Zenith Dev talks solarpunk and anime influences

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Developer Ramen VR has attracted a lot of attention from virtual reality (VR) enthusiasts since the release of Zenith: the last city, with the game even briefly reaching the top of the Steam gamers charts.

Although still in Early Access, fans are hoping that Zenith represents a step towards the fully immersive VR MMORPG popular in fiction. Explore the ideas, influences and future plans of Zenith: the last cityUpload VR spoke with Andy Tsen, CEO and co-founder of Ramen VR.


Ramen VR itself is a small company for an ambitious project like Zenith: the last city, employing only 15 people. Tsen was candid about the challenges the developer faces and meeting people’s expectations: “When we launched Zenith, there were a lot of people expecting Sword Art Online or World of Warcraft. We’re more like Ultima Online, a few guys trying to create something we’re passionate about.

Comparisons with media on VR MMOs such as Sword Art Online or .Hack are inevitable, and Tsen said anime and Japanese culture indeed have a significant influence. “The inspiration for the game comes from all the games I’ve played,” he says. “Anime was a big part of my formative years, so we took ideas from Final Fantasy XIV, World of Warcraft and even Nier. We wanted to create a world inspired by anime and JRPGS. You can see in the open world, like the Plains region, we refer to a lot of Miyazaki and a lot of Nier.

Speaking about the tone and genre of the game, Tsen had this to say, “If you look at the city, we have solarpunk going on, while the starting area was inspired by Midgar from Final Fantasy VII and many other cyberpunk media. . There are sci-fi elements, but it’s very much fantasy-inspired, but it’s going to be more solarpunk themed and styled than cyberpunk. He also indicated that in terms of the storyline, it wouldn’t be as black and white as “bright happy place is good, dark scary place is bad”. There will be nuances and intricacies for players to discover as the game world expands and refines. Solarpunk media also tends to have a more upbeat tone than the more grungy and dark Cyberpunk media.

A common criticism of many modern MMOs is that the intuitive and fun gameplay can get lost amidst a sea of ​​complex systems, rewards and currencies, so it feels more like a job than a game played for. pleasure. “I think a lot of the immersion has been lost in modern MMOs,” Tsen commented on this. “Our goal was to create an immersive world where people could reach their full potential, without worrying about what’s happening in the real world. It’s a new game-driven reality. We want to focus on creating fun experiences for people.

Asked how this feeds into accessibility for players, Tsen said the team made sure it was possible to play Zenith while seated, then added: “Often accessibility doesn’t is just good game design. You don’t lose anything by making a game more accessible. He indicated that this is just a starting point for Ramen VR, and that they are keen to incorporate the in-game accessibility during the Early Access phase, saying for a single example, “We had to work with some of our team members who get a lot of simulation-sick, so we imagined things like our out-of-body locomotion to mitigate this.

Tsen also said that this focus on accessibility extends to online safety and convenience in the game, with a focus on the tools given to players. “You can block people, or you can mute. For us, safety is extremely important. We have GMs who can roam the world invisibly and make sure everything is okay,” he said, adding that bots have limited effectiveness when it comes to protecting a community. “You can’t do much with automation, so you still need human judgment.”

Tsen also declared Final Fantasy XIV to be an example worth following, as Square Enix has positive reinforcement systems in place that allow players to praise other players who have impressed them during an assignment, dungeon, or of a raid. It works as a counterpoint to blocking and reporting systems to help foster community, something Ramen VR hopes to develop for Zenith as well.

Ramen VR has already promised to add hundreds of hours of new content in its next major update patch, and Tsen spoke excitedly about what Zenith players can expect in the future: There is a lack of endgame content at the moment. We need to do a lot more. In our next major content update, our goal is to fix this and expand it so that there are things for casual gamers, things for hardcore gamers, or those who just want to focus. on cosmetics.

Indeed, Andy also mentioned during GDC that there are plans to add more exploration and environment puzzles, but that’s not the only thing the dev team has planned: line though. . What is currently available for Zenith is only about 10% of what we want to offer our players.

Considering that Zenith has already met with a solid response from the Upload VR review in its current early access state, what the 90% additional content could provide is worth considering. Creating an MMO is no easy task, and many developers have failed to remove the barriers of growing a small business in a sustainable way.

Tsen hopes they can continue to grow and overcome the challenges implicit in creating and maintaining an expansive MMORPG. “We have great investors, we have positive cash flow, but the next big question is how do we scale that while still maintaining the culture that got us this far.”

Zenith: The Last City is available on Quest, Steam and PlayStation Store.

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