‘DayZ’ and ‘Out of Ammo’ Creator: ‘Subsidies’ and ‘Exclusives’ Are Key To VR Development Right Now

by David Jagneaux • December 8th, 2016

Last night, Dean Hall, the original creator of DayZ and current CEO of RocketWerkz, the studio behind VR game Out of Ammo, took to Reddit to voice his concerns about consumers attacking developers in the VR community. There has been outrage periodically over the course of the year regarding timed-exclusives, subsidized developments, and closed platform ecosystems. Many of the games on the Oculus Home Store, for example, do not function with the HTC Vive unless you use ReVive to hack in support.

“Reading through this subreddit has, over the past six months, become difficult for me,” explains Hall. “Time and again people are ferociously attacking developers who have made strategic partnerships, and you hear phrases like ‘they took Oculus / Facebook money’, ‘they sold-out for a time exclusive’, ‘anti-consumer behavior’. There are some terrible assumptions that are constantly perpetuated here, and frankly, it’s made developing for virtual reality tiresome for me. I also feel weird about this because I will be defending others in this post, despite our studio not making any agreements regarding exclusivity or for the exchange of any money with either HTC, Valve, or Oculus.”

RocketWerkz’ VR title, Out of Ammo, is currently one of the most popular and well-known virtual reality games on Steam, currently with official HTC Vive and Oculus Rift support. The game’s been receiving steady, constant updates, all for free, ever since it released in Early Access. It’s now fully released as a completed title with an upcoming standalone expansion on the way.

In his post on Reddit, Hall is very open about the state of VR game development as he sees it. “From our standpoint, Out of Ammo has exceeded our sales predictions and achieved our internal objectives,” says Hall. “However, it has been very unprofitable. It is extremely unlikely that it will ever be profitable. We are comfortable with this, and approached it as such. We expected to loose [sic] money and we had the funding internally to handle this. Consider then that Out of Ammo has sold unusually well compared to many other VR games.”

This news comes as a bit of a surprise as the developers of both The Gallery and Raw Data have gone on record with us stating that they have each crossed the $1 million sales mark on their respective titles, although their studios may be much smaller in size — the financial dynamics are unknown at this time. nDreams also expects to break even this year as a VR developer, although they have multiple releases across every major VR platform to glean revenue from.

Hall explains that multi-platform support isn’t as easy as some consumers claim to believe, stating that HMDs are “very different and it is more expensive and difficult to support the different headsets” than people understand. As a result, he contends that partnering with publishers and/or platform developers is what’s been going on for years in the game industry. It cuts down on risks and costs.

“Without the subsidies of exclusives/subsidies less studios will make VR games,” predicts Hall. “There is no money in it. I don’t mean ‘money to go buy a Ferrari.’ I mean ‘money to make payroll.’ People talk about developers who have taken Oculus/Facebook/Intel money like they’ve sold out and gone off to buy an island somewhere. The reality is these developers made these deals because it is the only way their games could come out.”

Giant Cop screenshot

It’s a sentiment that rings true with what we’ve heard from other teams, such as Other Ocean, the developers behind Giant Cop. They’ve partnered with Oculus for timed-exclusivity after originally announcing the game for the HTC Vive. Conversely in the case of Croteam, developers of Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope, a team member went on record as stating that Oculus offered the studio a “shitton of money” for timed-exclusivity, but they turned it down.

With the announcement of the VR Association, a collective that includes Oculus, HTC, Sony, Google, and many others, we might be getting closer to that open VR ecosystem so many people desire. Using the new Oculus Touch controllers for example, along with additional tracking sensors, the Rift is capable of roomscale support, which allows users to enjoy the majority of the SteamVR library with few issues. Oculus Home still requires the hacking workaround — including for Touch games.

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  • wheeler

    Yeah guys, once VR is established the exclusivity will go away. Just trust us. Because.

    Sarcasm aside, depending how things turn out that may actually end up being true though. Because at that time there may only be one compelling PC HMD to choose from. And then consumers are fucked.

