Glorious phantoms of the afterlife, welcome to In Death!
My name is Petur Thorarinsson (aka Scarpia) and I am the person responsible for In Death’s creative vision and game design here at Solfar Studios. Previously a resident at CCP Games for over a decade working on various titles and ultimately serving as game design director for EVE Online, before making a joyous leap to Solfar two years ago straight into the deep end of VR development.
After running an awesome closed beta since mid December, we are excited and proud to be bringing In Death to Early Access. This was made possible by our dedicated group of beta testers that helped us improve and refine our game to the point where it is ready for a much wider audience. There is still a lot to be done and more content to be added, and during this next phase we will continue relying on our players’ invaluable feedback to help steer us in the right direction and continuously evaluate what will make In Death the best it can possibly be.
By the end of 2016, after the initial launch of Everest VR, we decided to incorporate some of the learnings we had received to hone our plans for our first VR game. We felt like the current sentiment in the VR gamer community was that people were starving for a hard core VR game, with high replay value. An old school game that was unpredictable, tough as nails, kill-me-plenty demoralizer and unapologetic destroyer of dreams. Incidentally, this was also the game we wanted to play ourselves, so we pivoted to explore a new concept which ultimately became In Death.
We have a deeply rooted passion for building immersive experiences; worlds filled with beauty and lush environments. For increased immersion we wanted to rely on physical skills and real-world metaphors as much as possible to minimize the game’s needs for immersion breaking UI elements. To this end, we started looking for fun and strategic solutions to incorporate locomotion into the core game loop.
The defining prototype was tested and reviewed by the whole team on our last day before breaking off for the holidays in 2016. We had made a massive procedurally generated world in the sky that was crawling with wraiths. As a player, you had a bow and a shield, and two types of arrows. One arrow to kill enemies with and one arrow to teleport with.
The ‘aha’ moment came when we realized how impactful and rewarding it was to weave these simple mechanics together to beat tough situations. Since the player only moved once the teleport arrow made impact, meant that they had a moment to block, retaliate or ready their next arrow while the teleport arrow was still in the air. Upon a successfully aimed teleport, a skillful player could already be lined up perfectly for his next shot when the movement happened to score a point-blank headshot in the back of his enemy’s skull. Furthermore, a poorly aimed teleport arrow could trap the player in hellish situations.
We felt like the game genre that would synergize best with our prototype and creative vision, was to design In Death as a Dantean journey with heavy rogue-like elements, supported by a deep achievement-based progression system that gradually unlocked new gameplay options and greater challenges for the player from one playthrough to the next.
True to rogue-like games, In Death has procedurally generated worlds, filled with random enemy encounters and loot. When you die, apart from an entry to the global leaderboard, your progression in that playthrough is permanently lost. Your account progression however is persisted in the form of achievements you gradually unlock (sometimes over multiple playthroughs). All achievements in-turn unlock new items you can find in subsequent playthroughs and higher baseline character stats. Additionally, new and tougher enemies will start populating the world as you unlock more achievements. If you let an inexperienced friend try out In Death using your high-level account, unless you want them to transform into a blood-soaked pincushion within the first few seconds, make sure to launch the game in demo mode and have them play through the tutorial.
In Death is not for the faint of heart, but we hope you’ll muster up the courage to plant your feet in the afterlife.
Yours In Death and beyond,