#1321: Breaking Down the Epic Immersive Adventure of “Asgard’s Wrath 2” with an Oculus Studios Producer

Asgard’s Wrath 2 is one of the most epic games I’ve had a chance to play, and I think it’s fair to say that it’s like Meta’s Half-Life: Alyx in terms of a premium AAA game that could be a system seller for the Quest 3. I’m about 40 hours into the game, and I’m only on the 3rd of 7 total sagas. Meta reports that the main campaign is around 60 hours with 130 total hours if you try to achieve all of the side quests and other completionist tasks. Overall, there has been plenty of ways that I’ve found to play, and there is a really great balance between the different qualities of presence that leverages the many affordances of the virtual reality medium.

Asgard’s Wrath 2 has an amazing amount of depth and evolution of gameplay, incredible worldbuilding, challenging puzzles, and a story with a mythological context to weave it all together. It’s core center of gravity is active presence with the rich embodied melee gameplay along with a secondary focus on environmental presence with exquisite environmental design and vast architectural spaces, and the third quality of mental and social presence with the god-scale puzzle solving, RPG strategy, and lots of backstory of the lore that you can read, and pro-social relationships with your followers and fellow characters, and finally the emotional presence of overall narrative leaning heavily into Egyptian and Norse mythology to tie everything together. The story is the least strong element of the game as it is interesting enough for me to engage me, but the story often seems to mostly function to set a broader context for the next quest adventure rather than developing deep characters with meaningful interactions or story elements. The context of story definitely benefits from leaning into existing Egyptian and Norse mythology, which deepens the symbols and iconography used in the environmental design and create a more nuanced worldbuilding. But that all said, the feeling of open world adventure and player agency is really strong with gameplay that feels like it’s evolving (even if it can get a bit repetitive at times), and the environmental design is absolutely incredible, and the puzzles are challenging enough to feel satisfying when completed, and the story bits function to tie everything together into a deeper purpose.

Overall, this is the most immersed I’ve been within a VR game in a long, long time, and there are enough aspects that can satisfy most of Bartle’s taxonomy of player archetypes of the killer, achiever, explorer with the socializer being the least emphasized as it is a single-player game with some asynchronous social dimensions that can feel like digital graffiti and break the overall immersion. But overall, this is one of the most epic games I’ve had a chance to play in VR for a long time, and I was able to surrender to exploring the many different dimensions for how you can play through the main line and many of the different side quests that were available

I had a chance to speak with Oculus Studios producer Mari Kyle who provides a lot more context for some of the design intentions to make a complicated RPG easy for first-time users, and to not be too overly penalizing for dying. It’s one of the deepest and most involved games that have been developed for VR so far, and worth tracking how it impacts Meta’s overall strategy with VR and how to create compelling-enough content to sell more VR headsets and keep people coming back to play more.

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Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR Podcast. It's a podcast that looks at the future of spatial computing. You can support the podcast at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. So in today's episode, we're going to be doing a bit of a deep dive into Asgard's The Wrath 2. So this is one of the most epic games that I've had a chance to play within virtual reality. It's certainly the biggest game that I've had a chance to play. I've had early access to it for the last week or so, and I've played around 40 hours, and I'm only on to the third saga out of seven. So I've had a lot of fun of going through the core gameplay loops. There's the main quest, there's the side quests, and it's a role-playing game where you're essentially playing a god, and you embody these different mortal beings, and you go through these different worlds in the context of ancient Egypt. There's a lot of Egyptian mythology, Norse mythology. There's Asgard's Wrath I that came out back in 2019 and I haven't had a chance to play through that but they give a bit of a recap at the beginning of Asgard's Wrath II and also it's not a requirement that you play the first one. So I've heard some people talk about how this is Meta's Half-Life Alyx, and I think that's a pretty accurate description. I think that Half-Life Alyx, in terms of like overall polish and just the awe and wonder, I think for me still is near the top in terms of the type of immersive experience that I've had. And I think it's really hard for a mobile headset to match the level of fidelity that you can get on a PC VR. But this is actually the most immersive VR game that I've played on a Quest, and it's certainly the biggest game that I've played. Meta says that there's around 130 hours if you go through all the different side quests and the main quests. I think the main quest, if you just play that, it's around 60 hours or so. So this is all within a mobile VR Quest 2, Quest 3, or Quest Pro. So pretty amazing that they're able to fit everything within the context of this game. So the developer of Asgard's Wrath 2 is Sanzaro Games, which they were acquired by Meta in 2020, and they've been working on this since 2019. And so, again, this is one of the most epic games that I've seen within the virtual reality community. And I had a chance to talk to a producer from Oculus Studios, Mari Kyle, who has been involved in content reviews and producing Resident Evil 4, And she gave like a press presentation where she was giving like an overview of this world and all the lore and all the story and she just was radiating a lot of passion and enthusiasm about what they were able to create with Asgard's Wrath 2. And I can see why now after having a chance to play through quite a bit of it. It's just a really deep and rich and immersive game. So I'm going to give a bit of an overview of the different qualities of presence that I see and the order of which I think they're preferencing the different qualities of presence. So first and foremost, this is a game that has lots of different embodied gameplay. But the core experience of this game is that there are lots of very engaging melee and long range and strategic puzzle solving. So a lot of the core of the game is this gameplay loop where you're going through these different adventures, doing these different combat, achieving different quests. So the sense of active presence is the biggest center of gravity of this piece. The second one actually I think is, for me at least, the environmental presence. So to go exploring around this world to see all the vast architecture that they have on the external world, but also in the internal world, so much diversity and just really beautiful environments. Something that's just really awe-inspiring, keeps me going, wanting to continue to explore these different realms. There's also like a lot of grinding for gathering up resources called Bartle's Taxonomies, the Achiever, who's trying to do 100% completion for all the different side quests, gathering up all the resources. So a little bit more of a meditative loot grind where you're gathering up all these different resources that you can use to upskill your character's armor and whatnot. And then the third is like the mental and social presence. So that is a lot of the puzzle solving a lot of the strategy It's an RPG. So you have to decide how you're gonna upskill your different characters And then the puzzles are also challenging enough to keep it interesting then there's the other aspect of the mental presence which just is the a lot of reading that you can do in terms of the lore the Codex of all the different gods and goddesses and the different enemies and bestiary. So there's just a lot of associated reading you can read And there's a lot of just dialogue that you have these different interactions with the different characters. So the last quality of presence is the emotional presence and the degree to which that they're having a story that's being woven throughout the course of this piece. I think it's of all the different four main elements and the qualities of presence. I think the narrative is the weakest among the other ones. That's not to say that there's bad stories. It's just, I think that the gameplay and the environmental design and the puzzle solving and everything else is just really strong it's just really well done and it feels like in some ways the narrative is tying everything together it's setting the larger context for who the characters are and there is an important part where it's woven together but In terms of the dialogue options and the dialogue treats, it's a pretty linear narrative, and it feels like you're mostly focusing on doing these different embodied quests. But there are these different characters, and you are embodying a number of different heroes, and you have a number of different followers. So, again, this is such a vast game, and I'm going to be talking to Mari about some of the different highlights of the different qualities of presence, and then I'll have a few more thoughts that I have here at the end, since this is just such a big and rich and deep game. So that's what we we'll be covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Mari happened on Tuesday, December 12th, 2023. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:05:36.424] Mari Kyle: My name is Mari Kyle and I'm a Senior Game Producer on Asgard Wrath 2. I am a producer with Oculus Studios, so my previous title was actually Resident Evil 4 for Quest. And before being on Oculus Studios, I was on the Oculus Store launch team where I content reviewed a bunch of applications for Go, Rift, and Quest and all our publishing platforms to make sure that they fit different content guidelines and standards. So yeah, I've been at Oculus for a while. Big, big supporter of all things accessibility, inclusion, and diversity in games. And yeah, generally just big passionate person about gaming and VR gaming in general.

