From what I’ve seen and played of it, Trover Saves the Universe would be a standout VR experience no matter where it came from. The fact that it springs from the mind of Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland just adds a lot of excitement onto the already high anticipation. Of course, you can play the game without VR, but according to Roiland, he hopes that the game brings more people to the platform that he clearly loves so much. I spoke with Justin at PAX East 2019 last weekend and we chatted about the game, VR, and why he loves it so much.
VR just kinda blew my mind
“VR just kinda blew my mind. I was one of the first, I was with the people that got the original Oculus, the DK1 on Kickstarter. I watched that video and I was like ‘oh my God, I’ve been waiting for this my whole life.’ Then I got it and it blew my fucking mind.”
Throughout our talk Roiland brought up game after game that he tried and enjoyed, but found issues with, as many did in those early prototype experiences. “Tuscany Villa…it made me very sick as well. Then I got the second one with the positional camera and six degrees of tracking. That was really cool, and again I was like ‘I can now go into Tuscany Villa and look around corners!’ There was no fucking content. I mean there was, you had to dig for it.”
“But that’s when my brain started to kind of thinking about ideas for games,” Roiland continued. “Like what would I do? There was a demo actually after the DK2 came out that was called Sightline: The Chair. You just sit and you basically look, and as you look away it’ll change and you’ll look back and it’s sort of like you’re constantly progressing through different locations just by looking. It was so elegant, and that was the first time where I was like ‘ooookay.’ My brain started firing on all cylinders coming up with all these ideas for VR.”
Much like myself and many others who dabbled in VR gaming in the early days, the Oculus kicked things off, but it was the Vive that really drew Justin in. “The thing that really pushed it over the top was the Vive. The Vive just fucking knocked it out of the park. It was like a whole other…it was just insane. But before that, I’m a lifelong game, I’m obsessed with video games. I’ve played way more than what’s healthy for any normal human being, but you never really think ‘oh I’m gonna make a video game.’ You know? I’m a TV guy, how the fuck do I make a game?”
The thing that would make me the happiest is if we can convert some people to VR adoption
“But I saw in VR this attainability, sort of like it was like the Wild West here. There was an opportunity to innovate. I would just be excited to get a shitty Unity prototype up and running on my Vive. And that blew my mind. The bar was low for me. I was thinking that anything is gonna be really fun to do in this medium.” However, VR gaming is still pretty new, and not everyone can experience it. So it was nice to see that Trover Saves the Universe was playable without a PSVR, Oculus, or Vive headset.
Roiland explained how that came to be, saying “In development we were iterating on the PC monitors with a controller, not in VR. I kind of noticed it a lot and I was like ‘you know, it kind of doesn’t look too bad on the monitor.’ I was just watching Eric [Meyer], our Lead Designer, watching him play it on the monitor and we were like ‘why don’t we try fucking around with this, maybe push the field of view a little bit and tweak a few things with the controls, and just see how it feels.’ So we started prototyping and a few iterations later we had this really elegant solution.”
And while offering the game to non-VR players certainly expands the potential audience for more sales, it also has another goal for Roiland: converting new VR gamers. “Then we got really excited because now we can market this game to everybody, and what’s really cool about that from my perspective is, we hope to sell a lot of copies, obviously. But if we sell a lot of copies to people who don’t have VR, they’ll be able to play the game and enjoy it, but hopefully what will happen is we’ll convert a few people to adopt VR. Then boot our game back up and play it and be like ‘whoa, this is fucking insane. I’m here now.'”
This is a feeling that most hardcore VR fans, including Justin are familiar with. The mindblowing feeling of stepping into the video game worlds that you’ve experienced in such a lesser way before. Roiland explained his own experience, “One of my favorite things in early VR was just going to a weird world, like in Vanishing Realms on the Vive, I literally went to the forest and I just laid down and was just looking up at the sky. I was relaxed, and I was just in this forest, headphones on, I’m there. It was amazing. I wasn’t playing a fucking game, I was in a fucking world.”
If you’re worried that Trover Saves the Universe won’t support multiple playthroughs, you can relax. From just the demo I tried it was clear that there was a ton of different dialogue, including entire joke sequences, that rely on you doing different things. There are also choices you make within the game that will alter the story in some ways, giving you the chance to play one way and then the other without feeling like you repeated too much.
“It definitely lends itself to multiple playthroughs,” explained Justin. “So I’m hoping that what happens is that people play it in VR, people play it in traditional, once each and just feel it each way. The thing that would make me the happiest is if we can convert some people to VR adoption. I just love the medium so much that I wanna see it continue and flourish.”
This wasn’t all that we talked about with Justin Roiland though, so check back soon for more from our interview, including what he said to Todd Howard at E3. Trover Saves the Universe arrives on PS4 on May 31st and PC on June 4th for both VR and non-VR players.