Impressions: DayZ Blokey Dean Hall’s Out Of Ammo

I suspect the ‘I’d love to see X in VR’ conversations have dried up already. No, we’re not getting Dishonored: CorVRo’s Birthday Surprise or Total WaVR: VRHammer, because the headsets’ screens aren’t really up to it, and few of us have PCs which can power it anyway. As that message sets in, thoughts turn from what VR gaming would ideally do and towards what can it actually do right now? Out Of Ammo, a loosely tower defence strategy game for from RocketWerkz – that being DayZ creator Dean Hall’s new studio – attempts to provide a more elaborate answer to that question.

In Early Access and limited to Vive for now, the boxy, Minecraft-styled Out Of Ammo pulls most every trick it can think of from VR’s box, with the exception of the full-body locational cleverness seen in the likes of Fantastic Contraption and Budget Cuts. It’s a simple thing by ‘videogame’ standards but it thoughtfully plays around with VR possibilities, and seems full of enthusiasm for it – there’s an obvious ‘wouldn’t it be great if…?’ school of thought underpinning it.

What if you could take direct control of your little RTS soldiers? What if you could pseudo-physically peer through the magnified sights of their sniper rifles? What if you could eject a cartridge from gun then grab a replacement from your belt? What if you could order an aircraft strafing run by painting a path for it along the ground?

Out Of Ammo (an awful name, alas; I can all too easily picture the ‘which populist military terms haven’t been used for game titles yet?’ brainstorming email thread) is basically a child’s toy soldiers roleplay come to blocky life. Cute little dudes take up position in machinegun nests and plip-plip shoot at waves of invading enemies, while green aeroplanes and helicopters neeeeeeeeeeeeeee-owwwwww and whuddawhuddawhudda overhead and snipers beam constant red sightlines from far-off nests. Everything is toy-scale, tiny but chunky and arranged around your waist as you presumably burst out of the ground like some hulking god-general.

The controls are a bit iffy and there are a few bugs – particularly, soldiers becoming frozen close to an emplacement rather than entering it – but spinning around to place that there or send him here feels as natural as the irksome python cable of the headset allows. You’re in the place, which is basically the essential VR achievement.

If there are a few too many enemies, or you just fancy a change of pace, you get to pretend to be a soldier rather than their general: take the potshots yourself, lob wildly successful grenades with cack-handed throws. Chukka-chukka-chukka boom. Y’know, this:

Or, at least, that kind of thinking is almost certainly the motivation. Pulling back the bolt on a sniper rifle, reaching to your back to grab a new round, sliding the bolt forwards: Commando Comics thrills. It would be a stretch to call Out Of Ammo difficult, though it becomes frenzied in later waves: instead, it’s a toy box, an excuse to act out that boy’s own war. Underpinning it all is a very rudimentary tower defence mode, in which you choose where to erect regularly-dropped emplacements and what to assign any free soldiers too. No particular precision is required, and there’s certainly none of the puzzle/maze thinking required in conventional tower defence: to some extent the game plays itself, with you choosing when and where to get your own hands dirty.

Like so many first-wave VR titles, it’s afraid of real difficulty or real complexity, be that because it knows that the audience is still getting used to this potential new way of playing or because – an increasing elephant in the virtual room – of the limitations of holding a motion-sensitive donut-on-stick in each hand. The Vive’s motion controls are remarkable, in terms of seeing your hands’ physical location replicated in-game, but a combination of limited access to buttons and their lightweight nature means they don’t successfully recreate full hands or the heft and bulk of a gun.

While it’s a giggle to crane your head close to the viewfinder, to pick up a rifle and line up a shot in Out Of Ammo is to feel that you’re holding a garden cane aloft while a stiff breeze blows. I suspect there’s something to be done either in terms of pushing the two controllers together to counteract trembling hands and drifting sights, or – God help me for a suggestion I pray does not entice someone to launch a desperate Kickstarter – some kind of plastic gun accessory.

Concept-wise, Out Of Ammo is delightful, and going further with what it could mean to be a guy with a gun in a virtual world than anything else I’ve yet tried, but it’s ramming against the ceiling of what the controls are realistically capable of. The Vive’s wands are a marvel in many ways, but it’s a sad truth that a mouse or a gamepad would be a far more satisfying – not to mention efficient – means of controlling Out Of Ammo, once the first flush of gimmick-encounter has passed.