[00:06:13.238] Kent Bye: Awesome. And why don't you give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into working with VR?

[00:06:18.843] Mari Kyle: Sure, yeah. So, I mean, I've been in VR for quite a while. I remember actually meeting you probably at one of the first few VR conferences I went to a long time ago, probably 2015 or 2014 or something like that. So yeah, I fell in love with VR when I first was able to get my hands on a VR headset. It was a Rift DK2 that I was able to try at like this after school club thing when I was in college and you know, outside of that, I didn't have any experience with VR. So whenever I first did that, that kind of like changed my entire outlook on all things gaming and got me really passionate. So from there, I went to grad school at USC and took on a whole master's thesis that was about context-dependent memory development in virtual environments, and then worked at a few VR labs at USC as well, and then started working at Sony, where I worked for two years in Sony Pictures Television, making original VR experiences that went with their original TV shows and movies, published those to PlayStation, and then published one of those to the Oculus Go platform at the time. And then from there, I kind of got scooped up from Oculus and then have been working at Oculus ever since.

[00:07:27.063] Kent Bye: Awesome. And, you know, we're going to be talking today about Asgar's Wrath 2, and I know that there was an Asgar's Wrath 1 that came out back in 2019. And so maybe you could set the context a little bit, because this is a studio, Sanzaru Games, that was acquired by Facebook at the time, now Meta. And so this is the Oculus Studios production. So maybe you could just set the context for Asgar's Wrath 2.

[00:07:48.052] Mari Kyle: Yeah, for sure. Oh, my gosh. So Asgard's Wrath 2 has been a long time in the making. We started making it in 2019. So four years of development time on a VR title, which is kind of hard to find nowadays. But we put a lot of love and care into this. When we launched Asgard's Wrath 1 in 2019, it was a Rift exclusive, but it was also such a special game that really recreated the standard for what VR games could be at that time. And even today, it still holds up super well. And so we knew we had something that worked really well and we wanted to see how we can push ourselves to go even further and build even bigger worlds and do it on a mobile chipset rather than a VR ready PC. And so, yeah, that's how Asgard's Wrath 2 started. It started just as that first game wrapped up and we just wanted to push ourselves to do bigger and better things with this one. Yeah, if you've played Asgard's Wrath 1, you know that it is a phenomenal, phenomenal game. I actually wasn't on the development for Asgard's Wrath 1, but I remember when it came out and I felt like these new neural pathways were forming because it was like such a premium experience. And at the time, there was nothing else like it. So yeah, hopefully now with this being on a Quest 3, we can have more people playing this game and really having that experience like I did whenever I first played Asgard's Wrath 1.

[00:09:03.750] Kent Bye: Yeah. So I put in about 35 hours since Friday. So I've played a lot over the weekend, including like a 14 hour stretch. And I had to actually plug in the headset as I'm playing because otherwise the battery would be dying a lot. And so on a swivel chair and I've had to constantly unhook the wire as I'm twisting around. But it's definitely one of the most immersive experiences that I've had in VR. And also one of the biggest and most vast games that I've ever played. I'm about 35 hours in and just got finished with the second out of seven sagas. And so lots of open world adventures, side quests, I'm taking a little bit of a completionist approach to it. So I guess one of the striking things is that this is on a mobile chipset and it's probably one of the most vast games created for VR. And the fact that it's on a mobile chipset on the Quest 2 and 3 is pretty remarkable. So was it always going to be optimized for a Quest-only mobile chipset? Or was there some point in the development since 2019 where everything just had to get optimized down to be able to work on a mobile headset?

[00:10:05.870] Mari Kyle: No, we were always Quest first. So the game is playable on Quest 2, 3, and Pro, and we developed like majority of the time on Quest 2s. And we really wanted to make sure that this experience ran super smoothly across both Quest 2s and 3s, to make sure that everybody had a really great experience in the title. So, from the start, we knew we wanted to really push and showcase how much the Quest line can do, and really just use the resources that we had, with Senzaru being world-class developers, with Meta, you know, being experts with technology and the hardware, and just push the platform as far as it could go with this massive, massive game. And so, like you said, you're 35 hours in, but there's still so, so much to explore. Like, there's these other massive worlds that I think you probably haven't even seen yet that are just as rich and feeling like they're alive, like the Great Sand Sea. So there's a ton of stuff packed into this game. We're very proud of the fact that we've been able to push the hardware as hard as we can.

[00:11:04.067] Kent Bye: Well, what's been striking is that there's been a progression of the gameplay where there's a lot of embodied gameplay and there's skill trees that you can upskill yourself and that unlocks new types of embodied gameplay. There's your companions or your followers that you have that is another aspect of the battles. And so because this game has so much embodied visceral melee battles, in terms of the overall production, Where do you begin? Cause there's these vast worlds that you're doing lots of environmental design. There's lots of Egyptian and Norse mythology that you're building upon and expanding out the pantheon of these gods and these characters. So there's the narrative component, there's a world building, and then there's the interactive exploration and all the puzzles that are in the context of that as well. So where does the process of development begin when you're trying to tie all these things together?

[00:11:53.209] Mari Kyle: Yeah, well, I mean, we luckily had a really great foundation to work off of with Asgard's Wrath I. With Asgard's Wrath I, to give you just some little insider context, that one actually started because of the godscale mechanic. a prototype that was built of that godscale of like being from this top-down perspective and moving things around in this little space and kind of solving puzzles in order to move a little living thing that was much smaller than you through and across the space. And we realized that that worked really well and wanted to expand on it and that's how we got like Asgard's Wrath 1. We built these like incredible feeling visceral combat mechanics that we knew that we wanted to iterate on that as well for Asgard's Wrath 2. So a lot of it came from looking at what really worked with Asgard's Wrath 1 and making those things stronger. And also, of course, like listening to user feedback, too, about what users like to hear about. That's actually where a lot of that follower stuff came from is, you know, we heard people loud and clear that they wanted a more robust follower and companion system. And so that's where that innovation came from. But it's taking what works from Asgard's Wrath 1 and then trying some really interesting, cool things with Asgard's Wrath 2. So The first character is this very melee, kind of like easy to pick up character. Like people know what melee weapons are, how to deal with them. But we had a bunch of other crazy ideas we wanted to try for heroes as well, as I think you're going to see soon in Saga 3. And so we wanted to like find ways to work up to that. Like we had all these crazy ideas, whether it's Sireni with her living weapons or Jehudi with his portals and bone beads and his own head that he could throw. And so, yeah, we wanted to try a bunch of things, see what works, see what's fun, and then just kind of keep building on a system that felt good and also was easy for folks to pick up as well.

[00:13:33.930] Kent Bye: Can you talk about the process of environmental design, both the internal and external world? So the external world, you see a lot of these vast architectural buildings that are in the distance that gives you a sense of the space as you're moving through it, rather than just going through an empty desert, you get a sense that you're actually in a world that has these different landmarks that you can help navigate. But then you have the internal design of each of these different worlds, having the novelty of exploring these different spaces. are different enough that it feels unique as you're going through each of them. But I'd love to hear a little bit more about the world design and the architectural input as building these vast spaces.

