Taking climbing to new heights in virtual reality
As soon as we first prototyped climbing in VR, we knew we had a special experience on our hands. Even in an early, very basic development stage, climbing in VR just had that 'wow' factor. It didn't matter that the mechanic and environment was in an embryonic form - word spread about the prototype and everyone in the studio wanted to try it out. It was fun, right off the bat. Of course, climbing has been an engaging part of many games for years, usually as an enjoyable gameplay mechanic within a much wider experience. However, with the presence delivered by VR, it became clear that climbing had far more potential to take center stage.
Simply put, VR absorbs you into an experience in a way that traditional gaming platforms can't. The actions you perform are far more immediate, and the sensations you feel are more real in VR. It was just a perfect fit for realizing climbing as a fully-fledged sports game with distinct depth, immersion, and challenge, thanks to the unique power of VR.
Free solo rock climbing is, of course, one of the most extreme, exciting and dangerous sports on the planet. In many ways it is the ultimate expression of climbing - man versus Mother Nature, climbing without the safety net of a rope. The world's greatest free solo climbers can ascend huge rock faces unaided, conquering their fears and risking it all. Understandably, few people (and it has to be said, none of the climbers on the team!) would attempt this form of extreme climbing in real life. However, In The Climb you'll climb, negotiate different kinds of ledges and terrain, and work out routes on the fly, all with a real sense of being high up on a rock face, but without the risk. That's not to say you won't feel fear and tension, though…
In the Climb, we go further to let you do things that even the greatest free solo climbers wouldn't attempt in the real world and give you the kind of challenges that are deliberately far more fun than realistic. However, at the core of The Climb, we can give players some of the feelings of real life climbing, such as a fear of falling, the adrenaline rush of jumping, the satisfaction that comes from working out your route and, of course, the sense of accomplishment when you've completed an ascent.
Some of the real world actions you perform when you climb are perfectly brought to life by the head tracking technology featured in the VR headset, making them feel really natural and maintaining your absorption into the game world. For instance, as in real life, when you're on the rock in the game, you instinctively look around for your next grip as you work how you're going to negotiate your path up. It's very simple, but those head movements where you can peer around a corner, look up to analyze what is ahead or simply take in the scenery is intuitive in VR. Combined with the fact that the way climbers move – one grip at a time – naturally addresses many of the issues surrounding motion sickness, playing The Climb is very accessible. Gameplay becomes in many ways instinctive - anyone can quickly get a real sensation of what it's like to climb.
Climbing through nature is a perfect way to experience VR too. With the camera in control of the player, rather than the game designer, the detailed environments that we're able to create are so much more immersive. Intricately detailed rock faces and lush vegetation appear much more real under close inspection in VR, while the beautiful vistas players see as they rise up our rock faces become increasingly dramatic. Climbing is just a great way to move through these environments, allowing players to take in the (many) views of their choosing.
We're finding that when players, including people who have experience of climbing in real life, try The Climb for the first time, they're just blown away by a sense of realism. The feeling of being so close to the wall, the intimidating curvature of the cliff – you really get that sense of presence in the game when you put the VR headset on. And it's that presence that drives the tension, the adrenaline and ultimately the sense of accomplishment that lies at the heart of our vision for extreme free solo rock climbing.
The Climb Team