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Virtual reality game Wanderer puts New Zealand developers on world stage

This story was originally published on RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.
Mon, 31st Jan 2022
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Wanderer was released yesterday by Auckland studios M Theory and Oddboy, in a partnership with Sony Interactive Entertainment.

The VR adventure game puts players in the shoes of Asher Neumann who travels through time, all in the name of saving humanity.

Taking inspiration from the likes of Quantum Leap and Dark, Neumann goes on a journey, uncovering traitors during World War II, working alongside inventor Nikola Tesla, and even as far back as the 1500s to defend a king.

Ben Markby, who is the co-founder of Oddboy and co-creative director of Wanderer, told Karyn Hay on Lately it was a late night for the team on Thursday as they put together the final details before the release, but he was proud of the results and feedback.

"It's been a fantastic day, just seeing people out there playing it and the global response to the game.

"It's just been mind-blowing. We've had people testing the game over the past eight to 10 months locally, but really putting it out now on the global stage and seeing the response from streamers, and YouTubers, and reviewers, and just the general public has been a bit overwhelming, to be honest."

The feedback had been humbling for the team, Markby said.

"Some of the best feedback we've had [on Friday] is we've had quite a few comparisons to some of the titles that we've always idolised on VR, which has been titles made by giants like Valve, like Half-Life: Alyx, games like Saints and Sinners on VR as well.

"Not trying to toot our own horn too much here but one of the PSVR [PlayStation Virtual Reality] channels on YouTube said that this is actually one of their most favourite PlayStation VR titles ever made, so for us, that's been pretty humbling.

"We're still coming to terms with 'holy s--t, have we actually made something this good?' like it's hard to say when you're in the trenches, and you've got that tunnel vision and you kind of pop out of it at the end like this, and you're thinking well how well is this game going to be ... but the response has been amazing so far."

Sony eyed up the opportunity to support the makers after Markby headed to Boston with his business partner in 2019 to a big gaming convention in Boston, called PAX East, with an early prototype of the game.

"They liked what they saw, and we had a chat with them and they jumped on board ... and pretty much haven't looked back since," Markby said.

"We've grown our team from that and really dived headfirst into the VR world in trying to make a game that can stand out on the world stage."

But Markby credited the whole team as having played a massive part in the success, including artists, writers, voice actors, programmers, and designers.

"Making a game is like an orchestra, there's so many people involved.

"They're all really important to the vision of the game and making it all come to life. So it's a real team effort. Making something here of this scale in New Zealand takes a lot of people and a lot of talent and we've been really fortunate with the people we've found."

It takes about eight to 10 hours to play the game from start to end, he said.

Wanderer is available on PSVR, Oculus and SteamVR.

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