PSVR 2 developer explains weird eye-tracking mechanics for VR horror game

Picture: Supermassive Games Ltd

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VR horror game “The Dark Pictures: Switchback VR” uses the Playstation VR 2’s eye tracking in a treacherous way: bloodstained monsters only move when you blink.

Already when announcing the PSVR2 horror game The Dark Pictures: Switchback, developer Supermassive Games hinted at nasty creepy tricks using eye tracking: some monsters in the VR horror roller coaster only move when players close their eyes.

The game aims to show that the PlayStation VR 2 can stand out from other VR headsets in terms of technology and gameplay. In a special from video game magazine Edge, game director Alejandro Arqué Gallardo explains in detail how the scary moments of his VR game unfold.

If you blink, you die

In the demo, Edge editor Alex Spencer walked through a special area dedicated exclusively to the new mechanic. After walking through a door labeled “Don’t Blink,” bloodied mannequins await him, huddled on the floor.

When Spencer can’t take it anymore and has to blink, the models switch positions. When he closes his eyes, one of the models comes back to life. Little by little he adapts to the mechanics, close lids only tactically after reloading weapons.

Spencer cites the section as the highlight of the demo, the one that stuck with him the longest. The mechanics came out quite organically, explains Arqué Gallardo: “We were basically creating the design of the level itself and then thinking: how can we make it more real, using everything we have available to us?”

Therefore, eye tracking is not used everywhere, at least not for game design. “We use it when it’s really going to have an impact,” Gallardo said.


Unpleasant 3D sound intensifies fear of VR

the spatially blended whisper of demons is meant to intensify the horror. Thanks to 3D audio, it should sometimes feel like you’re standing directly behind the head of the person playing. PSVR2’s new head vibration feature could further increase immersion, but this is unconfirmed.

Supermassive Games has already proven how good they are at such selective moments of terror in Until Dawn: Rush of Blood for Playstation VR, which did without eye tracking. Despite being nothing more than a virtual horror rollercoaster, the title proved so chilling and partly disgusting that it became an audience favorite in the Playstation VR launch lineup.

Since then, early PSVR fans have raved about the incomparably nasty roller coaster, in which the walking dead, killer clowns and hanged half-pigs terrorize armed passengers. The Dark Pictures: Switchback follows the same path and confronts interested players with all sorts of horrific and deformed creatures.

As the name suggests, characters and storylines from “Dark Pictures Anthology” games naturally pop up here, as players once again defend themselves with firearms. More information on the game and other launch titles can be found in our overview of all VR games announced for Playstation VR 2 so far.

Sources: Edge #380: February 2023

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