Quixel’s Lead Artist on the intensity of Homebound

Homebound is a reportedly brief but intense outer space survival adventure that’s being put together by Quixel and will be coming to VR headsets early in the new year. Claiming to be the “most beautiful and spine-chilling VR experience to date” the game, for Vive and Oculus Rift, started out as an interactive tour of a space station, but has quickly evolved into a full-on Ryan Stone simulation that requires the player to navigate various in-space disasters to hopefully land back on planet Earth and in one piece. In an effort to see how the game stacks up, we exchanged a few words with Wiktor Ohman, the Lead Artist and Designer of Quixel’s debut title.   

Is Homebound essentially the unofficial VR game of Gravity?

No, but people do compare Homebound to Gravity due to its similar concept of an astronaut crashing towards earth, which isn’t very strange really. I take it as a compliment!

Why a VR game for Quixel’s debut – and why a space survival experience like Homebound?

As graphics enthusiasts we’re childishly excited about VR and the new immersive possibilities it brings. You can really “feel” your surroundings in a much more profound way, and we wanted to explore that — a space survival setting we felt allowed us to craft a deeper emotional experience by playing with suspense, fear and excitement also in a visually compelling way.

A good many VR games so far have been fairly tame; or rather, more wanting to settle players into the tech rather than challenge them as veteran gamers. How far does Homebound go in pushing at the frontier of VR gameplay?

Homebound focuses on pushing the graphical frontier in VR gaming, and we hope to deliver a strong sensory experience more than trying to be a traditional hardcore game. VR really allows more direct access to the player’s senses, both audiovisually and emotionally, and this is what Homebound sets out to explore. It’s an intense experience that you should be able to pick up and play in a short amount of time and to easily introduce friends to VR.

How have your experiences working with NASA and others helped in the production of Homebound? Also, what of Quixel’s tech/design DNA is in the game?

We’ve had the honor of providing graphics technologies to many interesting companies over the years in games, films and aerospace. I think it has helped inspire us immensely. We’re all huge space nerds and are following the endeavours of NASA, ESA and SpaceX closely. The space station environment in Homebound is for instance inspired heavily by SpaceX’s Dragon V2 module they showed to the press a while ago, and also pays homage to NASA and its ISS – you can check it out in our latest Homebound trailer here. Quixel’s DNA is strong in the game, as we’ve used all of our own technologies (the same as used by our game, film and aerospace clients) to create all visuals for the game.

The game can be completed in as short a time as ten minutes. That’s pretty brief, even for a VR title. What’s the bang/buck ratio and what’s the price point going to be?

There are some really big bangs and the buck is less than $10. Homebound exists to give players an unprecedented visual VR experience. It’s a continuous flow of intense events as you crash towards earth meant to be experienced in one go, and so anything more than 10-30 minutes would be fairly exhausting!

What do you hope the player will feel after lifting off their headset having just landed safely back on Earth?

Even though I’m the developer of Homebound and have played through the experience at least a hundred times I usually feel really exhilarated and my palms are sweaty after I take my headset off, so if that’s an indication of what the players will feel I’d say ‘Mission Accomplished’.

Do you view Homebound as a proof of concept that will lead Quixel onto bigger projects – a full-blown space survival game perhaps?

Yes! We’re all avid gamers at Quixel and we love games. Many of us worked on AAA games and films before Quixel, so combining our graphics technology and games development experience feels like a match made in heaven. So we’re definitely looking into creating bigger game projects in the future.

Richie Shoemaker

Richie has been writing about games since 1997, spending five years on the staff of PC Zone and more recently writing for Eurogamer. His greatest claim to fame is that Sid Meier once gave him a lift to the pub.

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