“Among Us” might have been too scary in VR, developers say
In recent years, “Among Us” has expanded into multiple collaborations with other games, virtual reality, merchandising, and fan art. All of this has been the product of hard work, said Forest Willard, the Innersloth programmer who also runs the company’s business, sitting with The Washington Post in Los Angeles during The Game Awards, the annual industry awards event similar to the Oscars.
“We definitely did not intend to [“Among Us”] be a widespread cultural phenomenon,” Willard said. “But at the same time, we designed the game specifically to be accessible to ‘non-gamers.’ Given the virality and accessibility, it makes sense.”
“Just looking at the gaming industry, we’re probably one of the best in terms of merchandising. Most games don’t bother with that. It is a lot of work.”
Victoria Tran, who runs Innersloth’s social media presence, said the biggest social media platform for “Among Us” is TikTok, where the game has more than three million followers. She spoke about how she has worked to diversify Innersloth’s social media presence and how the company would not be influenced by Acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk.
“Growing up with social media, I don’t trust any one platform to support me, honestly,” Tran said. “I saw MySpace go down, I saw Vine go down. I don’t know what’s going on with Facebook. BeReal was the hottest thing and now nobody talks about it.”
Even if Twitter goes down, Tran said, “Among Us” developers also post in-game news, so they have a direct line to players.
“Among Us VR” was nominated for Best Augmented or Virtual Reality Game at The Game Awards on December 8, where it lost to puzzle adventure game “Moss: Book II.” A team of more than 15 developers at Schell Games took it upon themselves to bring “Among Us” to virtual reality, launching the game a month ago.
One of the first things the team noticed during development was that “Among Us VR” would also good of a horror game.
“It quickly became clear how scary that game can be in VR, especially when you are now in an environment that could be creepy, surrounded by people who want to mess with you and kill you,” said Michal Ksiazkiewicz, Senior Game Designer at Schell Games. .
Ksiazkiewicz said that when adapting “Among Us” to VR, they had to think carefully about how to adapt the killing actions, so they wouldn’t be too creepy and horrifying for players. The developers also added colors and little gags to lighten the overall tone of the game.
Schell also streamlined gameplay, abstracting away actions like stabbing other players with a knife by pressing a button, so players don’t have to aim within VR, which Ksiazkiewicz says could be nauseating.
“It’s all about the lying to your friends aspect, and everything else should be in service of that,” Ksiazkiewicz said. “Our goal in VR was to make the barrier to entry for a player as low as possible.”
The porting of in-game purchases to VR has also proven to be a work in progress. While “Among Us” on console, PC and mobile has launched collaborations with “League of Legends” and “Fortnite,” Ksiazkiewicz said they’re currently unsure if they can sell more than virtual reality headgear. The costumes and mascots, which are available in the original game, have yet to make it to VR.
At the Game Awards, “Among Us” announced its biggest update this year, adding a hide and seek mode. To keep up with the enormous amount of fan interest in “Among Us,” Willard talked about balancing adding in-game content with employee burnout. He said that ever since “Among Us” took off, he has had a constant feeling of catching up on business and technical issues.
“It still feels like we’re catching up because people’s demands can come in much faster than any update,” Tran said. “It’s been exciting and stressful.”
Willard said that, for the most part, they are trying to eliminate the crisis, or the practice of working long evenings or weekends in the gaming industry.
“You tell your prospects, ‘No, don’t creak,’ and your prospects tell your direct customers [reports], ‘No, don’t crack.’ So everyone has at least that mental image of ‘I don’t want to do sit-ups, doing sit-ups is bad,’” Willard said. “We have creaked, it is not perfect, it is always a work in progress. But we’re trying to minimize it as much as we can.”
In the interest of avoiding overwork, sometimes player demands cannot be fully met, especially when prioritized against other upcoming content and features, Willard said.
“That’s the part where you start ignoring the players, like ‘Sorry, that’s not a high enough priority,’ and you just control your pace.”