"This is Adam Orth, creator of Adr1ft," a PR man states matter-of-factly.
Orth is the game developer best known for causing a 2013 internet riot with his infamous #dealwithit tweet. Here at an AMC Loews theater in Boston the weekend of PAX East, he stands up in front of a handful of media members to talk briefly about his game. The whole scene feels pleasantly at odds with the commotion and excitement (real and feigned) back at the convention center I've just left. Orth is soft-spoken and unassuming, and aside from just showing the game, there is scarcely any attempt made to hype up the audience. None is needed, because when I pull on an Oculus Rift moments later, I am immediately impressed by Adr1ft.
The added immersion of the VR headset helps, to be sure. But Orth insists that his game was designed to captivate players with or without another reality strapped to their faces. Certainly some of the enveloping feeling of space's vastness is lost when the headset comes off. After it does, however, watching XBLA Fans' John Laster and Jill Randolph play on a regular old TV screen is still a treat. Spectating their non-VR play sessions makes me want to get back into this game that is somehow being built by the small team at Three One Zero.
Adr1ft doesn't seem like something that a diminutive indie developer could create in short order — but that's exactly what it is. After less than a year in development at Three One Zero, the game's Gravity-like take on space exploration mission turned disaster is moving. Floating aimlessly through the wreckage of a space station, I take in the little things, like a single leaf escaping from the station's garden as it collides softly with my helmet. Turning to watch this green speck drift away, I'm dumbstruck and a little frightened by the vast emptiness of space engulfing it. Turning again, I find myself confronted with a familiar, comforting image that I have to assume has left many real-world astronauts breathing a little easier: Earth.
Later, Orth will ask what we think this sort of experience is worth and what games we think it's in the same class with; he seems sincerely interested in knowing what value others place on his project. It's a degree of humbleness his many detractors from two years ago might not expect from him.
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