AMID EVIL VR Fights its Way Into a New Reality Without Sacrificing the Spirit of the Original
Fun little story time, when I first got my PC, AMID EVIL, among other New Blood titles, was one of the first games I picked up. Of course, I fell in love with the brutal, yet high fantasy setting, as well as the classic FPS gameplay that harkened back to the glory days of the genre. And as I have said before, I am a straight-up glutton for VR gaming. So of course when I set foot on the show floor at PAX East 2023, AMID EVIL VR was one of the first places I marked on my map. The title had been front and center on my radar since it was initially announced, and I would take any opportunity to play it ahead of its launch later this month. When I first made my way to the booth, I let the team know that I was interested in speaking about the game. After we set a time for the devs to get together and chat about the project, I donned the mighty VR helmet and made my way into the chaotic, concise demo they had crafted for the convention circuit.
To be blunt, dear reader: it was sick as hell. The team at Elijah Immersive has absolutely nailed the transition into VR gameplay. The moment-to-moment gameplay from the original title felt faithful, frantic, and fantastic. My fleet footwork allowed me to dash around my opponents and deliver devastating damage with the absolutely radical repertoire of weapons at hand. The short demo allowed me to use every weapon across multiple encounters, and again, dear reader, it was so sick, it was awesome, dude. When I got to the end of the demo I knew I needed more, but I could not cut the rest of the line, who surely was just as eager as I was to eliminate evil in a new reality.
On the last day of PAX, well after the following interview took place, I did make my way back to the booth to challenge the demo once again. This time, I chose to wield only the starting axe, and aside from when I needed to rocket-jump my way to a secret boss, I was able to clear the entire demo using only the might of my melee weapon. The team really has made something fantastic with AMID EVIL VR, it is one of my most anticipated upcoming titles, and most certainly one of the most entertaining from the PAX show floor. After my first playthrough of the demo I was quizzed about my experience, and I had only the highest praise for the team and their work. Shortly after that first session, I met with Dave Oshry and the team behind AMID EVIL VR to discuss the title, how it came to be, and how it was to bring a game like AMID EVIL to VR.
After Exchanging introductions and thanking them for taking the time to speak with me, I told the team that I had some questions about the game and the development.
Dave Oshry: You want to interview these guys, because they’re making it not me.
Before I let Dave step away I did have one question for him. As the head of New Blood, I had heard that the circumstances behind AMID EVIL VR’s conception was a little unusual, so I asked him if he could tell us how it came to be?
Dave Oshry: Oh, sure, he just bothered me for like, two years, I was like, “Okay, well, I guess if you shut up, I’ll let you work on our games.”
As a follow up, I asked Dave if he wanted to use this opportunity to warn other aspiring devs, if this was a one-in-a-million thing, to not fill his inbox with requests to join the New Blood team?
Dave Oshry: No, persistence pays off, absolutely. If you’re good at what you do, and you’re persistent. It does pay off, not always, but yeah, I think that’s what I told them. I was like, “All right, I’ll give you a shot.” I’m always willing to give them that first chance. But you know, if you fuck it up, you’re probably not gonna get a second one. So, so far, so good with these guys.
So far so good was an understatement when it came to the state of AMID EVIL VR, as, to reiterate my thoughts on the game: It absolutely rips. I thanked Dave for his time and wished him a fantastic rest of PAX
Dave Oshry: Oh I’m fine, you know, one hour until I can go to sleep.
As Dave made his way back to the hubbub of the booth, I asked the members of Elijah Immersive if they could tell us about their role on the project?
Andre Elijah: Sure. I’m Andre Elijah. And I’m the director.
Noah Rayburn: I’m Noah Rayburn. I’m the, what do you wanna call me? Lead developer? Designer? Yeah.
I followed up by asking if they had any hand in the original title, or if they came on for the VR adaptation?
Andre Elijah: Yeah, so the guys are Indefatigable, they’re the original devs. I played the shit out of the game. When I first played it, I actually pirated it because I was broke as shit, and absolutely loved it. And that’s when, you know, my whole spam campaign with Dave started.
I loved hearing about how the project came to be, and it seemed like a big move for a smaller studio, as New Blood is rather well regarded in the indie gaming scene. I asked Andre if this was their first major project being released, or had they done something similar before?
Andre Elijah: This is our first big one. We had another title that dropped on Oculus Quest last year, as a port of a PlayStation VR former exclusive called Jupiter and Mars. So that was our first kind of go around, bringing things to Quest and optimizing, you know, bigger games for a mobile platform. But this is our kind of proper coming out party.
I absolutely loved that punch-above-your-weight mentality, and I was glad that it had turned into a dream opportunity for Andre and his team. I asked Andre how long it was between his first message to New Blood, and Dave finally relenting and bringing them on for AMID EVIL VR?
Andre Elijah: 18 months.
18 months seemed like quite a long time, and I wasn’t sure if I would have had the willpower to persevere in those pursuits. I asked if there was ever a time where it felt hopeless, or did they feel like every message was just tipping the scales in their favor?
