The Oculus Rift ships in 13 days. What began as a dream, some hot glue and plenty of duct tape could become the most transformative piece of consumer technology since the television. The man who had that dream, 23-year-old Palmer Luckey, sat down with UploadVR during a press event in San Francisco to discuss the launch he has been working toward for several years.
UploadVR: What goes into creating a good launch library? What are the necessary things to launch a platform like this?
Luckey: You want to make sure that there’s a wide variety of content that appeals to a lot of different people…You want to provide a wide variety of games, a wide variety of different types of games, and you want to make sure there’s enough content and enough depth to keep people coming back every single day continuing to play…You need games that people are going to want to play for a long time. You want things that have depth and you want things that really make people feel like they made a good investment…I feel like we have a pretty great launch line up that does that.
UploadVR: What was the process like for selecting this first round of games, how involved were you personally?
Luckey: So it was—it really varies on a case by case basis. Some of them were games where [Oculus] Studios came to us with prototypes, “hey we’re building this prototype internally”, “we’ve been messing around with this”, “we want to get resources to turn this into a real thing”. We’re trying to figure out how we can justify it. Other times we would go to developers that we knew were good developers with ideas and say “hey, this is something we’ve been building”. We need a large development team that can work on this and we don’t have that kind of development, those development resources internally.
We also don’t necessarily want to build everything internally. If you build everything internally you don’t end up with a developer ecosystem out there that all knows how to build VR games. The way we’re doing things right now ensures that there’s a ton of developers out there when they go to make other VR titles in the future, even when they build Oculus Studios titles, you have a developer that knows how to build good VR games.
UploadVR: We went through the list of the 30 titles – only 8 of them were built specifically for desktop VR. The rest are ports of games to VR or ports of GearVR games to the Rift. How does 8 titles justify the sentiment that you guys have the best launch library of all time?
Luckey (via correspondence): Maybe not the best of all time, but justified in a few ways:
1) Many of the Gear games at launch (and a few in the pipe) were planned to be on Rift from the start, Gear just happened to launch first.
2) Some of the Gear titles are basically the same game on both, some are different in all but name or core gameplay – that is one of the reasons some devs are charging more for the PC version/not making a single purchase enable both. Kind of like the various games that share a title between the console and handheld versions, despite being very different games
3) Some of the ports (like Airmech, and Defense Grid to a lesser extent) are barely ports at this point. They share a lot, but a lot of fundamental changes have been made. That is why Airmech ended up evolving into Airmech:Command as a separate game from the main one. Once the UI, gameplay, and content change enough, it is hard to see it as a port
4) For sim games like Project Cars, the core gameplay is already exactly what it would be for a native VR racing game
Once the UI and rendering are adapted to VR, it is as good as any racing sim could hope to be.
Inevitably, however, some are going to end up not benefiting from VR as much as they thought they would.
5) Some of our “launch” content is not actually coming out till a month or two later, and in my head, I have still been thinking of them as being part of launch.
UploadVR: Do you think of all the launch titles here, do you think every one of them has a particular reason why it’s in virtual reality? Or do you think that there’s some that are just fun games that happen to be VR?
Luckey: Well there’s definitely a few of those but I mean it depends on the way you look at it. Project Cars is a good example. That’s a game that was developed for PC. It wasn’t developed for virtual reality originally, although you kind of started development around the same time. The game was made for traditional simulator racing game first, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a reason to be in virtual reality. It is essentially the same underlying game in VR and on a monitor but being in VR means you get a lot wider field of view, you actually feel like you are inside a car as opposed to looking in the screen of a car.
So like that could kind of fall in the category of not necessarily—it doesn’t have to be in VR but it certainly is a much better game than virtual reality.
UploadVR: Our games editor, David Jagneaux, was arguing that Chronos fit into the category of games that don’t benefit significantly from VR.
Luckey (via correspondence): That is a reasonable argument, I don’t agree with it, but its reasonable.
The argument can go a lot of different ways. Chronos, in particular, has quite a few “woah, VR!” moments, especially around things like descending into pits, seeing the scale of huge stuff, etc. And earlier in development, the temptation for many games was to build in as many of those moments as possible – moments that make you say “wow, that is only possible in VR”. Problem is, you do it enough times, and it starts to come across as a forced gimmick, kind of like stuff shooting out of the screen in a 3D movie.
UploadVR: What went into the decision to choose Lucky’s Tale and EVE as bundled titles?
Luckey: Working with them since the very beginning, working with them very closely and building Lucky’s Tale and a bunch of other prototypes. Like I said earlier…we want to have a variety of different experiences…there’s about as little overlap as you can have [between Lucky’s Tale and Eve: Valkyrie] in a virtual reality game. Also…I feel like platformers in virtual reality, people don’t necessarily fully understand them. We felt like that was an opportunity to get something out there where people would try something that they would not normally try so they could have a broader range of VR experiences.
UploadVR: Do you think this launch library is going to satisfy both the casual gamer and the hardcore crowd you’re going to draw in?
Luckey: I’d say I’d slant it a little more towards the hardcore side. Casual gaming doesn’t really revolve around as much the type of game play as how people prioritize playing games. There’s a lot of casual games that have hardcore players.
…If you’re going to buy a Rift, you’re probably pretty into games and I don’t think you’re going to get a lot of people who are like, hey I like to play candy crush on my cell phone and play call of duty on my Xbox sometimes, I think I want to invest tons of money in a high end pc and a virtual reality headset to play some games like that.
UploadVR: You look at how much time you can estimate in a game like Skyrim, but how much time that also took to develop. Do you think people are immediately going to find games with that level of depth or do you think that still needs to be developed?
Luckey: I mean that particular type of game is probably one of the most development intensive games. There’s a lot of games people spend more time playing than Skyrim that are multiplayer, for example. But it takes a lot less effort to make—a lot less development resources to make a game that keeps it multiplayer or 100 hours to make something that keeps a person in a narrative story based experience for 100 hours.
Right now there’s nobody developing things on that kind of massive scale for single player RPG type content. But there’s some stuff that—I don’t want to say that it gets close but there’s certainly stuff out there in that area that’s pretty and deep.
UploadVR: You mean the stuff that’s on the list that doesn’t have a March 28th date, or some of those titles as well?
Luckey (via correspondence): Also, there are a couple things we have not shown yet at all, but nothing that significantly alters the discussion
Some on the list. Some off of the list. Dragon Front andDamaged Core, I think, as two examples. And some other things that missed the list due to not being ready to show/potential for slipping out of the launch window
UploadVR: Ok good to know. So if all goes according to plan, how many additional titles are we talking about?
Luckey: Depends on the plan. Leaving things off the list gives us the flexibility to push them out if they need more work. More than a handful in that bucket.