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Insomniac announces two new Oculus-exclusive games

Savage "adventure-brawler" Feral Rites and PvP spellcasting fighter The Unspoken.

Ratchet & Clank and Sunset Overdrive developer Insomniac Games has announced two new Oculus-exclusive titles. These are in addition to the studio's already announced third-person survival-horror Oculus game Edge of Nowhere.

One of them is an Oculus Touch-based two-player competitive game about dueling with spells in a mystical realm hidden within urban Chicago. It's called The Unspoken and it's a whole lot of fun. That's due in "holiday 2016".

The other, which won't be playable until E3 and is due this autumn, is a third-person "adventure-brawler" called Feral Rites.

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Helmed by Sunset Overdrive and Resistance 3 director Marcus Smith, Feral Rites was described as a cross between the Zelda series' exploration, open-world and puzzles, with God of War's emphasis on brutal combo-based combat, and Altered Beasts' transforming protagonist. In this case it looks like you can turn into a were-sabertooth tiger-looking creature.

In terms of its world, Smith said at a studio visit attended by Eurogamer that it was inspired by old turn-of-the-century adventure stories like H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau, Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, and the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

"These stories came from an era where it was all big over-the-top action. Where it was exploration of the unknown," Smith said. "This wasn't the Disney version of Tarzan. This was like Tarzan having life and death fights with a knife and a gorilla, just going at it. That was the sort of over-the-top action we wanted to bring."

Feral Rites will allow players to choose between a male or female lead, though they each represent the offspring of a slain chieftain who has returned to their cursed native homeland of Stone Fang island to seek revenge. As it turns out, there's some sort of mysterious force that turned your once peaceful homeland into a pit of savage, violent brutes.

One interesting thing about Feral Rites is that it will be Insomniac's first game without weapons. (Though you could make the case that that would by Spyro, but I consider a maw full of napalm a weapon of sorts.) "Everybody says Insomniac is known for crazy weapons. And that's totally true and we're thankful to be known for something, especially that, but we don't want to give you the same experience over and over again," Smith said of Feral Rites. "So the first rule that we had with the game was 'no weapons'. You're probably saying 'that's suicide' and that's what makes things exciting!"

The other unique aspect of Feral Rites is that it's in VR. When asked how this would work, Smith explained to me that its camera would set at fixed locations, ala God of War, but that you'd be able to use head-tracking to adjust the camera's pitch.

When asked how this would affect the game's design, Smith said that it changes the dynamic between player and developer as observing gameplay now teaches us exactly where the player is looking. Before it only showed us where the camera was positioned, while the player's pupils could be fixated on anything.

"We're able to take the 'look data' into consideration in a way we've never been able to do before because you don't know what people are looking at on a TV. But now we know exactly what you're focusing on," Smith said. "We can predict motivations a lot better than we've done on a non-headset."

To be more specific, this helps with things like auto-targeting enemies. "In fighting games a lot of the time you'll have that problem where you're like 'I wanted [to attack] this guy, but I got this guy.' Because at some point they're going to have to bias it. You have to be able to pick somebody. In our case, because we know what someone's looking, at we're able to bias it in a way. And it really has made the combat a lot smoother."

Asked if it ever backfires because the player is looking at someone as a threat while trying to attack someone else, Smith explained that this isn't the case. "We haven't seen that because what happens normally is when you're putting in the input you're looking at who you want to. As soon as you're already input into that, then you're going to look at your next target. You tend to focus the input window at the same time you're looking at something. So it's sort of smoothed itself out."

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