Indie VR title Vanishing Realms brought Zelda-esque room-scale RPG action to SteamVR all the way back at the launch of the first PC VR headsets in 2016. The game is one of the top rated titles on SteamVR, but remains in Early Access more than three years after launch. Development updates from the title’s sole indie developer have been extremely sparse but this week it was confirmed that a “full expansion” for Vanishing Realms is coming in just a few weeks.
Kelly Bailey is the brains and sole developer behind Vanishing Realms: Rite of Steel. His indie VR title has been praised for its embodied room-scale VR gameplay, especially considering how early it was to market.
As it stands today, the title comprises the first two chapters of Bailey’s vision. While a third chapter has been on the roadmap for some time, the developer became reticent to offer specific timelines, especially as the scope of the game expanded in ways he hadn’t anticipated. Communication from Bailey to the game’s community (who have been worried that the project was abandoned) has been minimal at best, but it seems he has remained head-down on development.
After a seven month lapse in communication, today Bailey briefly poked his head above the water for some big news, saying that a “full expansion” to Vanishing Realms, including chapter 3 and chapter 4 of the game, will launch within weeks.
In a reply to users on the game’s discussion board, Bailey writes, “I’ve been operating under an NDA for a while, but will be able to make a full product announcement soon. In brief, the full expansion, ch3 and ch4 will ship within weeks. I remain the sole developer on the project, and again apologize for the lack of communication on progress.”
What NDA Bailey might be under isn’t entirely clear, but it seems likely that he’s been developing the game for the Valve Index headset, especially considering his pedigree as a former Valve employee who worked on the Half-Life series.
If Bailey is hoping to launch the Vanishing Realms expansion in time for Index, that would put a potential release date around June 28th, the same day that the headset is expected to begin shipping to the first customers.
From a product standpoint, it isn’t clear yet how Bailey plans to roll out the Vanishing Realms expansion. It could come as an update to the base game, wherein he might choose to move the game out of Early Access and bump the price up from its current $20. Alternatively the expansion could be released as optional, paid DLC.
So what’s taken so long? Well, aside from being a one man shop, Bailey says that the scope of Vanishing Realms expanded as he continued to build out additional chapters. Back in November of last year, he offered some insights into where things were heading:
“This feels like the most challenging game design task I’ve ever worked on. Sticking with exclusively linear design would be significantly easier, but I am just personally fascinated by the sense of exploration in larger outdoor fantasy landscapes in VR,” he writes in a development update. “I’ve spent tons of time working on this, and I’m tentatively optimistic.”
Bailey has also talked about overhauling the game’s melee combat to feel more reactive and immersive, with development work involving a physics-based animation system.
At this point we don’t know how expansive the expansion will be, or what new features and gameplay it will include. Some loyal users on the game’s discussion board remain skeptical that it will really launch within the coming week considering Bailey’s infrequent updates and ‘Valve time’ approach to development, though it’s certain that anyone trawling the discussion boards of the three year old title will be happy to be proven wrong.