[00:14:08.990] Mari Kyle: Yeah, I mean, you hit it right on the head. Like we wanted to stay away from worlds that felt very repetitive. Like a lot of the folks at Sunzaru and myself at Oculus and Mike at Oculus too, we're all really big gamers. And so we've seen those like massive world games where either one, there's like massive stretches of land where there's not a lot of content, or two, like it's a lot of the same kind of systems and rooms kind of over and over again. And so we wanted to find unique ways to avoid those two issues. So with the massive world of the Great Sand Sea, you'll find all kinds of stuff that's very special and tucked away into hidden areas, whether it's the monster dens that you have to really look out for in order to find and sometimes you have to slide under rocks or Even the secret chests that are like hidden and sometimes behind these puzzles that you can only solve if you've gone through the last portion of the game. Or if you're in the dungeon, like for example, the Temple of Shu temple is so different compared to, for example, the Temple of Osiris, which is a completely different temple. And even though they're in the same Great Sand Sea, they have completely different architectural vibes and designs and puzzles within them. I think partially, you know, since our games, they always do it big, as you saw in Asgard's Wrath 1. It's really like this playground for us to play around with all these different puzzle types and ideas and themes in all these spaces, but really just making sure that there was an element of magic in the exploration of the space, no matter where you went and no matter how you explore it as well.

[00:15:34.170] Kent Bye: Yeah. Red matter to seeing how high fidelity of some of the different look and feel that you can get on a mobile chip set. I feel like as far as two is doing a lot of those same tricks. To me, it's just super impressive that it all fits within what is it around? Like how big is the file size is around 50 or 60 gigabytes or how big is it?

[00:15:52.642] Mari Kyle: No, it's actually 31 right now to this day, right now. And then I think, you know, it might change whenever we have other DLC packs or maybe we'll, we'll change things around. But it's currently sitting around 3132-ish, I think. It's a lot of intense optimization. Our engineering team, you know, they're some of the best of the best and they have decades and decades of industry experience across themselves, you know. And so they've put a lot of time into optimization and being really clever about rendering and like different LOD systems and all that kind of stuff. Basically, from my perspective as like a non-engineer working on this game, it's been a masterclass at seeing how far we can make things stretch and where we can make compromises in order for the experience still to feel premium, but not to overload the headset in any way.

[00:16:39.541] Kent Bye: Gotcha. Yeah. I didn't know if it was compressed size that was unzipped or anything and it was bigger, but yeah, 31 gigabytes is a really impressive size for how big and vast the game feels. Some of the other aspects that I've noticed is that there's the main quests that you have. And as you're in the maps, you have these little icons where you have like a little eye that tells you where to go. And then you have a whole side quest system where you can interact with different people in your home base, your hideout. where they give you these different side quests and I had a lot of fun actually going on a lot of different side quests because I found that sometimes I wanted to just upskill my character so you can get like different skill points or just have a good excuse to explore around and to aggregate different things. One critique I'd have is that it felt like a really long time before I could actually do anything with the materials that I was gathering. It was somewhere in the middle of saga two before I was able to even use some of these different things that I was collecting. So there's a big chunk of 10 to 15, 20 hours where I'm just gathering stuff, but I don't know why. And I was like frustrated that I couldn't do anything with it. I see now, once you have the opening up of being able to craft different improvements to your armor and your weapons and everything. So it felt like there was a deeper purpose for the economy. So like there's a whole economic component for both gathering resources and be able to invest in yourself.

[00:17:58.921] Mari Kyle: Yeah, there's kind of like two different things for it. Like the first is we really wanted to make sure that this game was really playable and accessible for all types of players. So maybe people who have never played RPGs before, people who are not familiar with gaming, and overloading them with a bunch of systems, very complex RPG systems early on. We figured out it's kind of like a lot. The way to get people to invest their time and space, especially if they're not gamers, into it is telling them this great story and kind of hand-holding them through that experience. And then being like, and you can build all your armor, here's the different gear and what that spec does, and here's all the different points that you can gather and stuff like that. And really having them dive deep into this game if they'd like to. So we introduced Bess as the first person that you can craft things with, and you can craft potions with them, you can craft some minor goods with them. And so that's kind of like the first taste of what crafting could look like. And that unlocks after you do your tutorial level of the Temple of Autumn. And then we really go in a little level deeper for folks who are really starting to get a better understanding of how this game works with Patah, who unlocks all that armor and crafting and the weapons and some other craftable items as well for your followers. And then even after that, we go even deeper and introduce traps and cooking and all these things. Each of these merchants are purposefully unlocked with some space between them so that you have enough time to really get a sense of the world and how you're supposed to interact with it. And again, all this is because we're really thinking about with this game being available for free on the Quest 3 bundle, it's going to be a lot of folks who maybe didn't buy the Quest 3 for games or maybe who are buying it for other things. And then they get this game and they don't know how to play RPGs and stuff. So we really wanted to make sure that it was accessible to those folks, but also still provide that complexity and RPG systems as well for hardcore players.

[00:19:44.538] Kent Bye: Yeah, well, I know that in terms of RPGs, there's the Baldur's Gate 3 that had come out in 2023. And there seemed to be a lot of branching narratives within that game where you would have choices of what you were saying and the dialogue that would send you down potentially different paths. But it feels like in the dialogue system that's in Asgard Thrash 2. It feels like there's not very much branching, or at least I haven't detected as much. So maybe you could talk about if when you're provided a choice to go down different dialogue paths, is it more of like a flavoring of, you know, maybe you get different types of information or are there actually different branches narratively that are decided based upon your dialogue choices?

[00:20:24.795] Mari Kyle: Yeah, I think it's, you know, we're really trying to toe the line between making sure that we're crafting this narrative for the player. Like, we want to tell a story of the player's transition from Fledgling God to Cosmic Guardian to, at the very end, once you've defeated all the things, I'm not going to give spoilers, but like, we really wanted to guide players through this experience. And so we struggled a lot with like, now that players have more agency, how do we guide them on this epic legend that we have all these beats, like this amazing beats of the story that we want to tell, but we also don't want to make players feel like they're locked into a very linear story. So there are different, you know, dialogue trees that you can interact with, and you can pick whichever ones you'd like to proceed with with the different characters. But yeah, they don't make an entire difference. And the storyline because we wanted to make sure that this really felt like a piece of lore, like a story unfolding in front of the player that you were really at the center of. There are other ways though that you have a lot of player agency in this in terms of like how the story unfolds or your relationship with the characters. For example, you can build follower friendships with all the different characters. You could choose who you want to build a mine. I always build it with Subira because she's my first love and so I always have like a lot of friendship with her. And, you know, in those areas, it's all up to user choice. So some followers I have never unlocked the backstory for because I just don't care to know about them. But for Suvira, I get more dialogue options, because I have a very close relationship with her. And similarly, there are some of the gods in the hideout that I like never do their requests. And as a result, I don't get a discount at the store, like, you know, you get discounts for each of the requests that you end up finishing for them. So There's so many different ways that we really make this world feel unique to the different players, but also while doing so, still putting them on a path where they can feel the story that Sunzara Games wants to tell to these players.

