Photo Credit from Kotaku.com
You may remember not to long ago we did a piece on a company called Super Tea Studios. These guys and gals had created a phenomenal game that was to be released on the system Oculus. Read that article here. The Oculus Rift is a technology that allows the user to experience the game they play in genuine 360 degree virtual reality. The headset tracks your head movement and gives you an immersion not before achieved in gaming.
The following is an excerpt from the About Us section on the Oculus Rift website.
“Oculus VR® was founded by Palmer Luckey, self-described virtual reality enthusiast and hardware geek. The company launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund development of their first product, the Oculus Rift, a ground-breaking virtual reality headset for immersive gaming. With the support of top video game companies including Valve, Epic Games and Unity, the Kickstarter was an enormous success, raising over $2.4 million in funding from project backers and supporters around the world.”
Now the question every gamer and game development company is asking themselves is “Why sell out to facebook?” Are all those Kickstarter backers going to see any return on their investment into the future of gaming? What of developers like Super Tea Studio? Indie Developers don’t want to see what Kyle Durkee so aptly said amusingly enough in response to a Facebook post by Lieryn Hlaalu-Falzoni the co-founder and level designer at Super Tea Studios, “I can see Facebook Voidwalker now “Pay a dollar to cast the fire spell… Or get 10 of your friends to help you learn the spell” They did not spend time, money, and effort, to build a social platform in the guise of gaming; they developed for “a ground-breaking virtual reality headset for immersive gaming.””
Virtual reality is the next big thing in gaming and entertainment. Not in social media. Sure you can add those things in to the equation, but do we really need to see our Facebook posts in 3D?
Markus “Notch” Persson the creator of top selling Indie game “Minecraft” and founder of company Mojang, pulled out of preliminary talks after Facebook bought the Oculus Rift system. This would have been a spectacular game for the system. The graphics are not intense but the game is completely immersive. Imagine how it would feel walking around in those castles or dungeons or tree houses you have built. Imagine the feeling of running from a Creeper in 3D. Not going to happen on Oculus now.
Notch had a lot to say about his decision to pull out on his blog on notch.net.
Of course, they wanted Minecraft. I said that it doesn’t really fit the platform, since it’s very motion based, runs on java (that has a hard time delivering rock solid 90 fps, especially since the players build their own potentially hugely complex levels), and relies a lot on GUI. But perhaps it would be cool to do a slimmed down version of Minecraft for the Oculus. Something free, similar to the Minecraft PI Edition, perhaps? So I suggested that, and our people started talking to their people to see if something could be done.
And then, not two weeks later, Facebook buys them.
Facebook is not a company of grass-roots tech enthusiasts. Facebook is not a game tech company. Facebook has a history of caring about building user numbers, and nothing but building user numbers. People have made games for Facebook platforms before, and while it worked great for a while, they were stuck in a very unfortunate position when Facebook eventually changed the platform to better fit the social experience they were trying to build.
Don’t get me wrong, VR is not bad for social. In fact, I think social could become one of the biggest applications of VR. Being able to sit in a virtual living room and see your friend’s avatar? Business meetings? Virtual cinemas where you feel like you’re actually watching the movie with your friend who is seven time zones away?
But I don’t want to work with social, I want to work with games.
Fortunately, the rise of Oculus coincided with competitors emerging. None of them are perfect, but competition is a very good thing. If this means there will be more competition, and VR keeps getting better, I am going to be a very happy boy. I definitely want to be a part of VR, but I will not work with Facebook. Their motives are too unclear and shifting, and they haven’t historically been a stable platform. There’s nothing about their history that makes me trust them, and that makes them seem creepy to me.
And I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition.
Now here is my question to Oculus Rift and one I think the entire gaming community will back me on. What the hell were you thinking? Oh wait, I know. Money. Your grassroots development and the gaming community that backed you on Kickstarter did not chip in even one dollar to see Facebook take over the next generation of gaming. They paid to invest in the future of gaming.
So here is what I say to Notch, as well as to Lieryn and the peeps over at Super Tea Studios. Keep developing. We need you and developers like you, to change the face of gaming. Thank you for not selling out to social media. Keep working with games.
http://www.reddit.com/user/palmerluckey – Luckey answers questions about the acquisition.
http://notch.net/2014/03/virtual-reality-is-going-to-change-the-world/ -Full article on Notch.net
http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidewalt/2014/03/25/minecraft-creator-kills-oculus-rift-plans-because-facebook-creeps-him-out/ -Forbes article.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/superteastudios/voidwalker – Super Tea Studios Kickstarter