Metal and video games have gone hand in hand for some time now, and it’s not just because metalheads often seem to be massive nerds.
It was the sludginess of the Nine Inch Nails-inspired soundtracks of DOOM and System Shock that introduced players to a thumping and thunderous ambience, and ever since, Metal has been a core part of gaming, from its inspiration bringing Mick Gordon’s Djenty soundtracks to the forefront of the composing space to the appearance of entire games dedicating to its crushing beats like Metal Hellsinger.
Even the shreddiest side of pop culture has taken to the digital format, with Ozzy and Lemmy making appearances in Brütal Legend, and the likes of Avenged Sevenfold and Iron Maiden building their own games from the ground up.
There’s no doubt that the genre and the interactive medium have been a blissful marriage, but perhaps, it’s one with little turbulence. We’ve seen Metal appear before, but it hasn’t really made any serious changes to the medium in favour of something grander.
Enter the most forward-thinking tech-metal band of the last decade, packing a VR experience to accommodate their latest eleven-minute single. Talk about making an entrance.
War of Being is here, and it welcomes you
British Tech-Metal pioneers TesseracT are no stranger to blowing fans’ faces off with technical riffs that require a mathematics degree to pick apart, but with their upcoming album, they’ve opted to bring an understanding of its core themes and atmosphere to fans with the most immersive experience they’ve produced yet – a VR experience developed in Unreal Engine 5 of the same name.
War of Being is an all-enveloping beast that is the first of its kind, which would reasonably cause concern that fans aren’t ready for such a forward-thinking concept – but then again, frontman Daniel Tompkins is confident that he’s the man to make it work.
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“I think that if you’ve got a concept which is so visually vast and has the amount of depth that [War of Being] has, bringing people into that world in the medium of VR for me is incredible,” he tells GGRecon.
“Imagine your favourite artist, bringing out this amazing concept album, and you yourself can be in that environment in virtual reality, listen to the music and experience a game based around that concept. Fascinating, for me.“
It’s this concept that War of Being has dedicated itself to, with its early access demo welcoming fans into the enveloping, twisting world of the album’s title track. Its gameplay is simple, but it’s not trying to be anything that breaches expectations with its function – rather, it’s an experience that illustrates TesseracT’s intention better than anything else ever could. It’s the closest we’ve ever come to living the pounding, juddering world that the band have created, and it’s about to get bigger still.
Video game design has gripped Tompkins for some time
Though he was fairly new to it, Tompkins knew that the video game world would be the right one to home War of Being in, and it definitely didn’t dampen his spirits to see just how much the project would take out of him.
“For me, it was a no-brainer, but it was also a very daunting task because I’d never actually been involved in game development, although I’m a keen gamer and always have been. I appreciate great game design, I love playing games, but I think being an artist in a different medium really helps, especially from a sound design perspective.
“But also I’m quite excited by the idea of creating visuals because I tend to have an eye for detail when it comes to that as well. So I feel like the skill set that I already had just blended naturally into Unreal and its vast learning curve.“
Taking on such bold immersion that draws from the intricate tracks, with their own characters, stories and atmospheres should have been a difficulty for anyone else, but with a couple of friends in the development space, Tompkins has dived in head-first and truly given it his everything after the project started as a VRChat clone designed for TesseracT fans.
“Myself, Adam and Kirsty [Dan’s co-devs] have been in Unreal Engine and Discord every pretty much every day since I finished recording last August,” Tompkins says of developing the game. “It’s been like full days, we’ve been going into the early hours every day learning these processes and developing it together and if you can’t work with like-minded people that are passionate about it, it ain’t going to happen.” Thank goodness for Adam and Kirsty, then.
War of Being is (hopefully) just the beginning
Disregard the idea that this is a project that will help sell a band’s record for a moment, and consider what War of Being actually is. It is a project, designed for VR with a desktop edition to go with it, that allows the intrigued to explore a physical manifestation of an artistic project, placing them in an immersion chamber of their very own design. War of Being could end up being the ultimate way to experience what TesseracT have created, and that alone deserves to be commended.
Though the game is currently in early access, hopes that the project will open up for each new track are very real, and if it reaches its potential, it could be the benchmark of projects to come. And heaven knows that Tompkins could do with a little bit of that kickback.
“I haven’t worked properly in a year, so I’ve lost a year’s worth of income just to make this happen,” he confides in GGRecon.
“So I would love for the game to kind of, on a very personal level, at least recompense that amount of effort that went into it. I’d love for it to grow to the point where it’s got enough following and enough love that we will make it into a full game.
“But I definitely feel like regardless of what happens, I still will put all the effort in to make the next part of this happen, which is the Tesseract Metaverse, because I feel that that’s got a lot of weight to it as an idea for sure.“
Though it seems that musical immersion in video games seems now to be the final destination from our perspectives, it doesn’t look like TesseracT care for the boundaries we can imagine. They intend to plough through, going bigger and better than ever while breaching what we understand a music project to be capable of.
And, while the band balances this immense undertaking with a full album cycle and a worldwide tour, we can imagine only a fraction of the work that Tompkins and co have put into War of Being, in all of its facets. A new era of TesseracT is here, and if we’re lucky, a bolder way to experience music is joining it.