major update after Early Access release. This is a mode in which you select between different arenas, move around them, try to kill as many enemies as you can, and hold out as long as possible.
Cieślak: Right, but there’s a little more to these arenas than just standing in place and shooting the enemies as they approach even in Arcade Mode. Each of the arenas will have its own objectives for players to engage in and accomplish as they try to survive. Of course, they’re still endless, but each arena will vary in both its environment and what you’re trying to do as you’re fighting off enemies.
GameWatcher: What happens after the day-one launch of The Wizards? Do you have any tentative or concrete plans for content in post-release?
Gajda: Specifically after Early Access release, we want to make two major updates. The first will have Arcade Mode and other things based on feedback from the players. The second will be centered on upping the region count in the game from two to four and increasing the number of Arcade Mode arenas. We would like to leave Early Access in autumn ideally, but definitely before winter and the Christmas season. After that, it will depend on how the game performs and what our players tell us they want to see. That’s when we’ll start thinking about DLC. Eventually, we would love to be able to explore a co-op mode, but that is something we’ll definitely need to research for some time before we’re even close to ready to confirm.
Cieślak: There will definitely be a huge party here in the studio, then some rest, then patching the game, and making more content. We built The Wizards from the get-go to be expandable in a huge variety of ways. We hope to have a good Early Access run, but even afterwards when the game comes to its final release, if we attract a community and they ask for more, then we will definitely make more things for this game.
Virtual reality is fast becoming a place where the experience is involving into new and creative opportunities that players have yet to see before. Magic in video games isn’t a new thing, but being able to handle it as directly as described in The Wizards is something right out of our youthful fantasies. Players will be able to engage in this arcane quest and take part in the growth of The Wizards when it launches in Early Access on Steam and in the Oculus store on July 28, 2017 for $19.99.
To find out more and get involved in the Early Access for The Wizards, be sure to check out its official Steam page.
To get the latest news and updates on the game, be sure to follow its official pages on Twitter.