[00:22:11.762] Kent Bye: Yeah. Some of those relationship buildings I've noticed moments where if you get off after a ride, if you pet them and then, you know, or if you give them a high five, but sometimes it feels like there's like a little bit of like neediness of like, Hey, pay attention to me. You're ignoring me. And it was just sort of like, ah, like you're already like at the relationship of family. Like what else do I need to do?

[00:22:31.427] Mari Kyle: Yeah. You don't have to, I always high five and like, you know, I'll be like in the middle of thinking about something really heavily. And I'll just be like, ah, high five, like nice, you know, it's a nice break of levity. You can also feed them their favorite foods too. There's all kinds of cute things you can do to build relationship levels with them if you feel like they're being a little bit needy.

[00:22:49.815] Kent Bye: Maybe I'll cook up some things and feed them. Yeah. So maybe if we can elaborate a little bit on the process of the narrative design, where at the beginning and end of sagas, you have like these cut scene sequences, but also at the end of some of the different quests, you'll have these animated sequences, but there's the different characters that you're interacting with. There's a lot of transmission of the narrative by talking to those characters, but there's also aspects of the lore book and. Love to hear a little bit more of a description of the narrative of this world just because it is so vast. We did a presentation where you basically talked for 45 to 50 minutes nonstop of just about all the different mechanics and everything in the game. So it's a really, really big game that we won't be able to get into all the details, but I'd love to give you an opportunity to describe a little bit more of the lore.

[00:23:36.174] Mari Kyle: Yeah, for sure. So, you know, in the first game in Asgard's Wrath 1, and by the way, you don't have to have played Asgard's Wrath 1 in order to play Asgard's Wrath 2, there's a good recap. Speaking to some of the cinematics that you were mentioning, there's a great recap of the events of Asgard's Wrath 1 for those who missed it. But in Asgard's Wrath 1, you were awakened in this, like, you know, Norse realm, and you were called a fledgling god. So, You know, you find Loki, the trickster god, as your guide, and he lovingly dubs you the god of animals, just because you can transmute animals into these warrior companions. And so he lovingly dubs you that. He ends up tricking you. He has asked you to gather all these stones that you've created from heroes that you possess in the mortal realms. And then he gathers those stones and uses them to break out of his eternal prison. He traps you in that prison, and then he runs away to other realms, causing chaos across the universe. In Asgard Draft 2, we pick up right there. So you are in that prison, but there is an otherworldly artifact sitting on that table. And when you grab it, this crazy massive beast from another realm comes barging through that prison. And then you end up having a combat encounter with it, which is kind of like a tutorial level where you learn how to do the basics of combat. From there, you're shepherded by the Weavers of Fate, which are three massive sisters of fate who really hold the balance of life and destiny in their hands for the entire universe. They tell you that it is your fault that Loki has escaped because, you know, let's be honest, it is. But they tell you it's your fault that Loki has escaped and he's causing chaos across the universe. And they ask you to set it right because you are now no longer just a fledgling god, you are a cosmic guardian. and a cosmic guardian is able to hop from one realm to the next. So from the Norse realms to the realm of ancient Egypt to everywhere in between and track down Loki who is this agent of chaos across the realms. So in Asgard Giraffe 2, you start off and you're in ancient Egypt and you're trying to find Loki now that he is hopping around and trying to cause massive world-ending events in all the realms, not just Ragnarok and the Norse realms. So you need to enlist the help of four mortal heroes in ancient Egypt. So that is Abraxas, who is the cynical tomb robber, melee-heavy character, and then Cyrene, who is a water naiad. She's half-god, half-human, and she has these living weapons. Next is Alvilda, which is your return back to the Norse realms. She has a bow and arrow, more of a rogue-type setup. And then Djahoudi, who is an undead scribe in the Egyptian afterlife. So you enlist these four mortal heroes, you get a lay of the land for ancient Egypt, but you also help them overcome their own challenges as you gather up your strength to fight Loki again.

[00:26:20.561] Kent Bye: Yeah, and one of the things that I was really impressed with was just how there seems to be a progression based upon where your level is at. It seems like it's matching where your level is so that you're having to improve your combat skills and do different techniques. And there's this opportunity to invest back into your character, into different skill trees. Now, one of the things that I wish I would have known is that Abraxas really isn't a ranged fighter. He's more of a melee fighter. And so I had invested all of the initial skill points into the battle axe that you can throw, but it seemed like it was not really doing much. It was getting a lot of blocked. And I was like, well, I feel like I made some strategic errors here where I'll need to really focus on the melee strengths of the different characters. And then as different followers come in, maybe they have also different strengths. But I wonder how you navigate these different skill tree options and decisions because you get points for leveling up or you get points for completing these different side quests. And you're kind of reinvesting them into your character. But I'm just wondering how you go about deciding because there's like more defensive stuff, there's more offensive stuff, there's the melee, there's the range. And then there's this kind of special trick shot things where you have to do different controller combinations in the middle of fighting to add new dimensions of embodied gameplay. So I'd love to hear a little bit more about what your strategy is when you're assigning your different points across these different trade-offs of skill trees.

[00:27:46.428] Mari Kyle: Yeah. Oh man. I think I do a lot of the same thing that you did. So I invest when I'm on a practice, I always invest very heavily on the axe. He is meant to be played more melee first. The axe is not the way to go. But if you have a lot of determination and persistence like I do, then you're going to make that axe work. And I love, love, love the axe. Unfortunately, the reason why I think you're finding them doing a lot of anti-exploit blocking and that kind of stuff is because I overused the axe early on in development. And so our combat designers were like, we're going to make them catch that axe and throw it back at you because you've been spamming it too much. So yeah, I do a combination of things. It's very clear whenever you get into these characters what their strengths are. With Abraxas, it's very clearly melee. With Sirenia, she's very clearly a ranged character. But the purpose of the skill tree is so that you can really tailor that to fit your strengths and make them mold into the playstyle that you want to play. For example, Alvilda is an incredible ranged character. She has this level of precision that you can get with her bow and arrow that It just feels like unmatched, especially when you're playing on the hardest difficulty. But a lot of what I do is I boost up the mind that she has a bunch, and I just throw that and then shoot the mind with my arrows pretty up close, too. So there's all kinds of different ways that you can cater the skill trees to fit those purposes. For me, when I'm on Nebraxis, it's Axe all the way. When I'm on Sireni, it's Ephra, which is actually her turret character. She can just toss it out, and it'll just clear out enemies very quickly. When I'm on Avilda, it's definitely the mine. And then for Jehuty, Jehuty is a very interesting character. I'm really curious to see what our players do with him because he's probably the most unique in terms of setup. Just to give a little bit of context. So he has a staff, a necromantic staff that it's actually like better when you're fighting up close with it. Like it's very close combat staff. for melee. And then he has these bone beads that can create portals that you can go through or throw weapons through. And then he has his own head that he could pull off and throw onto other characters to like harvest their divine protection or also to like have them fight other enemies. And so with him, I kind of do a little bit more of a mix and match approach where I boost up the staff and then the head as well. The head, you can do some really great skill tree additions where it'll last for a lot longer, so you'll have an enemy under your control for a long time. The staff, you can do a bunch of things where you can slam it down when you have Divine Wrath and it'll do like an extra knockdown. But yeah, he's a very unique and interesting character that I think will create room for a lot of creativity with our players. But yeah, there's a ton of stuff that you can do. I have colleagues who boost up the shields all the way. I never do that, but they do. You know, I have folks who boost up different weapons, like the sword on Sireni all the time. So yeah, there's a ton of different ways to play. And the fun thing is that the enemies are all very good at countering all those different ways to play as well.

