‘Nebulous’ Developer Warns Against Creating A VR Game With Non-VR Support

by Charles Singletary • January 11th, 2017

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.

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  • Sean Lumly

    “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”

    XING seems to have done a good job with this, and White Lotus Interactive are a 3 person studio — it is also a puzzle game, albeit a first person one.

    As there are infinite ways to implement a game (or anything, really), while Nebulous’s case analysis is certainly valid, it does not generalize an unassailable truth. Though their style of management, resources, or perhaps ambitions may have made a dual-mode game impractical, other small indie studios have managed this quite effectively.

    It would be helpful to get insight into what increases the likelihood of a dual-mode game’s successful release.

  • It’s an opinion of his, I don’t completely agree. I think that it depends on the kind of game. If you’re doing a game that is really VR-oriented, making a mouse+keyboard game is a complete mess. But I think you can give a good experience in a dual built game

    • PK

      yeah exactly. with something like a social platform for instance having compatibility with desktop users is a great thing early on, even if their usage is a bit more limited.