Game development is and will always be a tough process, no doubt. With VR being in early stages of growth, ideas are being floated around and risks are being taken as people try to bring their ideas to life. Indie development already has its risks, but attempting to find a foothold in a VR market that doesn’t have a massive install base is even more risky, so it makes sense when some developers try to make non-VR versions alongside the VR counterparts.
Take it from Namazu studio head Patrick Twohig, though: This is not necessarily a good idea.
Namazu released the physics-based puzzler Nebulous back in August of last year. In the game, you guide astronaut Dash Johnson through mazes to wormholes that take you to the next challenge. It’s a relatively simple puzzle game designed to work both inside of and outside of VR. Twohig spoke with gameindustry.biz about the game not doing as well as hoped commercially and dug deeper into why creating two versions of the game was a mistake.
Twohig says the apprehension of publishers around the potential of VR pushed them to split their focus and the team didn’t realize until later that they should have focused on VR only. “Taking away from one experience to try and cater to both is where I think the stumbling is,” he says. “…We came to the realization later that you really need to stick to your guns creatively. You need to stick to the vision…VR is a totally different animal. In a lot of ways, it’s its own platform. You have to treat it like it’s a different console or a completely different modality of play…It could be possible to release a dual-mode game, but certainly not on what an indie studio can afford to do, and afford to do well.”
Any developer can succumb to decisions like these, but risk is amplified greatly when it comes to indie development that rarely has a huge budget to work with. Developing for consoles of varying power is one thing, but consider Nebulous to be a cautionary tale. Trying to adopt the VR experience to more traditional gaming experiences and vice versa may lead to a series of obstacles that can ultimately derail the experience on both platforms.