[00:30:30.685] Kent Bye: One of the things I noticed is that there didn't seem to be very much penalties for dying and just trying again. And so there's a lot of potions and other stuff that I end up not using as much just because, you know, what's the point. Cause I'll just try to battle through it. And if I die, I'll just try it again.

[00:30:47.021] Mari Kyle: That's actually interesting. So I overuse potions a lot of the time, to be honest. So we don't have a ton of penalty for dying because the point of the game is that you feel like a god and we don't want people to feel frustrated and upset if they die over and over again and lose a bunch of things. If they want a mode where they die over and over and lose a bunch of things, we have the Uncharted Rifts where, you know, it's a roguelite dungeon mode, so you lose all the things if you end up dying. But for the main game, we wanted you to feel like this badass god, and so, yeah, it's a very easy reset if you die. It also helps for people who don't want to do longer sessions as well. They can just be like, you know, like, I don't have to, like, keep trying and try to survive for as long as I can. Like, I can just die, pack it up, and then put the headset back on later. But yeah, I use potions a lot. The potions that you use during battle, you don't recover whenever you die, so often I'll use a lot of divine protection potions, much to the chagrin of my boss who hates that I use them all the time. But they're super good, especially if you have different areas, like a monster den or a temple, because in those, if you die, the combat setup restarts. So especially for monster dens, you can die over and over again if you want, but it just means you're going to have to keep fighting that over and over again. And if you don't prolong your combat or get a more prepared loadout of potions and traps, then you're not going to beat that monster again. So I think, you know, in the beginning, obviously it's a ramping up of the game for folks who are getting into it. So there's a lot of areas where maybe you don't need as much of the potions that we give, but in the late game, I think you'll definitely, I think you'll definitely start to use them a bunch, especially when those combat setups Yeah. If you die, it just resets and you just got to figure out how you're going to survive it with all the things you have at your disposals from traps to potions and everything else.

[00:32:30.090] Kent Bye: Yeah. I think maybe when I progress, I'll maybe use some of that, but there's also like three different difficulty levels where there's a story mode, there's like an in-between mode and then the give me wrath mode. And I started off in the in-between mode and up until when I got to one of the boss fights where I just died, like five rows. I was like, you know what, like, I really just want to keep progressing. Switched over to story mode and I was switching back and forth. Now I'm just mostly on the story mode. I get a sense of the combat, but if I really wanted to challenge myself, I could pick it up again. But it's nice to be able to have that choice to switch at any moment, especially if you feel like you're dying a lot with one of the different bosses. I found like one of the challenging things about the bosses is that you have your normal gameplay, and then there's very specific instructions that are given to you that you have to listen to. And then I found you can get stuck and not progress unless you are listening to what's being said. And you have to follow those specific instructions for very specific techniques that you have to use in order to really end the boss battles, which I guess is another dimension of the gameplay. But sometimes in the battles, it gets so intense that it's so visible that I feel like I'm really in the moment. But then I have to be like listening to this audio that's telling me what to do. And then I have to follow it, and if I don't follow it, I'm going to end up dying. I have to start all over again.

[00:33:45.130] Mari Kyle: Yeah, there's a few. So thankfully, we also have visual indicators as well for things that you have to do in order to complete a boss fight. So for example, whenever you're fighting the Deathstalker, which is this massive scorpion, you have an indicator on their tail that you're supposed to grapple to it, you have indicators on their claws and stuff like that as well. But the reason we really built in these moments where you have to do finisher moves is because it really leads to that epic choreographed combat feel. For the Deathstalker, you know, if we had kept it on the path of like the same other enemies where you can just combat it however you like and then it just loses its health and it dies, you would lose that moment where you can grapple to its tail, whip on top of it, sit on top of it, and block its tail. And then whenever it flings you back up, you grapple its tail onto its own head. And it's like this crazy, massive-scale cinematic moment that you can't really do from the ground level whenever you're doing this combat at the Mortal Scale. So it's like, we wanted to make sure that those epic final cinematic moments really felt like it was the stuff of legend, like you could find cave paintings of this fight or something on the wall or something like that, and it would be that moment. And I think for all those bosses, whether it's the Apex Predators, which is, I think, the ones that you're mentioning, or the gods themselves, they have these really cinematic, almost choreographed-feeling battle fights that I think lend to that epic feeling.

[00:35:03.861] Kent Bye: It's definitely an experience of dying a number of times. And I feel like that is a sign of a game that is challenging is that you can't get it done the first try. And that feels rewarding when you actually do complete it, like you've achieved something. But I'd love to hear how you think of the gameplay loops in this experience. Cause there's a lot of different things that people can go do. Like how you think about the progression of exploration and then puzzles and then the battles and you know, how you think of the core gameplay loops in this game.

[00:35:31.640] Mari Kyle: Yeah, so I mean, the core gameplay loop once you get into and like open up the mortal realms of ancient Egypt or Muspelheim or any of the other worlds as well. It's basically like you're in the hideout where it's your hub, you have all the merchants there that can craft armor and weapons for you. But you're in that hub, you get a quest or like a request or a side quest from any one of those merchants. And then from the hub where you're this cosmic guardian, you go and travel into the mortal realms where you possess a mortal hero. And through that mortal hero, you can either solve puzzles or do combat or take down gods in order to progress in the storyline. And then you take down a god, finish that saga, collect another hero stone from that mortal hero, and then you come back to that hideout. And it's kind of like, that's the loop of each of the sagas. In terms of gameplay, you know, outside of the core progression, There's all kinds of different loops depending on how you want to play. Like I usually start at the hideout, I try to fill out any requests that I can for the merchants and ally gods, or, you know, craft as much armor as I can. And then I go back into the mortal realms and I take down monster dens if that's what I'm doing, or, you know, see if I can hunt down more secret chests, or I'll hunt down some apex predators. But the main loop is in the hideout, do a thing, craft an armor, you know, get a request, go back to the mortal realms, solve puzzles, explore, continue in the quest line, and then come back to the hideout and rinse and repeat.

[00:36:53.556] Kent Bye: Yeah, I felt like there's some points where the main line had different puzzles and I was just tired and didn't feel like using my brain in that way. And so I ended up going on all these different side quests where I was like, okay, I'm going to go around and I'm going to try to find every secret chest. It's kind of a paradox that there's secret chests, but they're on a map. So, You can get in the same area, but sometimes you have to explore a little bit harder. So I found myself in new places, check the map, is there a secret chest that I'm missing, and then try to figure out how to get to it. Sometimes there's little indicators that say you actually need to have some of your follower powers to be able to get to those secret chests. So you're tipped off that there's certain things that you can't do yet that you will have to come back to. So I'll just explore around a lot. And there's a lot of hidden monster dens. Yeah. I had gone through like 28% of all the monster dens and more. And then it was like, Oh, there's 33%. I was like, there must be a hundred in this level because.

[00:37:49.652] Mari Kyle: There are, yes. There's a bunch of monster dens in the Great Sand Sea, specifically. There's a bunch in all the other levels, too. It takes a lot. I actually just finished up 100%ing the Duat and Muspelheim yesterday. Because, you know, now we're in the stages, we're just enjoying and playing the game. And so yeah, there's a ton of things to explore, whether it's those monster dens, or in addition to monster dens and secret chests being things that you have to unlock later in the game once you've unlock those abilities. There's also like armor tier pieces as well. So for most of the heroes tier four armor, you cannot craft them exclusively with the things that you find in their sagas. Like you can only craft them after beating saga five or beating saga six or whatever. So there's a lot of ways that we kind of invite players to come back to these spaces and really explore them and try them with different heroes too, and try to, really get a sense for all of the magnitude of all the different ways that you can interact with this world.

