Hello everyone! We at Housemarque hope you are all enjoying Returnal. We’re so amazed by and grateful for the responses so far. I want to thank you on behalf of the entire team.
In Returnal our goal was to use the DualSense wireless controller to provide a physical experience of feeling, fighting and exploring Atropos. We wanted to add texture and feedback both in terms of gameplay but also bring a new level of immersion and atmosphere.
For the technical side and implementation, we have Harvey Scott, one of our amazing sound designers from PlayStation Studios’ Creative Services Group in London contributing to this post. Harvey was a key sound designer for the haptic feedback in Returnal, and a lot of what you feel in the game is Harvey’s amazing work. More from him later in the article.
During production, our teams were some of the first in the world to experience and learn about PlayStation 5 at Housemarque. I remember clearly our XDEV Producer Pedro Sousa showed us some technical demos from teams in Japan, and he inspired us and drove us to make the most of this technology. We were all struck by the DualSense controller prototype and the potential presented by haptics and adaptive triggers.
With the adaptive triggers on the DualSense controller, our Player Team at Housemarque performed lots of tests and research into how we could use this new functionality in Returnal. We knew we had amazing weaponry on Atropos and using the adaptive triggers for this firepower was a natural fit. Henri Markus, game designer, researched and spent a lot of time with the adaptive triggers, and eventually Henri and Harri Tikkanen, co-founder of Housemarque, came up with the alt-fire trigger functionality – pull half-way to focus aim, feel the satisfying click and then all the way down to enter the alt-fire mode.
Less than a week after receiving the PS5 development kit and our own prototype of the controller, the feature was in the game. At first, implementation didn’t click for us. However, as we tested, refined, and polished, it all came together.
We also started to envision our use of haptic feedback with the DualSense controller for Immersion, Communication and Power. Harvey will now provide more of a deep dive into how we wanted you to feel the journey, the texture and actions as you fight through Atropos with Selene to “White Shadow.”
Next up, Harvey Scott, sound designer who worked on Returnal, explains how Returnal’s soundscape ties together with the DualSense controller to make a truly immersive experience:
The DualSense controller’s haptic feedback is powered by technology that makes it similar to that of a loudspeaker or headphones. Which means that as a sound designer, I can take the same principles and techniques used for designing sound and apply them to creating interesting haptic feedback experiences.
When we first began working on Returnal we knew we had to realise the full potential of the DualSense controller, whilst also staying true to the other design pillars of the game, and above all, creating the best possible experience for the players exploring Atropos with Selene.
The immediate new potential the DualSense controller brought to the table is the ability to fully convince and immerse players with haptic feedback detail that simply was not possible before. We can now provide subtle details that cross the threshold for what the hands and brain believe to be real and truly bring the players consciousness into the world on screen.
As an example, the rain in Returnal is complemented by subtle raindrop haptic pulses, that are procedurally synthesised at runtime, which allowed us to refi