One year ago we released Defector, our love letter to high-octane espionage stories. Full of edge-of-your-seat moments, the Oculus Rift game sends players across the globe on wild missions that run through some of our favorite spy movie scenarios. To commemorate the anniversary, Gameplay Programmer Naveen Nattam shared stories about some of our favorite moments in the game.
In the first mission, you’re tasked with stealing a piece of technology from an international arms dealer aboard a plane. When you find out that the tech is on another plane, you’re given two different paths to get there: skydiving or driving out the back of the plane.
“Every person on the team touched some part of those sequences,” said Nattam. “Every animator, every programmer, and every artist made those moments work.”
Falling through the sky in virtual reality is enough to give you a rush, but driving out of a plane is the exact type of over-the-top action that we love here at Twisted Pixel. The opening mission ended up setting the tone for the game, starting players off with compelling moments of branching conversations and investigations that build to intense action sequences.
The India level takes this idea and does it with another classic spy movie trope: the foot chase. After sneaking your way into a fight club to track down a rogue agent, you’re led on an exhilarating chase through the market district of eastern Mumbai.
“This sequence was heavily inspired by the Jason Bourne movies,” Nattam recalled. “A lot of care went into building crowd reactions to make the level feel alive as you sprint through it.”
It wouldn’t be a spy story without some ridiculous gadgets. Even with several fun ones to choose from in Defector, our unanimous favorite around the studio is a pair of glasses that turn into an eagle when thrown at the enemy.
“People were always pitching ideas to the game director, but they would often get shot down for being too wild or out there. Somehow eagle glasses weren’t deemed too wild,” said Nattam. “Everyone loved it, but it was just so crazy. It became a common refrain around the office: ‘Yeah, that’s a crazy idea, but is it eagle glasses crazy?’”
VR gave us a great opportunity to make the player feel like a spy, firsthand. In the London mission, there’s a sequence where you’re going through a target’s room to learn more information about who he is by picking up and examining objects, learning bits of information about his life.
“That was one of my favorite sequences to work on, because picking up things in VR is just so tactile and intuitive,” Nattam said. “My favorite interaction is the touchpad remote to open the secret door; it works exactly as you think it should.”
Later on, these facts end up coming up in a conversation, and you’re required to remember what you learned in order to not raise suspicion. There was lots of debate back and forth about how much hand holding we wanted to do in game to help you remember details. At one point, there was a hint system that came up, reminding you of details while you were talking, but it was eventually removed.
“It just felt more fun without the hints. It found a nice balance where we weren’t spoon feeding the information to the player, but it didn’t feel too obtuse.”
When we started having conversations about our favorite moments in the game, one answer came up even more than eagle glasses. “Naveen’s death scene!” was by far the most common response.
Occasionally we have opportunities for our staff to do voice work for characters in game, and Nattam was responsible for voicing the main villain in the India sequence, something which everyone at the studio never lets him forget.
“At one point my character says ‘That makes sense’ really forcefully, and that became something people would say to me around the office or in meetings,” said Nattam.
When it came to finding a fun way to kill off his character, they eventually settled on a fiery helicopter crash.
“The day we recorded the audio for that scene was so much fun, I just got to keep doing these blood curdling screams,” recounted Nattam. “Our office manager actually had to talk to staff working in nearby offices to assure them there was nothing wrong.”