Update, 7/14/17, 3:20pm PT: The orriginal version of this story incorrectly called named the updated Hostile Takeover. The true name for the current release is Rogue update. Hostile Takeover is the name of the PvP mode.
Survios released the final Early Access update for Raw Data, and it’s a doozy. The Rogue update features a new playable character, a new campaign level with a surprising twist, and an all-new competitive team-based PvP mode.
Raw Data debuted on Steam’s Early Access platform in July 2016 (we tried it that August). Since then, the developer has released a regular string of updates that include new content such as more character classes, additional maps, and changes to the game mechanics. Aside from the launch on the Oculus platform, most of the updates have brought incremental changes, but the Rogue update is much more than that.
Player Vs. Player
When Survios launched Raw Data last year, the company billed the title as an active cooperative VR game. Raw Data incorporates 360-degree tracking (room-scale if you have it) and motion controls to create a visceral first-person VR combat experience. There are a handful of character classes to choose from, each of which offers different weaponry and mechanics. Some characters use pistols, shotguns, and rifles, while others wield swords for close-quarters battles.
The Rogue update brings an entirely new multiplayer experience to Raw Data called Hostile Takeover. Now you can play against real people instead of shooting and slicing at computer-controlled enemies with a new PvP mode that offers 5v5 competitive multiplayer matches.
Survios said the PvP mode offers three brand-new maps tailored for multiplayer. James Iliff, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer at Survios, told us that the new multiplayer mode borrows mechanics from Team Fortress 2 and Overwatch. The PvP mode features every playable Raw Data character without having to unlock classes. Each class also gets a fully unlocked arsenal of skills and abilities. Iliff said that Survios’ development team balanced the characters in such a way that you should be able to play with any class and be competitive, though there is an element of strategy to choosing your character. It’s not a good idea for each teammate to select the same character class, for example.
“Going to battle against other human players in VR is insanely exciting, and now you can fight online as your favorite Raw Data heroes, putting your skills and style to the ultimate test. Our community has been asking for player vs. player combat, and we are thrilled to be delivering this PvP expansion. For free,” said Iliff. “Now you can be an awesome badass and hone your technique in the most fast-paced and visceral combat experience yet.”
Iliff said that there would ultimately be two PvP modes in Raw Data. The first mode, which is available today, is a king of the hill style match in which both teams duke it out to gain control of a central zone and download its data. The first team to download the full dataset wins the match. Iliff said that king of the hill matches typically last between 10 and 15 minutes, with a few matches exceeding 20 minutes. Survios hasn’t released the second PvP mode yet, and Iliff wouldn’t reveal any details about it. The developer plans to release the second PvP mode when the game leaves Early Access this fall.
The addition of a PvP mode to Raw Data is big news, and Survios would be excused if that were the only change made to the game with this update. However, the developer didn’t stop there: The new update also includes an entirely new character called Elder.
Elder is a Rogue Hunter class, and he wields a powerful bow and arrow set. Elder’s unique abilities allow him to attack multiple enemies at once or to seek out hidden opponents. You can fire a Tagging Arrow at fleeing targets, which plants a homing beacon on their body. Once you tag an enemy, all subsequent arrows will lock onto the subject and follow them around corners and behind cover. Elder also has a Multi-Shot skill that turns a single arrow into five as you fire, and an Explosive Arrows skill, which turns your ammo into projectile bombs. You can even stack the Multi-Shot, Explosive Arrows, and Tagging Arrow skills to create the ultimate weapon.
Tripping Out In The Botanical Gardens
The competitive multiplayer mode and the new player class are exciting news, but the most interesting part of the Hostile Takeover update might be the new Soul Decrypt campaign level, which is set in a botanical garden and adds a new mechanic to the game.
Iliff told us that Survios “is always trying to push the limits of what’s possible in VR,” and the new map is a testament to that idea. Soul Decrypt is the developer’s attempt at serving the community's requests. Iliff said that the Raw Data player base asked for a “more linear story” to the maps, so the developer made it happen. The Soul Decrypt map features a somewhat progressive story. You start off with a tram ride, where you must defend yourself from waves of enemies. Eventually, the tram crashes, and you will find yourself on the streets in front of Watson Genomics and the company’s botanical garden, where the fight continues.
Watson Genomics does biogenetic experimentation with the plants in its botanical garden—some of which have psychotropic mind-altering properties. You can’t stay in one place in the garden, or you’ll start to hallucinate. You’ll find four, sometimes five, safe zones in the garden, but they switch off periodically so you must keep moving. Outside of the safe zones, you are susceptible to the effects of the plants around you.
Iliff said the hallucination effects feel like an experience with LSD. You’ll start to see vibrant colors and have a somewhat euphoric experience. You’ll also start seeing enemies that aren’t really there that disappear in a wisp of smoke when you attack them.
Messing With Your Brain
The LSD-like hallucinations aren’t the only effect that Survios is toying with in the new Raw Data update. The company experimented with brain-altering binaural beats to explore potential ways to enhance the Raw Data experience further. A binaural beat is an auditory effect that can trigger your brain to perceive a specific illusion. The effect occurs when a listener is subjected to two different, lower-than-1,500Hz frequency waves (one in each ear) with less than 40Hz difference between them.
Iliff said that with the help of these beats, Survios can change your brain state to make you feel more relaxed when the narrative calls for it. Using this technique, Survios can set you up for the more visceral experience. Imagine your character getting a message, and you feel relaxed as a result. Then imagine what it would be like if a pack of ninjas barged through the door while you’re in that state. That’s the effect that Survios attempted to recreate with binaural beats.
Survios' work with binaural beats could be interpreted as a form of mind control. The developer is using the technology to alter your mind's state at its will, which may scare some people. Iliff is fully aware of the controversy that may arise from testing boundaries like this, and he welcomes the response from the community.
”We want to always be pushing the limits of what’s possible in VR,” said Iliff. “And we want to open up these conversations because there are crazy fantastic things that you can do, and there are potentially scary things that you can do in VR. It’s fun to test the waters and see where that line is and play around with what’s possible in VR to see where this medium can take us.”
The Rogue update is the last Early Access update Survios plans to release. The developer said to expect the next big change to land in September when Raw Data leaves Early Access and transitions full release. Survios said the title will make its debut on the PSVR platform at that time.