It’s Early Access and thus openly unfinished (and I genuinely admire Dean Hall’s determination to stick with open development, given how many Internet Bastards yell awful things at him about DayZ every day), so the controls might tighten up, new interface experiments might arise and, most of all, there might be a structure beyond the simple and repetitive Survive X Waves freeplay mode that’s all it has for now.

One of my overriding disappointments with VR games, more so than image quality, cumbersome umbilical cords, sweaty eyebrows and wandering Wii controls, is that I’ve not wanted to go back to almost everything I’ve played. To try them once is to know all that they can do, and I am someone who is particularly averse to repeating experiences, unless they involve nudity, alcohol or ideally both.

Out Of Ammo is more involved than many other VR games I’ve played, but I’m afraid that its journey through Early Access will require some pretty big additions and shake-ups if I’m to go back. Though this may depend on whether VR builds up enough of a userbase quickly enough that devs like RocketWerkz feel it is sustainable to keep on spending money and manhours on games which can only reach a very limited audience. Let’s hope ‘Out Of Ammo’ doesn’t become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For now, the game it’s certainly worth a look if you have a Vive and eleven quid to spare, and I can practically smell the toy soldiers excitement which surely motivated its development. It lays some foundations for how a fuller-fat real-time strategy game might work on VR, but, like so many other first-wave titles, it’s not telling us much about how longer-term virtual reality gaming will pan out.

Out Of Ammo is out on Steam Early Access now.

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22 Comments

  1. Sigvatr says:

    IT LOOKS LIKE MINECRAFT! 420

    • SomeDuder says:

      When you think about, REALLY think about it, everything looks like Minecraft.

      2d33p5m3? or something idk idc idgaf3k

  2. Radthor Dax says:

    They have a short-term roadmap over on the steam discussion boards that details plans for other game modes and (potentially, pending more headsets and some experimentation) up to 4 player coop!

  3. Ethaor says:

    So yeah, Dean Hall. So far he’s shown talent at coming up with nice game concepts, but failed at solving the problems it raises and the general execution of the concept.

    I wish for him to actually finish and push out a great game this decade so that he can finally get away from his reputation.

    Early access in the VR market doesn’t seem like the best way to do that.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      He’s said that he gets bored and isn’t interested in staying with a project that long which is fair enough, he just needs a good team to polish and build out the ideas.

  4. PanFaceSpoonFeet says:

    So that’s what DayZ would look like without Bohemia..

  5. TechnicalBen says:

    No it does not. It does however look like Guncraft.
    However it does seem derivative enough to not be totally a blatant copy, and possibly just inspired. I’ve not seen much of the textures/models to say on that count though.

    Really. If something is literally a copy of someone else’s game, don’t complain people point it out. There is a lot of legitimate passing off in the media for it to be a real problem.

    Difference between a game that uses extremely similar sprites and gameplay to Angry Birds and being a clone, and a game having physics, collisions, targets and some other art style and theme (Feed Me Oil, Tiki Totems, Cut the Rope, World of Goo, etc, etc).

    • TechnicalBen says:

      (Fail reply)
      Comment in reference to “it’s a copy of Minecraft”. :/

      • badmothergamer says:

        I think he was being sarcastic (hence the “420”) since every single voxel based game is flooded with “It’s Minecraft!” comments. :)

        • Radthor Dax says:

          It’s also not a voxel game, just chunky, blocky low-poly.

  6. AlexStoic says:

    What we’re seeing a lot of now is the reaction that developers have when they get VR for the first time. The desire to make something (anything!) is pretty overwhelming. I got a Vive last week, and if I wasn’t so deep in development on my own project I know I’d be working on some VR demo thing right now. It’s insanely exciting.

    What we’re going to get for a while is half-finished ideas or simple arcade-style games, because that’s what you’re going to get with a dev cycle of a couple months. And they’re going to look very simple because you need to push 90 fps (this is an absolute necessity, running under 90 fps is physically painful).

    I understand it can be very tempting to complain about this from a consumer point of view. I’ve personally had the same reaction as Mr. Meer: there’s very few games I want to go back to. Right now Tilt Brush and (surprisingly) Space Pirate Trainer are some of the only repeat plays.