    • Ugur

      Developers want as many people to enjoy their stuff as possible, so yes, once financially possible, most devs would love to make their stuff available on all platforms.
      I feel like the ball is all on Valve’s side, if they would offer devs ways to finance VR dev, many would go for that.

      • Nicholas

        You mean providing an open platform and storefront which effectively doubles the VR consumer base with minimal effort isn’t enough? HTC have recently announced a funding plan (and yes, it’s not locked down) – there’s a recent article on here somewhere…

        • Ugur

          I love what Valve and HTC are doing for VR, the HTC Vive is great (i have both the Rift and the Vive).
          What they do with Steam/open VR is also great and having a powerful store front with Steam is also good to have.
          Hall talked about the funding options Vavlve had talked about, too, though:
          “Some will point to GabeN’s email about fronting costs for developers,” Hall wrote, “however I’ve yet to know anyone who’s got that, has been told about it, or knows how to apply for this.”

          That’s one of the problems, i haven’t heard much about what Valve/HTC does regarding funding, not sure where/how to get more info. There’s been talk on some web sites, but where’s the contact to get things going?
          The most i could gather was that one could create a playable demo and show it around, but that already involves quite a bunch of own investment to get to that level with a project.

          And regarding Steam itself, while it is a great store front, it is also extremely full of content, not just VR content at all and seemingly the gates got fully opened to the degree where it is very difficult, especially for Indies, to stand out and get noticed.
          I would argue with the level it got to meanwhile, it would be best for all sides if there was a let’s say 100 bucks fee per thing one wants to put on the store (no matter if that fee goes to Valve or charity or back to the dev in Valve taking no revenue share on sales until it’s paid back or other options), right now the store just gets flooded with junk.

          When you already have low sales numbers to expect because right now still few people have headsets, then on top not getting noticed at all because you are on a store where each month hundreds if not thousands of new things get released doesn’t make it easier. We don’t need a huge flood of gunk, we need less titles but more of them high quality and more in depth/more fleshed out.

          Hall, like me, was not blaming Valve, he was explaining why it makes sense and for some more in depth things is absolutely needed right now to find additional financing options right now for VR development and the more such good options there are, the better.

          • Nicholas

            There is indeed a lot of junk on Steam, but I automatically go to the dedicated VR games section and look at the recently released and the best selling tabs to see what’s popular.

            I know a lot of people hate the early access stuff, preferring so-called complete AAA titles that Oculus store offers, but I think it’s an excellent way for small developers to bring in some early funding and for us consumers to get access to more content and provide feedback to the developer. I’d rather play something like Fast Action Hero over the mundane, overpriced, yet glossy Serious Sam for example.

          • Ugur

            I like Early Access, too, hence why i have put something out that way already, too.
            I think it’s not about Early Access release or not (that option meanwhile exists on Oculus Home, too, though no feedback system there yet), this topic is mostly about being able to finance VR dev, no matter if it’s released in Early Access form or not.

          • Nicholas

            I was just thinking: doesn’t the SteamVR menu have a dedicated VR storefront? I normally buy from the standard Steam desktop client, must go back and check next time I wear the Vive…

          • Ugur

            yeah, i somehow most times buy from the usual steam store, too =)

  • Jeff Recobs

    Deano, You walked away from Dayz standalone and left it in development hell. You took my money and ran. That will be about enough of the lectures from you.

    • Ugur

      While i understand your anger about that, it doesn’t make his points on this topic any less valid, so it is still worth it to talk about this current topic.

      • Jeff Recobs

        I don’t respect the guy, who in the very same reddit post, said they are pretty much done with VR. If someone who isn’t abandoning the space wants to stand up and talk about it, I’d be happy to listen. Just not that pontiff. I respect someone who makes the stand while they actually have something to lose from it, not the guy who chucks a molotov on the way out.

        • Ugur

          ok, then assume i said those things or various other vr devs actively working on vr projects =)