Soccer ball

How it feels to head butt a soccer ball in VR

Like many VR games, Director starts with a simple concept. The game throws soccer balls at you and you move your head to return them. It’s wrapped up in a story where you visit a center for soccer players who need help, but it’s really about the feel of a soccer ball hitting you in the head.

There is a good sense of timing when the ball takes off, a satisfying suction cup sound effect when it hits you, and a quick bounce when it takes off. And you don’t have to move your head so much that you’re uncomfortable – you can lean slowly while getting a pretty accurate shot, as long as you’re getting in from the right angle.

Similar to something like Portal, the game is above all a series of challenges, with bits of history and humor creeping around the edges. Your main objective is to aim the soccer balls at specific targets. The harder the targets to hit, the more points you get for them. As you level up, the game throws up obstacles and changes the concept, with an excitable employee named Carl being mixed up.

“It’s not far-fetched,” says Ben Throop, CEO of Frame Interactive. “It’s more like black humor. The guy who runs it, you never see it. … let’s just call him the director. … He’s kind of only half-attentive, because he’s got a lot of other things going on. He hired Carl to do stuff, and Carl is a little excited to take on the challenges for you.

Carl is the only employee at the center and is not allowed to speak to you, so he leaves notes behind to tell you what’s going on and add some flavor. The gist of the game, however, is in the challenges it creates.

In the demo version shown at GDC, this initially plays out in a realistic sense, but picks up speed quickly. In a challenge, you get a giant beach ball that knocks down multiple targets at once, making it easier to aim. In another, you get bombs shaped like a soccer ball, which you use to detonate wooden crates and clear a path. One step puts a forklift carrying an outhouse in your path, causing you to aim around it to hit your targets. And in the last step before the GDC demo goes black, you see the outlines of a rock concert scene, hinting at something more elaborate.

The developers are also planning a multiplayer mode called a “group session” where players take turns wearing the headset and passing it around, competing for the score. “It’s like you all visit a football development center together,” says Throop. “You were all bad players and you were sent over there by your club to improve.”

The executive is planning Director as a PlayStation VR launch title to ship in October, exclusive to Sony’s headset because Sony funded the game.