Another Axiom, the studio behind the viral VR indie hit Gorilla Tag, has revealed the first glimpse of its next project. ‘Project A2’ is an ambitious spiritual successor to the now shuttered Echo VR, and a full-circle moment for the studio.
With its low-fi graphics and simple gameplay, you might not think it but Gorilla Tag is one of the most popular Quest games ever. In fact, it holds the most reviews of any VR game on the platform and is also one of the best-rated free games.
While Gorilla Tag is still going strong (if not growing), the studio behind the game, Another Axiom, is already working on something new.
‘Project A2’, its codename, is shaping up to look like a spiritual successor to Echo Arena, the popular VR sport that was infamously shuttered by Meta.
The studio published this first in-development glimpse of the game which shows something undoubtedly like Echo VR both in look and feel:
It’s a very early look of course, as explained in a message reportedly published to the studio’s Discord server:
Understand this is a work-in-progress. We’ve built a talented team, but this game won’t ship until late next year at the earliest.
Early access will give you a behind-the-scenes peek on how game development is made, gray block-out environments, programmer assets, all while the final look of the game hasn’t been established. You’ll see level layouts that will never ship, mechanics that are too OP, design explorations, lots of bugs and fun things in between.
This is not a beta … this is early access.
However, this is the fun part of game development and we are excited to bring you in.
Echo VR Evolved
But this isn’t just an Echo VR remake. Another Axiom has an ambitious plan to make ‘Project A2’ a much more social VR experience by incorporating and expanding some of Gorilla Tag’s underappreciated innovations.
Yes, Gorilla Tag has a novel locomotion and capitalizes on the seemingly innate human experience of ‘tag’, but the game’s seamless social structure—where game lobbies are ‘places’ and changing game modes is as natural as walking between rooms—is another key element to its success.
In the message on the studio’s Discord server, the developers explain the game’s structure.
Stations: Travel through a fleet of stations to find your community. Once arrived, float or take one of the many high speed systems to different casual game modes. However, if larger arena sport games are more your style, then find your way to one of the many stadiums. Hang out in the bleachers with your friends to cheer on your favorite players, commentate from the casters’ booth, or float through the locker rooms to join in on the action.
The studio plans to give ‘Project A2’ a seamless social structure, where game maps and modes are realized as ‘stations’ that players can navigate between by traveling through the game world. Don’t like how the people are playing in one station? Wander off and find a new group of players down the hall.
This social structure can lead to the kind of happenstance networking that delights us in the real world; maybe you’re wandering down the hall, peek into a station, and hear a funny conversation that has nothing to do with the itself game, but you decide to pop in and join the group for some laughs.
In essence it sounds like the studio wants to structure the game as its own sort of mini-metaverse—a ‘miniverse’, perhaps? It’s not terribly different from something like Rec Room or VR Chat, except there’s a greater emphasis on making navigation between ‘places’ more natural.
The studio also plans to give players wide-reaching control over ‘Project A2’, allowing them to create their own stations that they can adjust as they see fit.
“[…] players can run their own servers, control their own stations, host their own rule sets, moderate and customize the look and feel of, activities, posters, game modes and more,” the studio wrote. Not to mention plans for a level editor, allowing people to build interesting new maps to attract players to their specific station.
‘Project A2’ is a full-circle moment for the studio. It’s co-founder, Kerestell Smith, has said that Echo VR—before it was shut down—was his original inspiration for Gorilla Tag.
“[…] Echo VR was the first game that really made me certain VR was going to be transformative. I got so into it that I started competing, which I had never done before, and my team, Eclipse, ended up winning the first two championships,” Smith has said. It’s unique zero-G arm-based locomotion was one of the key inspirations for Gorilla Tag’s movement system.
Another of the studio’s co-founders, David Neubelt worked at Ready at Dawn as one of the leads on Echo VR, and has since gone on to join Another Axiom.
Now that the game has been shuttered, Smith, Neubelt, and the rest of the studio actually have a shot at resurrecting a spiritual successor to the game they loved—for themselves and the community that was left behind when Echo VR was shut down.
New & Improved?
While ‘Project A2’ could revive the essence of Echo VR, it will be interesting to see how players of the original game and those of Gorilla Tag receive Another Axiom’s spin on zero-G locomotion.
Fundamentally the studio appears to be building on the foundation of Gorilla Tag’s movement (which, as we mentioned, was inspired by Echo VR’s movement!); but ‘Project A2’ will make some key tweaks, the studio writes:
Learn more about our new approach to zero-g movement. We’re targeting human scale speeds with more physicality, hand-based collision, sliding, and paddle-based momentum mechanics, all while using very few controller inputs. We have removed the ability to grab flat walls, only allowing grabbing on bars and handles that your fingers could wrap around. We hope this model will follow people’s expectations of how hands work in real life, while adding depth and a high skill ceiling by layering multiple physical mechanics together.
In a way, this system sounds like a fusion of both Echo VR’s movement (where players could grab and push off of any wall) and Gorilla Tag’s movement (where players can’t grab onto any wall, any have to move themselves purely with momentum).
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With the success of Gorilla Tag, Another Axiom has set a very high bar for themselves. Can ‘Project A2’ achieve similar levels of success, or will Gorilla Tag remain the studio’s flagship game? Only time will tell, as the studio says it doesn’t plan to ship ‘Project A2’ until late 2024 “at the earliest.”