There’s something about VR that’s always been so enjoyable. For one, VR’s capability to immerse and entertain its players has proven to show that the platform can stand on its two legs. The only issue is that the game isn’t able to run just yet. While VR as a medium is home to some incredible experiences, VR hasn’t reached its golden age just yet. But, that might change with the release of the upcoming title BoneLab.
BoneLab and Its Improvement from Boneworks
Enter the Developer Stress Level Zero. These developers have been at the forefront of Virtual Reality since the release of the HTC Vive. They were responsible for the 2016 hit Hover Junkers, and the surprisingly spooky Duck Season. However, the game they made after that has been revered as one of the most technologically advanced titles in VR. The game is called Boneworks.
Boneworks takes a VR FPS game and thrusts it into a whole new world. Much like Half-Life 2 and its physics engine, Boneworks’ physics framework is on that same level, but for VR Devices. Boneworks’ focus on physics objects, full-body immersion with every wall, floor, ceiling, and item being interactable, as well as its gripping gunplay and melee combat made for what VR enthusiasts call “The Best VR Game Ever”.
Now, that’s going to be challenged as Stress Level Zero has been working on what they call Project 4. Which has been revealed as BoneLab. BoneLab is the successor to Boneworks and includes improvements to all of Boneworks’ main mechanics, but it contains one thing that’s going to set it apart from the rest, Native Mod Support. Shown in the trailer for Bonelab revealed at the Meta Quest Showcase in April, is something peculiar. Bonelab’s main menu is an explorable level where you enter doors that lead to challenges, obstacle courses, and time trials. However, one of these options that players can enter is labeled “Mods”.
Boneworks has stayed relevant in the public eye thanks to the plethora of modders. YouTube is filled to the brim with people exploring fantastical lands and punching, kicking, and shooting. On top of that, the sheer replayability of Boneworks and its mechanics still wow people who haven’t touched VR. Problem is, the game is only available on PC.
What BoneLab Does Differently
Moving Past the enhanced physics of Bonelab, this new game is going to include more. One of the most important things aside from Native mod support is what fans are calling the “Body Mall”. It’s shown in the trailer for the game, this appears to be where you can apply custom player models. One thing about Boneworks that emphasizes why this is a good idea is that Boneworks is expressive. The game’s expansive and open-ended level design allows for full creativity in how players complete their goals. Adding a layer to this by allowing custom models, which will have varying physical stats based on their body type, adds to that immersive and expressive way to play.
Stress Level Zero mentions that the stats of each character aren’t random, and they’re based on the model imported. Thin characters are going to be faster and weaker, while heavier characters will be stronger and slower. On top of this, from what’s been shown in the trailer, the game isn’t going to have a full campaign like Boneworks. While the main story of Boneworks follows Arthur Ford through the world of Boneworks, BoneLab Might be different.
In nature with the game’s new sandbox-style, the game’s trailer showcases multiple chambers, for time trials and parkour. They are making way for a more expressive and non-linear story. Stress Level Zero has been very tight-lipped about it, but the chambers in BoneLab may be intrinsically tied to how it functions as a game, as well as a possible VR system seller.
How BoneLab Sets the Stage for a VR Renaissance
With Boneworks only being available on PC, modders are limited to the PC player base as well as mod loaders that will launch custom items, levels, and player models. Not only is BoneLab going to launch on the most popular headset of all time, but it’s going to throw out the need for mod loaders and third-party websites as a whole. Natively supporting mods, as well as assuming that they’re going to allow players to browse in-game as well, will lower the bar of entry significantly. This means that anyone is going to be able to find, launch, and play mods.
Stress Level Zero have also mentioned that they won’t be adding multiplayer. However, they have seen the Entanglement Multiplayer mod for Boneworks. They’ve stated that they’re confident in the fans, and expect them to add anything that they don’t to Bonelab.
With all this in mind, it’s a very likely possibility that BoneLab is going to lead the way to a new Golden Age of VR. Why? to answer that question we need to look back to the original Half-Life. One of the things that made Half-Life so important, aside from its campaign, was its modding scene. Plenty of games that are very popular now started as Half-Life mods. For example, Counter-Strike was a multiplayer mod for the original Half-Life, and now we have CS:GO. Another great example is Killing Floor, which was an Unreal Tournament 2 mod. The Stanley Parable was originally a Source Engine mod. Of course, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds was originally an Arma 2 mod.
All of these extremely popular titles were originally mods. With BoneLab being made in Unity, and modders learning the tools to make BoneLab content, transferring these skills from BoneLab’s SDK to an original one is going to be easy.
What this Means for VR in the Future
BoneLab is one of the most highly anticipated games in VR at the moment. With the game releasing on Quest and Steam, it’s been wishlisted more times than the original title. With its in-game mod support and its focus on player expression and creativity, BoneLab has set up something game-changing. It’s set to become a gateway for user-generated content, devising a platform that all VR users can partake in. This could create an explosion of content on the platform, and make way for more VR games, and developers to discover how to make games, and build their studios and brands.