[00:38:45.700] Kent Bye: Yeah. There's some pieces of either weapons or armor that you have to go get specific items that if you're just playing the game, you won't have enough. You'll have to go out on specific questing to gather up enough materials to do that. So I spent some time doing that as well. And I guess one of the things that was rewarding around going to the monster dens and everything was that you would get different chests and sometimes the chest would be some leather hide. It was just like, okay, great. You know, I, I, yeah. But other times you get these little elemental balls or these like relics that seems like it's powers that once you have that, you have it. So maybe you could describe a little bit about the elemental dimensions, because it's not always clear that say, if someone's shooting fire, you should send water or whatever is going to counteract that elemental. If it does more damage, or if you have armor that you're crafting, you can put some of those elementals onto your body. most RPGs have some certain amount of probability, sort of roll the dice. But this is such an embodied gameplay. So like, how some of these different percentages start to play into like, how you're calculating whether or not whether you're striking actually does damage or it's extra damage, or if you have these elementals, it's hard for me to like really understand. how this is changing things, just because there's a lot of stuff behind the scenes that's invisible. But I'd love to have you maybe expand on what does happen when you have some of these other special objects that you might be getting, like these elementals, and you attach them to your weapons, and then what changes?

[00:40:09.302] Mari Kyle: Yeah, for sure. So your first few weapons and armor sets, the first tier ones don't have elemental slots on them for you to drop things in. I think the axe does, but I don't know if the sword has the two of them that you would in the Async Dungeons. Basically, as you upgrade your armor, you'll unlock additional elemental or passive or special relic slots. Elemental relic slots can be slotted on both armor and weapons. Passive ones can be slotted on weapons only. And special ones can be slotted on just armor. So the difference between them is elemental ones will give you different elemental buffs. So if you open up the relic itself in the inventory, it'll tell you what percentage of a buff you're getting. If you have a common relic, there's different tiers of the relic. So there's common all the way up to champion. And depending on the tier you get, champion could be 40%. I don't actually remember the exact percentage of it, but it goes up in percentage based on the tier of the relic you get. And in those more higher level monster dens, you'll find a ton of really badass champion level relics. If they're slotted onto your armor, they'll provide an additional damage boost for that elemental. And then they'll also have elemental effects as well. So for example, if I have a water relic slotted onto my sword, first the sword will be blue. It'll have some VFX on it, so you'll know that it's on that weapon. And then when you're cutting someone with it, you'll see the water one actually slows them down. So it's like this kind of watery resistance that they're fighting against. And you'll see that effect on them as well as you're fighting it. If they are specifically, like, say it's an enemy that has their own elemental, like a fire elemental enemy, you'll see the damage that you do per second or the damage that you're doing on the enemy will show up in blue to show you that it is from that actual elemental. So usually it's in white, but whenever it's from that specific elemental, it'll show up in a different color so that you know that you're actually doing damage because of that. The difference is like staggering if you do end up having a bunch of elemental relics and being able to switch and swap them based on the combat scenario you're entering. It'll make a huge difference and, you know, land staying a lot longer in those group combat fights. The different elementals all have different abilities as well. So, for example, the earth elemental has this ability where it'll like grapple the enemies into place and so they won't be able to move. The fire one, of course, will do fire damage over time, set them on fire. But yeah, there's a ton of cool ways to mix and match them. The other thing is, whenever you do open up the inventory menu, at the very bottom of it, you'll always see a little diagram that shows you the order with which the weaknesses of these elementals work. So it'll show you, like, water works well against fire, fire works well against air, something like that. But that diagram is always there in the bottom, so you can really, like, look at it quickly when you're in the pause menu and kind of assess how you want to reorganize your relics. But that's all elemental relics on the weapons. When you put them on your armor, it'll show you a percentage increase in terms of resistance to those different elemental things, because the enemies can also do elemental effects to you. So they can set you on fire, they can make you slow down. If you get hit by a wind relic, you won't be able to throw your weapon, which is painful. So they can do a bunch of things like that as well. So it'll be good to use those elemental resistance relics on your armor. The special ones will give you some sort of like cool boon, I guess you could say, in your gameplay. So whether that is like, you take more aggression from enemy characters, that they'll come to you more rather than your followers, or whether it's just anything that can kind of modify your place in that combat setup. And then we have passive ones that are this passive secondary ability that you can slot onto your weapons. So a weapon with a certain passive relic, you know, say, for example, it's corrupted prosperity, when you have that one on, Every time you kill an enemy, you get a certain amount of corrupted aether. So it's like you get these different passive abilities that you can kind of mix and match with. So yeah, there's a ton of really cool things you could do with those elemental relics. They're very helpful, especially if you're playing on a harder difficulty. It's like you're not going to survive unless you have the right relics slotted into your weapons. And if you want to have a very long Uncharted Rift dungeon run, relics are a must in those as well.

[00:44:10.487] Kent Bye: Yeah, I wanted to talk a little bit about the Uncharted Rift runs, because you have the in-between world where you either have the option to go into the main quest lines of the game, and then you have these alternative roguelike infinite runner where it's procedurally generated. And, you know, in the normal gameplay loop, you have like a balance between exploration of the worlds, you have different puzzles, you have a balance of everything, including combat. But if you just wanted to go into the combat and have a progression, and then if you die, you have to start all over again. And you also have the opportunity to play around with different upscaling of the different characteristics as you go through. I only went in there once and I had basically the shield that I was able to get. And so I don't know if you're carrying over some of the same type of weapons in your same build out, but if you'd see that as a way for people just wanted to have just a visceral combat without any of the other aspects, I'd love to hear the origins of the development of that mode of the game.

[00:45:06.067] Mari Kyle: Oh, man, the Uncharted Rifts is one of my favorite parts of the entire game. So, you know, to answer your first question, it does carry over. Basically, the hero loadouts from the core game are the ones that you have in the Uncharted Rifts. So as you unlock each additional hero, you will unlock their loadout to use in the Rifts. So first, I think since you've met Abraxas, you have his loadout in the Uncharted Rifts, and you can just go ahead and select him and go into it. But once you unlock Sireni, you'll be able to use her weapons there, Avilda, you know, et cetera, et cetera. In terms of the gameplay of the Uncharted Rifts, so there's a ton of different purposes for why we built this system for it. And first, it's an incredible place for you to hone and practice your skills with combat, whether it is like getting a better understanding of the skill tree, because the Uncharted Rifts has its own exclusive skill tree that mirrors, of course, the skill trees on the main campaign, but don't actually correlate in terms of where you put your points. So you could try out different weapons and different techniques that you would never want to invest in in the core game. You can also try out different techniques against different enemies as well. So there'll be all new, you know, enemies that maybe you haven't encountered yet if you haven't beaten the game in the Uncharted Rift. So it'll give you a good sense of like, what are the enemies out there? How do I change up my combat to fit the different combat scenarios? and how can I use my skills and my relics the best I could. So it's a great proving ground for combat, but also you can harvest a bunch of resources for the main game as well. So in the Uncharted Rifts, it's very similar to what you mentioned earlier in terms of like, you know, the game really pays attention to where you are in the quest line and that changes difficulty and changes the loot that you're finding and all of that stuff. So in the Uncharted Rifts, if you are in, for example, Saga 1, you'll see Saga 1 loot, but if you're in Saga 5, you'll also see Saga 1 through 5 loot. So you'll get the resources in the Uncharted Rifts that you need in order to craft those other items back in the main game. And so as long as you can find a dimensional well to send those resources back from the untrodden rifts to the main game, you'll be able to retain those things and then save yourself some time in the core game of exploration or harvesting or grinding because you just went into an intensive session in the untrodden rifts where you were able to grind a ton of materials. So there's honing your combat, gathering resources, obviously, you know, building an asynchronous social element to the game with the Divine and the Dread Souls and the leaderboards and really bringing this air of competition, I think, that a lot of folks that love this genre really enjoy. And yeah, so there's all those different things. I think the Rift really adds to the experience and, you know, who doesn't want to go on like an eight-hour ass-kicking, you know, rampage in the Uncharted Rift? It's super fun. Even me with 100 hours into this game, I still really deeply enjoy seeing how far I can get in the rifts as well.

