Anyone who’s grown up with Harry Potter (or anything else based on wizardry for that matter) has most likely wanted to develop the skills needed to turn incantations into magic. Of course, this is impossible… until Indomitus Games came around and said otherwise.
Magic really is the best way to describe In Verbis Virtus in one word. In the game, the player walks through ancient ruins and find inscriptions carved into the stone inside. When read out loud correctly, players gain the ability to command a spell specific to those words. And yes, I did say ‘read out loud’.
To give an example, the first inscription the player finds says “Lumeh Tial”, a spell that commands light to shine from the character’s hand. To make this happen in-game, the player must say the words correctly into a microphone, where the game interprets the speech. One may think that this would be an obnoxious mechanic on the level of some automated calling systems. However as explained in our interview with the studio below this article, Indomitus Games skillfully utilized the Sphinx open source library to create the voice recognition mechanic while also understanding that not everyone may understand how to pronounce the fictional language in the game and gives an option for English words instead. The dev studio was even thoughtful enough to create a system that allows the game to “learn” the player’s specific speech patterns which opens up In Verbis Virtus to people with heavier accents or speech impediments.
Along with the immersion of putting yourself in the game through vocal recognition, the music, sound effects and art direction (through a first-person view) add to the player becoming sucked into the game’s mysterious universe, learning new spells, fighting off monsters and solving puzzles. The game is currently in Steam Early Access, but the polish on it it is unbelievable with just a few bugs to be worked through before release. Hook up your microphone, do some vocal warm-ups and witness power in words.
- Platforms: PC
- Genres: Action, Adventure
- Price: 16.99
- Release Date: 05/22/2014
- Publisher: Meridian4
- Developer: Indomitus Games
- Site: http://www.indomitusgames.com/in-verbis-virtus
- Notable Awards: None
Interview with Indomitus Games
Q: Could you start off by telling us about In Verbis Virtus in your own words?
A: In Verbis Virtus is a mix of puzzles and action, entirely based on the use of magic through the speech recognition system. The player must use magic to defeat monsters, solve puzzles and discover various secrets.
Q: What are some of your inspirations behind the game?
A: The general idea comes from almost every wizard in fantasy, they need to pronounce formulas to cast spells. On the artistic side we took inspiration from real ancient structures but also from the work of artists like H. R. Giger.
Q: What does In Verbis Virtus actually mean?
A: It could be translated as Power in Words.
Q: You used a version of the Unreal Engine, the game being programmed by Mattia Ferrari and Federico Mussetola. What were some of the advantages of developing with this tool as opposed to something like Unity or Source?
A: One the things we liked most in Unreal Engine is the big number of tools that simplify the work of the team, for example the Material Editor that allows to create realistic materials visually without the need to use any shading language. Also, the Lightmass Global Illumination is one of the best illumination engine on the market. The large community of developers using Unreal Engine was also very helpful to solve many problems we encountered.
Q: The language you use in the game for spells is fictional. Is it based on anything real or is it gibberish that just kind of sounded cool?
A: The second one that you said is the most accurate. Anyway the language is not only designed to sound cool, but also to get most reliable speech recognition possible. We designed the words the be easily distinguishable and to avoid letters that can be pronounced differently by people from different countries and even from the same country (e.g. the letter R).
Q: Indie Game Riot is a big proponent of making games as accessible as possible for gamers who have disabilities. Was this part of your thinking process when deciding to implement options to use English words instead of the fictional language and the ability to “teach” the game to recognize your speech if it isn’t picking it up well enough?
A: The possibility to choose between two different languages for speech recognition and the training feature were added with the intention to make controls as reliable as possible for the largest audience possible, including people from all over the world and also people with speech impediment.
Q: The game implements the voice recognition mechanic very well. We also noticed you utilized the Sphinx open source library. How was the experience in developing with this tool?
A: The tool is great, without it it would have been very difficult (if not impossible) to have the speech recognition feature. Using Sphinx, the major part of our work was to make interface with UDK, create the dictionary of the words we wanted to recognize and to regulate some parameters.
Q: What made you choose the voice mechanic as opposed to a standard button or mouse mechanic?
A: The voice is what most of the fantasy wizards use to cast their spells. With this kind of control the player can immerse himself in the role of a mage in a way that would not be possible without it.
Q: What was some inspiration behind the ideas for your puzzles in the game?
A: We took some inspiration from Portal and other puzzle games, but mostly we came up with this puzzles on our own, creating prototypes for the puzzles to see what was actually cool to play and what could have been improved.
Q: Switching to information about your studio. What is the story behind the name you chose: Indomitus Games?
A: One day we started proposing names (mostly Latin) until we found one that was truly kick-ass. Indomitus means indomitable, untamed, savage.
Q: According to your website, you have eight people on your dev team who all met in school. What was the process in coming up with the game after the team was formed?
A: More precisely the core team is made of five people, plus we have a few external collaborators. Also, only a part of the team meet during the university project, the rest were hired through gamedev forums and contacts in the gamedev world and team continuously evolved for a long time before reaching its current form. The game development process has been somehow “democratic”, every member of the team proposed his ideas then we tried to reach the best possible compromise.
Q: The art in the game was contributed to by Valerio Carbone, Francesco Della Ragione, Denis Gualtieri and Giovanni Vadalà. What was the process like when coming up with the art style of the game?
A: In most cases we first created concept arts (always discussing with the entire team) and then the 3D artists used them as inspiration for their models. Every artist was left free to express his creativeness, but always trying to have some kind of coherence in the style along the game.
Q: The animation was done by Alessio Iellini. What kinds of challenges came up when trying to animate such a well produced game, especially with such a small team?
A: Animations have been one of the most problematic part of the development. Considering our limited resources we didn’t have the possibility to use motion capture and where all created manually using Blender. Most of the problems came up when importing animations into the engine, which has strict requirements about animations must be done to work correctly in-game.
Q: One thing that this game does especially well is immersion. The music and sound effects, designed and composed by Gianmarco Leone, are arguably the most important part in achieving this. How was the music produced? Were the sound effects done with Foley work or were they bought from stock sites?
A: Sounds must fit the contest, communicate the right message must be original and distinctive. As a result, we always consider the full spectrum of possible source material, including the use of sound libraries and Foley registration. Another great source of “raw” material is sound synthesis. The next important step for sound creation is to edit and mix the raw sounds into an original audio creation. Whatever the source materials are, it can take several hours to get it right. The music has been mainly produced “in the box”, with virtual instruments and orchestration techniques. In some tracks we mixed in the real performance of a singer, which I believe could be hardly “faked”, no matter the technology behind.
Q: We at Indie Game Riot, love the indie game community and it is custom for us to ask all of our interviewees about their experiences within it. Could you tell us some of your best experiences in regards to the indie game community?
A: The indie game community (blogs, youtubers, developers, gamers) has been great for us, they helped us a lot to spread the word. Obviously we are particularly tied to the Italian community, which is still small but growing fast. We want to say thank you to the guys at Indie Vault who are supporting us since the very beginning. Also if you happen to be in Italy in May we will be at Svilupparty, a very fun event about game development.
Q: Lastly, is there any other information you would like everyone to know about In Verbis Virtus?
A: We had lot of fun developing In Verbis Virtus (even if it has been an hard work), we hope you will enjoy playing it.