How VR MMO Zenith Is Being 'Built For VR' First
Zenith: The Last City from Ramen VR opened up pre-orders recently which included closed alpha access, but had to close them from the surge in demand. We recently spoke with Ramen VR CEO, Andy Tsen, to get the latest on the game’s upcoming release.
Zenith: The Last City—A True VR MMORPG
Zenith: The Last City is slated to hit PC VR, PSVR, Quest, and non-VR PC this year and aims to be one of the first truly “massive” persistent online game worlds in the same vein as something like World of Warcraft, EverQuest, or Final Fantasy XIV. Or, in other words, a real VR MMO without compromises. Perhaps not on the same scale as Ready Player One just yet, but certainly channeling that anime-style JRPG aesthetic of Sword Art Online and .hack//sign a bit.
“Zenith is a virtual reality MMO and it has kind of a JRPG East Asian aesthetic,” said Tsen during an interview with UploadVR. “It’s kind of sci-fi fantasy and we want people to be able to come into the world and just explore and have a really positive, fun kind of RPG experience that they wouldn’t have on any other platform except one built for VR. We really think that this is the stuff that people have been wanting for a long time and that’s why we set out to build it…MMO is a term that has been really liberally used especially in mobile,” said Tsen. “And when I say MMO, what I’m trying to say is an MMO in the sense of something like WoW or Final Fantasy XIV, where it will be a large world where you can have thousands of people per shard. Our eventual goal, of course, is to make it even bigger and tie the different shards together to have this infinite world, but we’re starting with just a regular MMO and a regular shard which by itself is hard enough.”
In late 2019 Ramen VR raised over $280,000 via Kickstarter and has since secured additional outside investment to build a team that can work on a game like this. From the footage I’ve seen and what I’ve heard when speaking to the developers, it sounds like they’re on the right track.
“We’re building a full-scale VR MMO; it’s basically a lot of uncharted territory,” said Tsen. “I’m actually a big fan of Orbus and the guys at ATT (A Township Tale). Everybody has their own take on what a VR MMO should be. But what we’re really trying to do is create a top-notch extremely polished core game loop that is really, really fun to play that feels a lot more polished and a lot deeper. That’s our fundamental goal; to create an experience where it feels both familiar to MMORPG players as well as completely unique being in the space of VR itself.”
Early in the game’s development Tsen described the combat as inspired by Beat Saber, but what he meant by that was just that it was real-time action based, not turn-based or target-based like a lot of MMOs typically are. If you wanted to draw comparisons to another VR game, the closest example is probably Until You Fall.
“Zenith is going to feel a lot more like an action RPG than something like Final Fantasy XIV or World of Warcraft where they are basically spreadsheet simulators where you’re pressing macros and you’re doing the whole hotkey dance,” said Tsen. “In Zenith, you literally have to parry enemy’s attacks, throw fireballs, you can slow time, and so on. Of course, all of this is tied together by a gorgeous environment where we’ve spent thousands of hours creating unique props and content and just building a world that feels fully alive and immersive.”
On paper, it sounds similar to what they’ve done in OrbusVR, the first-ever VR MMO. However, that game is a bit more simplistic in its design and visuals, which explains why they were able to launch as early as they did. From what I’ve seen, Zenith seems to aim for taking things up several notches. You can see a lot of that on display in this 30-minute long unedited pre-alpha gameplay video the developers published.
“One of the most important things about VR is a sense of presence and I think that that’s something that other genres outside of VR, where MMOs can’t really reach,” said Tsen. “And so for us, it’s all about that feeling of physical embodiment in the world. That’s why we introduced our recent Population One-style gliding, we have climbing, we have full-body IK. These are things that will make the players feel like they’re really in the world living a different life essentially.”
Zenith: The Last City still does not have a specific launch date or month yet, but presumably they’re aiming to get it out this year. The Closed Alpha period kicks off in April—you can find more information on that here. We’ll keep you posted with more on Zenith as we find out details and will publish more excerpts from this interview (as well as the full interview in its entirety) later this week.
Let us know what you think of Zenith down in the comments below!
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