When I first spoke to Coatsink last year, the UK-based indie studio was fairly non-committal towards VR, even though it was already working on its first Gear VR game, Esper. How quickly things can change.
Just over a year on and not only has the studio launched its original puzzle title, but it’s even released a sequel, ported that to the Oculus Rift and is now working alongside Boneloaf on a VR version of Gang Beasts along with the Rift release of the first Esper. The tech now occupies a big part of the team’s DNA, no doubt spurred on by its close relationship with Oculus VR as part of its Oculus Studios initiative.
But where does Coatsink go next? Ports and partnerships are all well and good but surely the developer has something new up its sleeve? That’s something I spoke about with CEO Tom Beardsmore earlier this month, along with seeking an update on announced projects. The answers are promising, suggesting this studio has only scratched the surface of what it wants to do in VR.
UploadVR: Where is Coatsink at with VR right now?
Beardsmore: Well we’re working on Gang Beasts VR, obviously. We’re also working on actually a couple of new prototypes that will then become full projects for multiple VR platforms, some we’ve worked with before and some new.
UploadVR: Let’s start with Esper 2. How the was the experience launching that on the Rift?
Beardsmore: Really awesome, actually. It’s been really nice to see the reaction, which has been very positive overall. I was a little bit worried with it being a Gear VR port. Would people be happy with that? But, yeah, the reactions been very good.
UploadVR: Originally the plan was to have Esper 1 on launch day and Esper 2 a little later. Why was that switched up and what’s going on with the first one?
Beardsmore: Well because Esper 2 was kind of a bigger game, better game, we wanted to have that ready for Rift launch and we simply haven’t had time to finish the Esper 1 port. It’s not far away and I would also say to people if you want Esper 1 you should buy Esper 2 now because you may get a nice surprise [Note: It’s since been revealed that Esper 2 owners will get Esper 1 free on Rift].
UploadVR: So Gang Beasts, then. How is that progressing? It was announced pretty late last year.
Beardmore: There’s been a lot of optimisation, a lot of work in just making it a nice experience in VR and also getting the network multiplayer working has been a lot work. We’re doing very well, though. People are very happy with the results, it’s going down well here. We’re not having too many problems which is very nice at this stage. We’ve still got a way to go but I think it’s going to be fun. And it’s not just going to be an initial launch and that’s it, we’re going to be rolling updates probably for years. Catering to all new hardware and stuff, making it as fun as possible for as long as possible.
UploadVR: It was a very surprising announcement. Why did you think Gang Beasts was a good fit for VR?
Beardsmore: I guess the camera position and stuff works well for it. It’s very different to anything else that’s out on VR at the moment as well. It brings in a different audience I think. And it was something that Boneloaf really wanted to do and really wanted to work with us on so we thought ‘Yeah, let’s do it’.
UploadVR: So what can you tell us about these other prototypes that you’ve got going on at the moment?
Beardsmore: New IP. Two sets of new IP. Building on things that we learned from Esper. Both in terms of general game design and design for VR. Making deeper experiences like games that people would want to play on any platform but also in terms of the depth of the platform and in terms of the depths of the story and what we’re doing with the game but also how it uses VR. Like taking some traditional concepts of game development and making them very unique and interesting for VR. I don’t know when we’ll be announcing stuff. We’ll probably be announcing one of them this year and the other one next year.
UploadVR: Would one of those be a continuation of the Oculus Studios partnership?
Beardsmore: I don’t know what I can say but it will certainly be on Oculus, yeah.
UploadVR: You’ve also been listed as a PlayStation VR developer. Gang Beasts is going there, is there anything else?
Beardsmore: Yeah. So it will be some multiplatform VR games.
UploadVR: That’s kind of full circle for you because you’re already working for Shu on PlayStation 4.
Bearsdmore: Both Oculus and PlayStation are amazing to work with. They’re very cool partners, same as Steam and Vive. So we just want to try and cater for as many as possible. We obviously have an awesome relationship with Oculus so we’ll keep that going. The main thing for us at the moment is making better games and getting better at making games each time, learning from everything that we do. So taking the criticism along with the praise.
UploadVR: So now that superior systems to Gear VR are out are you still looking at Gear VR in any way?
Beardsmore: Yeah, definitely still looking at Gear VR because I think that’s going to adapt overtime, I think it will get better and better. I still think it’s an amazing—one of the best VR systems out there. I think it’s really so easy to use and play and I think there’s some amazing games on it as well, like genuinely great experiences. Whenever we’ve been showing people new to VR they are often most impressed by the Gear VR because it’s so simple to use and a lot of the experiences on there work so sublimely and look so good considering they’re running on phone. That means a lot.
And also there’s a fairly large userbase now, growing all the time. So I think it can only get better, especially as people are figuring out solutions to motion tracking.
UploadVR: So what are some of those experiences you cite as the best? Personally I’m a big fan of Land’s End. Are you exploring those kinds of areas?
Beardsmore: Yeah, definitely. Those kinds of things and new things as well. Deeper games, bigger games. Stuff similar to how we did with Esper, bring to both platforms, work out control systems for both. I would say of things that I like right now, definitely Land’s End, Dead Secret. And then some of the just general experiences.
UploadVR: So is VR taking over at Coatsink now? I remember this time last year we just knew about Esper and now we’ve got three projects and more on the way.
Beardsmore: It’s definitely grown from like 50 percent of the studio to more like 70 percent now. We’re enjoying the opportunity to work on truly innovative projects, which VR allows us to do. And developing a game like Shu is really amazing but you’re limited to how many new things you can do with a platform.
UploadVR: I agree, I find recently I’m limited with screen-based experiences but even taking those basic concepts and putting them in VR fascinates me.
Beardsmore: Yeah, finding new ways to do them. We’ve got some really cool ideas on how to do platformers in VR, actually. One of the guys in our studio came up with the idea of having a game – it might be annoying to play to be honest – but having something where you’re constantly scrolling right. So if you want to look right you have one consistent, loading game and the more you look right the more you see of that side of the world, the more you look left the you can look back in time and see all the things you’ve left behind you. It was a cool idea and we did some stuff like that for off screen stuff changing. So more of that kind of thing. I think that would be cool for horror games. I think there’s still a lot of stuff that can still be done with horror in VR.
UploadVR: Especially considering the limitations of creating a horror VR game and not having too many jump scares.
Bearsdmore: Exactly. You can imagine just the opportunities it presents for experiences alone so for a game it just takes a lot of work, making it dynamic as possible.
UploadVR: But would you ever consider not be a game developer but an experience developer?
Bearsdmore: Definitely. As long as there is a cool thing to work with like a cool property or idea to work with. I still love making games but, yeah we’re dependent on the idea.