Andre Elijah: Yeah, I mean, I didn’t really give a shit at the lack of a response. I knew one day he’d break. Honestly, you know, I thought the time was then to start developing a product like this. A lot of VR games had, you know, guardrails, they move slow, you know, slower combat, et cetera, et cetera. I felt like we needed a title for enthusiasts. I’m a boomer shooter fan, have been since I was a little kid, when they weren’t called boomer shooters. And I just wanted something like that in VR, so I figured, you know, it was a perfect time. Quest was starting to kind of gain some ground and some traction. And you know, after seeing some of the unofficial ports of, you know, Dr Beef‘s titles for Doom and Quake and things like that, I thought, “okay, maybe it’s time for an official title to end up on the Quest store and go mainstream in that style.” So here we are.
As a VR enthusiast, I was glad to hear that they were aiming to maintain the maneuverability and mayhem of the original title. Again, I can not stress enough how much ass this game kicks. But VR is unfortunately a bit of a sliding scale when it comes to player comfort. Some aspects of VR just make some people motion sick, or generally nauseous, so while I am lucky to not be affected by such things, it is something to keep in mind when developing a game. With this in mind, I asked Noah if there were any considerations made for people who are not completely comfortable in VR, or was it more like “If you can’t wear the helmet, don’t wield the axe?”
Noah Rayburn: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve done everything that we could, without compromising the experience to try to give you the best comfort you can. So we’ve got comfort tunneling options, there is a teleport in there. It’s not the ideal way to play but if you need it, it’s there. Snap turn, smooth turn, you can adjust things to get just the right preference. Because the biggest thing for VR comfort is that it needs to match your preferences. Everybody’s different. some people say they get sick from snap turning, which blows my mind, but I’m not going to doubt them. So we provide options for whatever you need.
I followed up with another question about using teleportation and other comfort-assisting options. Specifically, I asked if there were any changes made to the difficulty to help the player make up for their lack of mobility?
Noah Rayburn: Honestly, yeah, you might have to lean on some cheats in some areas to get through it. Because it can be tough if you can’t strafe, that’s just the reality of the situation.
Again, I loved hearing how dedicated the team was to creating a perfect AMID EVIL VR experience. Considering that the release of the game is so near, and the DLC for AMID EVIL has not released yet, I asked the team if they were working with Indefatigable to bring The Black Labyrinth to VR as well when it releases?
Andre Elijah: Yeah, so once the devs are done with The Black Labyrinth, we’re getting our hands on it, we’ve seen the progress that has been made on it. But later on, we will be porting over Black Labyrinth to the game, and everyone will get it.
Curious as to what the team would be up to after AMID EVIL VR released, I asked the team if they could tell us about what their future steps as a company might look like?
Andre Elijah: New Blood has a really great catalog. You know, us being fans first, there’s a lot of things we want to do in this universe, and with these IPs. The fans on Discord and Twitter have been asking what are we going to do. We’re listening, and a lot of the feedback here as well has been, you know, when are we seeing ULTRAKILL? When are we seeing DUSK? So we’re paying attention, very, very close attention.
I was glad he had said this, because I did not want to be rude, but I definitely wanted to ask about the possibility of DUSK VR. And frankly while I can hardly keep up with ULTRAKILL with a mouse and keyboard, I would absolutely give it a try in VR.
Andre Elijah: Yeah, I mean, I think there’s a lot of things that we can do, I don’t think every single game is gonna be a straight port. I think, you know, we’ve now brought in a proper eight hour campaign into VR, the other IPs are a playground for us to mess around with. So, you know, the relationship has been great with New Blood, they want to see what we can do next, and how we can expand the IPs. So we’re gonna have a little play, and you know, when they’re ready to be shown, they’re gonna be ready to be shown.
As we neared the end of the interview, I asked the team if there was anything we hadn’t gotten a chance to speak about during the interview, that they would want the readers to know?
Andre Elijah: I mean, I think we should shine a light on the amount of optimization this guy has done over the last couple of years. The original game was made for PC in every way shape and form. And it took, you know, the better part of two years for him to wrangle this game and get it playable on Quest, which is mobile hardware. So I think you should dive into that a little bit.
Noah Rayburn: Yeah, we were fighting for performance right up to the last minute. It’s obviously a major challenge, Quest 2, as awesome as it can be, is certainly a limited platform. But we’re really happy with the performance we’ve gotten out of it.
As a follow up I asked if he had any tips or tricks he would want to share with other devs that might help them get their project to run on those headsets?
Noah Rayburn: On this project? I’d say that the largest challenge was getting the draw call count down. A lot of people think “Oh, I gotta keep the polygon count down, I gotta worry about all these other things.” But really at the end of the day, for most situations your problems are gonna be your draw calls on Quest. And for us that involved a lot of merging, a lot of the using the HLOD [Hierarchical Level of Detail] system, yeah.
I told Noah that frankly, some of that went right over my head, but I was sure it was good advice. As we wrapped up the conversation I thanked them again for taking the time to talk about the project and the journey to PAX. I had only the highest praise for their work, as I have said multiple times, my time with AMID EVIL VR was beyond amazing. The title really makes you feel like an unstoppable heretic, and perfectly translates the original game to VR. As the con continued the booth always had a crowd gathered to witness the witchcraft that is Elijah Immersive’s hard work.
If this article left you craving the carnage and combat of AMID EVIL VR, then fear not, dear reader, as you can Blaze Evil on 04/20. Be sure to wishlist the title on Steam or Oculus so you can be notified as soon as it is available. And of course if you are absolutely fiending for the latest and greatest in ghoulish gruesome gaming, then head back to DreadXP and read more of our frightful features!