Welcome back to Virtually speaking, the interview series with the pioneers of VR.
This one's exciting, because we've got to speak with one of the men behind Stanley Parable and game collective Crows Crows Crows William Pugh as he starts taking a spin on HTC Vive development.
Pocket Gamer: William Pugh, what've you been working on at the moment?
William Pugh:Well, I set up a company called Crows Crows Crows, like, a couple of months ago, and we released our first game, which is called Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist, which is not a VR game, but it’s just the first thing that me and a bunch of friends have kind of made together. So I guess Crows Crows Crows is a rough kind of title for stuff that I’ll be making and I’ll be making with friends for the next couple of years.
PG: You’ve just started to work with VR now, right? How have you found that process?
William: Incredibly liberating, actually, because I’ve been using the Vive.
I toyed around with the Oculus for a tiny bit of time but there wasn’t an experience that jumped to mind that I would be excited creating. However, it’s just been experience after experience with the Vive.
The job that I’m probably most professionally good at is design, 3D design, and, interesting spaces, so being able to build something and then be able to walk around that two minutes later is an incredibly liberating and fresh experience for someone who’s used to making maps for games and making weird cool 3D spaces.
PG: Going back to what you’ve done before, Stanley Parable and tiger, too. Both of those are about spaces, really, aren’t they? like, that’s what you explore.
William: Yeah, I mean, there’s nothing else. Like, there’s nothing writing or anything. That’s all improvised on the day, you know. The real stuff is the 3D spaces. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell everybody, you know. (William laughs)
PG: I feel like we’re getting a good insight into exactly what it was that you worked on for Tiger.
William: Yeah, so on Tiger, like, I did the all of the 3D work inside of Unity.
So, like, I suppose I was the person who actually built the game, and then I, kind of, helped Jack (De Quidt - writer at Crows Crows Crows) out on the script in a really roundabout way, and produce everybody else and tell them what to do, I guess.
PG: What have you found has been the biggest change for you working in VR spaces rather than just a traditional game?
William: The biggest change for me in working in VR now has been that I’ve had to really adapt the way that I think about creating experiences for the player.
I think with other teams and other people working in VR right now, a lot of the energy that they’re spending is going into figuring out how to map these kind of conventional game archetypes into VR space, so you’ve got the Goat Simulator-ish, Surgeon Simulator-style kind of Job Simulator game, where it’s all fun physics and the gameplay is in how you interface with the environment, and that works pretty well, but I know that a lot of other people are working on trying to create big open-world experiences or experiences where you move vast distances as a player, and that really rubs directly against the grain of the Vive, which is that you are inside this, this room, basically.
And so a lot of the things that I’ve been working on is how to create an interesting experience while not moving outside of the bounds of the space and not having to work out some kind of weird mechanical facet to get players to be able to, say, walk down a corridor that’s five times the length of the space that you’re in or stuff like that.
PG: One thing that a lot of the people I’ve spoken to previously have said is there seems to be a lot of collaboration between developers that are working with VR now.
Is that something you’ve experienced? I only ask because you’re not in the London bubble and I wonder how much of an effect that has.
William: Yeah, so everyone’s been completely open about everything. If you see something that somebody’s doing and you ask ‘Hmm, how did they do that?,’ usually they’ll tell you-, well, they’ll always tell you, and, you know, they might even just give you the source code for it, which has been incredibly time-saving.
So I’ve been kind of working, not with but parallel to a guy called Timothy Johnson, who strangely enough also made Team Fortress 2 maps back when I was making Team Fortress 2 maps, years and years and years ago before I got into the games industry, but he’s based up in Manchester and we show each other our working a lot and share code snippets in Unity, stuff like that.
And then there’s just whole libraries of stuff that have been made available online. And yeah, it’s been just a lot faster, and I think primarily because you can’t monetise this content yet people are more in the mindset of, ‘Yeah, how can we make the coolest things?,’ rather than, ‘Oh, how can we get ours out first and best?,’ and, you know, there’s not really a competitive atmosphere, which I think is super cool.
Is there anything you’re willing to tell us about what you’re working with at the minute?
William: So, in March I’m gonna be flying out to LA like a bigshot and working with Justin Roiland on a short VR game.
Justin Roiland, if people don’t know, he’s the guy behind Rick and Morty, he does all the voices for Rick and Morty and he cowrites it.
He’s really excited and working in the VR space, so we’ve been chatting for a while and have been, like, throwing around ideas about what to do or what we could make. We’ve both got no idea what’s gonna happen when we get in the same room I’m sure it’ll be exciting and hopefully challenging to work on.
I know we’ll both be approaching it with very different mentalities about games, because, you know, he’s not worked on a game before and he’s got such marvellous and interesting ideas about, well, everything.
If you’ve seen Rick and Morty, you can imagine what it might be like.