    But I would argue that we need to keep the bigger picture in mind. We know there’s very few VR headsets in the wild (maybe 50k?), and we know from SteamSpy that there’s even less software sold. 2,000 copies of Out of Ammo sold means there’s no incentive for him to make it or keep working on it, in any other circumstance it would be an unmitigated failure. I expect he will continue, though, because he can afford to take a loss and working on a VR game is still very exciting and interesting.

    If you look at the other VR games coming out it’s a similar story: Chunks is a minecraft-style block builder by the Garry’s Mod team, Hover Junkers is made by a team funded by their successful YouTube channel. The Lab is one of the best VR demos and that, of course, is made by Valve. A handful of other small developers are taking gambles just hoping to break even. To put it another way, we could have early access and demos, or we could have nothing.

    I guess the point is, it’s easy to complain that things aren’t meeting our expectations, there’s no real, meaty games on VR yet, and that’s all true. But I strongly feel that we need to give developers time and support if we want to see this medium flourish, and I, for one, very much do. I’ve never had anyone try it who didn’t agree.

    • SomeDuder says:

      Realistically speaking, what needs to happen is a (few?) big hit from a big AAA-vomitting publisher EA/Activation/Ubisoft, like an Assassin’s Creed or CoDBlOpMoHgohodhzocwhateverthefuck as a VR-exclusive in order to get the dimwitted masses to buy the Rifts and Vives right now. Maybe throw in a free bag of cardboard chips and sugarwater with your VR-purchase. Or VR-Dew and VR-Doritos as DLC.

      Next, when everyone and their dog has a VR-thing in order to play that hot AAA-title, the independents can make games without having to worry whether there’s even someone out there who bought a VR-thing, other than the media and true believers.

      And for the record, I would LOVE to play a Total War with total battlefield immersion, moving my units across the hills and valleys like some obscenely handsome puppeteer. Just not gonna spend upwards of €700,- to do so.

      • Shuck says:

        AAA VR exclusive games just really aren’t going to happen, not with the user base that exists – it’s not really economically feasible to develop small indie games. With those kinds of numbers, there wouldn’t be a significant difference between selling a AAA game and just giving it away, and I don’t think even Valve want to spend tens of millions of dollars just to promote VR.
        Sony’s VR might take off, in which case you could see some lower budget AAA games being developed for it, but that might not benefit PC VR gaming at all.

        • AlexStoic says:

          I think it’s fair to say that Sony might have the most influence on the future of VR, and I’m curious to see how that pans out. At this exact moment in time, in my opinion, all the drawbacks of VR outweigh the positives that would lead to mainstream success.

          I believe what it would take is several years of available gaming content, some killer apps (and to be honest, there isn’t one yet), and a lot more convenience (lower price, almost weightless hardware- like wearing glasses, no cords, plug & play setup). Once that is all true you have the recipe for mainstream adoption. As for room-space, its far superior to sitting experiences and I see no way around needing the actual space.

          The good news is (speculating wildly), I could see all that happening in maybe 3-5 years, IF it isn’t a complete financial disaster for everyone involved in the meantime. This isn’t a gimmick like Kinect or Wii or 3DTV, it’s a new format with incredible potential. Again, my own opinion as an early adopter. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

  7. ZombieFX says:

    your fucking Titles get worse and worse…
    HOW ABOUT : and thats a big strecht – put the NAMES OF THE GAMES in “”””” QUOTES “””” …. because having all in same letters- same color… and a really weird game name at times… makes it hard to figure out, what the ++++ you are talking about<.< god

    Some would assume, at some point in your careers you learned that… but obviously not.

    I can do better ! Hire me and i send you headlines for 5$ each!

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      I don’t think your phone will be ringing, with grammar like that.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      Yeah, I don’t usually get on people about grammar, but if you don’t know how capital letters work or what side of the number the dollar sign goes on, you really got no business criticizing anyone else.

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Hey man, not everyone can have a prestigious career being an angry dude on the internet.

  8. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Here are a couple gaming Europeans playing this Kiwi game.

    link to youtu.be

  9. Vickers says:

    Criticizing Dean Hall on his track record is fair game considering DayZ still has less content than the DayZ mod and its been in EA hell since 2013. I wouldn’t doubt it if they pull a Rust and completely remake it from scratch using the Arma 3 engine (Assuming Arma 5 isn’t around by then)