In the past few months I’ve witnessed an incredible phenomenon. People are creating VR titles out of spite. Yes, you can go to steam, download, and play titles that were created entirely out of spite.
The two most high profile examples I can think of right now are:
Why would I assume that these were made out of spite? Well, in the simplest terms, the developers have said so much on reddit. Take MegaPolice for example. In this thread, you can see the developer explain that this is a direct copy of GiantCop in response to the Oculus exclusivity deal.
Yesterday I saw the news about Giant Cop, a game which I was really looking forward to playing, turning into an Oculus (timed?) exclusive. This really pissed me off so I decided to do something about it.
Presenting, MegaPolice 😉
I started working on this game yesterday, it’s a direct clone of Giant Cop. No shame here.
When asked, Carl Wolsey, the developer of Vivespray is a bit more diplomatic:
Disappointed with the KingSpray silence and delay I decided to create a similar game for my own amusement. As the prototype became more capable, seeing other people were also disappointed, I released it as a free tech demo in a post titled “Something to keep you occupied until KingSpray arrives”. My decision to place ViveSpray on Steam was as result of community request, encouragement and the continued, prolonged silence of KingSpray.
Lets just eschew the drama of exclusivity for now, as there are far more interesting questions to be asked. Why is this happening now? Haven’t there been angry developers in the past? Haven’t there been popular games announced to be exclusive? Why only now are we witnessing development out of spite?
I think the answer is that current VR development is, for the time being, more accessible than previous game development, making it much easier to create something out of spite. This can be attributed to two main areas: Experiences and tools.
Virtual reality surprised pretty much everyone with what is actually enjoyable. Many initially thought that fast paced first person shooters would dominate the market (some still do, till they try it!). What we’ve seen is that slower paced, often mostly stationary experiences are leading the crowd.
Creating an assortment of interactive environments and experiences without the entire structure of a full fledged game with multiple levels is much faster and can be tackled by a much smaller team. These are the early days for sure. This proclivity toward simple style and experiences without deep game play may pass. For now though, it is a common entry point into VR dev.
The investment to begin developing has dropped drastically in the last year or two. Not only the financial investment, as unreal and unity both went to free models, but also the learning curve. The development tools are getting easier and easier, almost to the point of being able to create a physics based standing experience in a completely drag-n-drop fashion.
These tools going free also caused an explosion of tutorial resources online. The communities for Unreal and Unity have grown considerably. If you find that drag-n-drop doesn’t quite cut it, you’ll find many people willing to help you with the next steps.
These items together make the base level of development (simple experiences) so easy, why not?
A spiteful flash in the pan
I really suspect that this is a temporary thing. Right now, pretty much anything in VR is hot. Simply being in VR elevates the experience considerably. As the medium matures, the applications will become more robust and likely more difficult to recreate leading to fewer spite games. I’m not saying that this is some kind of trend that will take over the industry or anything, merely that it is amusing that the “perfect storm” of ingredients has arisen that allow this to unfold.