[00:47:49.555] Kent Bye: Yeah. I don't know if you familiar with the Bartles taxonomy of player archetypes, but they have like the killers who really like the combat and battle aspect, the explorers who like exploring around the different worlds, the achievers or the kind of the completionists who want to complete everything, but also gathering up all the different quests and complete everything. The socializers, I think, is the one that because this is a single player game, there's not very many like real time social dimensions. They're more asynchronous, like you said, where you can capture different holographic dances of yourself or emotes and send them across. But maybe you could speak a little bit to how you're trying to bring different social dimensions into this game that is mostly a single player game.

[00:48:30.317] Mari Kyle: Yeah, I mean, so yeah, this game is, you know, as you mentioned, it's a single player game, but we really wanted to see what things we could do with asynchronous social elements to really make it feel like it's living with this community. We know that the Asgard's Wrath community is a very passionate one. We love them on Discord. They're amazing. And we wanted to make sure that folks felt like they were part of this community of cosmic guardians who are fighting against Loki's chaos. And so, yeah, we built in different asynchronous social systems. The first is the Uncharted Rifts social systems where you can, after you finish and die in a rift run, you can choose to leave behind a Divine Soul or a Dread Soul. Divine Soul will help other players in their rift runs. It's like an afterimage ghostly avatar of yourself that has all the same equipment and gear and relics that you had in your run. So those will go into other people's runs and help them. Or the Dread Souls, which are going to work as like mini boss fights, which again, have all the same equipment and gear of the player that left them. So they're pretty challenging boss fights compared to the other enemies in the game. So we have that system, and then we have the player-placed projections, which is that cosmic projection system that I think you were just mentioning. So that is basically, when you're in the main campaign worlds, the mortal worlds of the Great Sand Sea or Muspelheim, you can leave behind these little after images of yourself and you can choose whether you want to leave behind a cosmic guardian after image or the mortal hero after image and you can also choose what emote they do and basically this after image avatar of yourself will have the emote that you choose, the gear that you choose, your name, your title, all that stuff floating over it And you can choose to leave these wherever you'd like in the world, whether that is in front of a monster den to show, you know, pointing to the monster den location and being like, hey, check this out over here to other players, or whether it is like, you know, a funny dance that you want to do on like some tucked away area. Or you can see a lot of our creators actually have left all their after images on the same bridge. So it's like a hall of fame of just like these projections of all of the incredible VR creators that we have playing this game pre-release. So yeah, there's a bunch of ways that you can kind of leave behind your mark on the solo campaign world so that others can see your presence and get to know a little bit more of the community.

[00:50:47.905] Kent Bye: Awesome. And, uh, and finally, what do you think the ultimate potential of virtual reality might be and what it might be able to enable?

[00:50:56.151] Mari Kyle: Oh man, like I, uh, that's such a great question. I think with Raph, we were able to build something really freaking massive. Like we were able to build an incredibly huge game on a mobile headset. And so My hope is that in the future, we can have even bigger worlds, even crazier stories, even crazier experiences that add for more user agency and choice and how they interact with these spaces and do it on technology that's really accessible. Like for me, way back to when I first tried that DK2. Like I wasn't able to own one because I didn't have a PC that could power VR games. And it was really hard for me to find times and be able to like get into VR. But I think now that we can build these massive worlds, like incredible quality experiences on somewhat more affordable headset, for sure. I think more people will be able to get in and experience the magical immersion levels that they can get in VR with these beautiful stories and environments that they can explore. So hopefully bigger worlds, more exploration, and then more accessible worlds that people can enjoy them.

[00:52:00.558] Kent Bye: Awesome. And is there anything else that's left and said that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?

[00:52:06.183] Mari Kyle: Oh man, I don't know. Just enjoy Asgard's Wrath 2. It's a lot of, you know, blood, sweat, and tears that went into this game and it's our baby. It's like our love letter to the RPG genre and full of all these little moments that we can't wait for people to uncover and find. And yeah, please join the Discord if you like. Myself and all the folks from the studio are on that Discord and sharing images and fun stories and stuff like that too. But Yeah, let us know what you think. Please enjoy the game and yeah, kick ass. Take down some guts.

[00:52:37.880] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, I've certainly been enjoying my playthrough of Asgard's Wrath 2. And like I said, I'm like 35 hours in and I'm only through the second out of the seven sagas. And I feel like there's so much more to explore and experience. And I'm just kind of scratching the surface for what everything is in the game. But it's been compelling enough for me to continue on and to want to come back and to have different ways of progress and lots of different options that It does have that open world feeling, even though it's mostly linear in terms of the main quest, there are some options of player agency to kind of have that more open world feel to explore around and still feel like there's satisfying aspects. Overall, it's just a really super amazing achievement that I'm glad to see a game of this size and scope even be created. So thanks again for taking the time to explain a little bit more of your journey, but also to give a bit more context for both the gameplay and lore of Asgard's Wrath 2.

[00:53:31.482] Mari Kyle: Yeah, for sure. Thank you for having me. I'm super happy to have this opportunity. So thank you.

