Some of you may never have heard of Giant Cop: Justice Above All – the delightfully quirky virtual reality game currently in development by Other Ocean – before it became the subject of online outrage earlier this week. Giant Cop faced backlash from VR enthusiasts around the world when it was revealed that the unreleased title would be launching initially on the Oculus Rift as a “timed exclusive.”
Some VR enthusiasts viewed this collaboration to be an example of Oculus’ perceived attempts to construct a closed ecosystem for its newly released VR headset and, in doing so, short change the industry as a whole. This was compounded by the fact that Giant Cop was initially slated to release first on the HTC Vive, the Rift’s chief competitor.
Stories and threads on websites like Reddit are drawing significant attention among early adopting enthusiasts, with comments either bashing Oculus for being needlessly restrictive, or else attacking the Giant Cop team for being sell-outs.
I sat down with Ryan Hale, Studio Lead at Other Ocean, and he spoke candidly with me concerning his company’s decision to choose the Rift as a launch platform, and the state of VR development in general.
“We were always planning to release on one platform first,” Hale said. “We have chosen to make that platform Oculus because we’re a small team and making a video game is a huge risk. You’re basically fronting money for a product that isn’t going to pay you anything back for years. For us, it really came down to the fact that we needed a partner. Having Oculus support us and make us a part of our marketing process significantly increases our chances of making Giant Cop a success for the community, and for the people dedicating their time to build it.”
Hale goes on to explain that the nature of video game development necessitated his company choose which platform they would release on first because it lacked the time and money necessary to create a version of the game capable of running on both headsets.
“People assume that making a game that runs on both is simple. It’s not,” Hale said. “These are two very different platforms with separate API’s, tracking methods, and coding requirements. We always knew we would have to choose a platform to come to first while we worked on getting the other versions ready. In a perfect world where we have unlimited time and money we’d be everywhere but, unfortunately, that’s not the case.”
It was into this decision-making process that Oculus stepped, offering Other Ocean capital, resources, and exposure for their fledgling title.
However, Hale makes it clear this agreement is purely a one-time decision by both companies. Oculus is not continually giving Other Ocean cash, and Other Ocean made no promises to Oculus not to put their game elsewhere. In fact, according to Hale, the entire “timed exclusive” idea came from Other Ocean themselves and not from Oculus at all.
“They never told us that we couldn’t put Giant Cop on other platforms for six months or anything like that,” Hale said. “We just told them that it’s going to take us two to three months to develop the Vive version after we release the Touch edition. People are saying it won’t come to Vive for years and this simply isn’t true.”
When asked why Other Ocean is apparently “jumping ship” from the Vive to the Rift, Hale questioned whether or not his team was ever on a ‘ship’ at all.
“We built our tech demo on the Vive because, to be honest, that’s all we had to work with. Hand controls are integral to the Giant Cop experience and only the Vive had them at the time. But we were always trying to decide which platform to come to first. People saw me adjust our Steam page and assumed that meant it would never happen. I put it back this morning just to send the message that yes it is still going to happen.”
As far as the sell-out claims go, Hale laughs at the accusations.
“A lot of people are accusing us of ‘selling out’,” of taking some massive check and heading off to an island somewhere. This is far from the truth,” Hale said. “Any support we’ve accepted from Oculus is cycled directly back into improving our game and actually releasing it. We honestly just want to make the best [expletive] game we can.”
I closed our interview by asking Hale if he thinks the opposite of the current mood on Reddit could be true: that Oculus is perhaps helping the industry, rather than hurting it, by agreeing to provide small teams like his with money and exposure.
“That’s a very interesting way to think about it,” Hale said. “I personally feel that the more capital that can be directed into the VR space the more we will all be able to do and enjoy.”
According to Hale, Giant Cop now features a bigger world, a better story, and more finely tuned controls. Other Ocean is aiming to release by “year’s end 2016,” for $29.99. Once it’s available on Oculus they’ll immediately begin work on a Vive edition of the game.