[00:53:35.904] Kent Bye: So that was Mari Kyle. She's a producer at Oculus Studios, who's working on Asgard's Wrath 2, which is coming out on December 14, 2023. So I've had a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, Well, it was just a really great to hear some of the different larger design decisions that were going into how they were creating this game. There's not a lot of penalties for stopping at any moment, especially when you have a headset that battery may be dying, or you may get fatigued or motion sick. For me, I'm very comfortable with the type of locomotion, but for some people, they may get a little bit more motion sickness if they are early users of virtual reality, because there are different comfort options. I was using the most intense and I've fairly comfortable with navigating these different virtual worlds. So for me, this is one of the deepest and richest VR games that I've ever played. Certainly the longest that I've put into a VR game for a long, long time. Probably the record for me is Tetris Effect. Playing that as a puzzle game has been one of my pandemic games that I was just playing a lot. Breakroom is probably a close second and VR chats probably like the one that I've spent the most time in but there's not a lot of games that have necessarily played within VR chat So in terms of game, this is certainly the most invested that I've been in playing the game I think in a lot of ways it's because they do have these narrative elements that keep it interesting That's using a lot of Egyptian mythology and Norse mythology. And so you get familiar with these different Pantheon of God characters and the different relational dynamics between them, but also the integration of all these different qualities presence I think is probably the most impressive probably since I've seen like half-life Alex Like I said, there's a lot of people that are probably going to making that comparison to half-life Alex and for me again, I feel like the half-life Alex set a bar that is gonna be difficult to bypass just because the awe and wonder of the different environments and the story and yeah It just was a really fun game and I feel like there's a little bit more freedom in Asgard's Wrath 2 to be able to do more exploration where you can kind of go off the path of whatever the main line is. For Half-Life Alyx, you kind of had to do a very linear sequence of different experiences, but there wasn't a lot of choice for you to take another path. But in Asgard's Wrath 2, you can really choose your own adventure in a lot of ways, and depending on how you want to play, you can go track down the Loki anomalies, you can go do these side quests and these different tasks, Loot grind, you can go into different caves to do battles with different monsters. In later sagas, there's even bigger monsters that you can go and fight. And so there's fishing and other minigames that they've included in there. There's a lot of the uncharted rifts where you just go this infinite runner. It's a roguelike where once you die, you can reset, although there is a way you can continue. And it's a way to practice your skills and fighting and battling and also just play around with the upscaling of the different characters a little bit more. So I've been having a lot of fun with the game. It's just a really robust world. And the environmental design, again, I think for me is probably one of my more favorite aspects of it, just to take it in all the vast spaces that they've created and with a lot of diversity where it does feel like you're exploring all these different new spaces. Again, just in all that this is all capable on the quest to quest 3. I mostly just played it on the quest 3 That's what they recommend There are some Loki anomalies where you have a mixed reality, but you can't decide when those are gonna come up You just have to hit them and then it's either gonna be mixed reality or not. I didn't happen to run across one that way was a mixed reality. I've probably hit around six or seven of them or so, but I haven't had that mixed reality mode for the looking anomalies, but yeah, highly recommend folks check it out. And it is a 60 hour game. I think it may be a question as to like how much people are going to be actually invested into playing for that long. You know, the quest three battery was maybe around two, two and a half hours. There is an elite strap that you can get around four plus hours that Mari told me afterwards that was a must have for her to be able to play these longer sessions. I actually ended up playing with a cord plugged in, which I wouldn't necessarily always recommend, especially if you're in a swivel chair, especially when you're in battle. It gets so intense that I had a lot of times that the cord was just getting tangled up and I have to kind of stop and untangle myself. But For doing more extended sessions, I definitely recommend plugging directly into the power so you don't feel like you're going to necessarily be arbitrarily limited for how long the battery life is. But yeah, I'm just really in awe of the vast scope of this game, but also how much they were able to really have fun interactive gameplay. So the active presence is continuing to develop and change. You have different characters. There's a lot of novel interactions as the game progresses. The enemies get a little bit harder and so there's a core interactive game play loop that is just a lot of fun to play from the different mechanics that you're doing. And then again, I think the second quality of presence for me was the environmental presence and just really impressive spaces that you can really explore around. there's a bit of a grind to gather up all these resources that can be very meditative as well as they're just trying to upskill your character. And then the puzzles are also challenging enough to keep it interesting because you are going in between the god mode which you're super big and everything gets small and you're able to do things that your mortal self can't do. And so then you're switching back and forth between those two in order to solve the different puzzles. And so for each of these different quests that you're going on, there's at least one, two or three of those God mode interactive parts of any of one of these quests that you have to go through a number of these different steps. And then you're exploring around different spaces. There's always like a signifier to tell you where to go. It's like an augmented reality overlay to point you in the right direction. There's also a map where you can get a larger context to see where you need to go. And then in terms of the narrative, like I said at the top, I feel like the narrative was the thing that is the least impressive about this game. Although it is a compelling enough narrative for me to track it, but I wouldn't say that that's the centerpiece of the entire experience for me. because there's just so many other strong aspects of the gameplay is awesome the environment design is incredible there's great puzzles and so the story is i think probably the weakest part but it's still like an interesting story to follow along i will say that at the beginning of playing this game there is quite a lot of cognitive load like you're overloaded with like reading different stuff and There is an inventory system, it can be a little bit confusing, and that's one of the things that Mario was saying, that they needed to kind of slowly introduce different things and maybe not have you be bothered with some of this stuff so much, and that once you get to the point for understanding the core aspect of the game, then you can start to gather all these resources, craft these different potions or increase the armor or weapons, and just kind of upskill your character in different ways. So there's the other aspect of the social dimension of this game. There's a lot of like NPCs and virtual beings that you have these different relationships with. In fact, you can cultivate your relationship with their followers by giving them high fives, feeding them different foods, and just building up rapport so that you can get more of their backstory as you continue on. And so there's these pro-social type of relationships that you're developing. You can also do different favors for these shop owners to go on the different quests, which can be fun to have another adventure to explore around and find different aspects of the world. Did some fishing expeditions of just like fishing and to get fish. And usually when you do some of these tasks, you get skill points to be able to upscale your character. But also, as Mari said, if you field a number of different quests, then the prices actually come down for some of the things that people are selling. Another part that doesn't necessarily work for me as much as that They try to do these like holographic cosmic projections where they're trying to create this asynchronous social dimension But honestly, it feels like graffiti that's in the world That is kind of distracting because you're walking around this world and all of a sudden you'll see this hologram that's doing an emote and it has a name tag and it For me it just kind of breaks the presence because it doesn't feel like it should be in this world. It just feels like it's trying to tack on a social dimension onto a single player game that for me doesn't necessarily work as well. I wish there was actually a way to turn it off because I find it to be a little bit annoying. I'm walking around especially when you're in a place and you keep dying and you keep you're responding and you just see these Holograms that just feel like they're taunting you so for me It feels like it's just breaking my presence from actually being really immersed in the world. It just feels like something that's distracting and Maybe if you could set it to be only your friends, maybe there's some settings to turn them off. If there are, I would love to be able to turn those off because I don't feel like they're adding much to my experience. So there, you know, it's kind of cute at first, but I feel like there's certain places where it makes sense. Maybe when you're first spawning in, you can see it in those in between worlds, but when you're out and about in the world and you see them, I don't know, it just feels like it's a little bit more annoying. But overall, I've just been having a lot of fun. Like I said, I've spent around 40 hours now in just the very beginnings of the third saga. I'm not actually sure if I'll finish and play all 130 hours worth of the game. I've got like eight other different series that I want to get to before my next travel here in March, which is either going to be South by Southwest or the Vision Dev Camp that the previous episode was diving into. But it is a fun enough game that it has been nice to just take a bit of a pause and a break and to just surrender myself to diving deep into this game to really figure out what it's all about and to see that, you know, this is a game that Meta is really promoting in a way that they're banking that they're going to be able to sell a lot of Quest 3 headsets. And I actually think they have a chance, especially if there's other buzz around playing this game, And, you know, I've got my VR legs. I'd be very curious to hear from people who are just getting into VR, if it's comfortable enough for them, or if it does give them different degrees of motion sickness. There are different comfort settings that people can start to dial in, but it can be a little bit more of an intense game for folks. But just a shout out to Senzara Games for an incredible job of putting this whole game together. It's been a long time since I've really surrendered myself to a game like this, and it's been a lot of fun to be able to dive in and play through it, and I look forward to continuing to make progress through the different sagas. So, that's all I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. So, if you enjoyed the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a supported podcast, and so I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue bringing this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.

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