Oculus Go, which went on sale across the UK at the end of June, is a logical next step in bringing VR to the masses. The headset is effectively a middle-ground between phone-based systems, such as Gear VR, and a dedicated headset. In short it’s wireless, lightweight, has a dedicated controller and is just £199, read our hands on impressions here.
But a headset is only as good as the software available for it, so we talk to Coatsink’s narrative designer Jon Davies about the company’s launch title for the hardware: They Suspect Nothing. While not being a complex game, it is immediate, fun and graphically immersive, making it a great fit for the Go hardware.
Can you tell us a bit more about They Suspect Nothing?
They Suspect Nothing is a collection of 12 comedic mini-games across three hubs. You play as the last human in a world controlled by robots and you have to complete a series of human detection tests to infiltrate that robot society and become one of them. By the end of the year we hope to put out some further eight mini-games as free DLC.
It’s a good entry-level game not just for VR users but perhaps for people who haven’t played VR games before. But at the same time I think there’s a lot of depth to it as well. There’s a story that ties everything together in a way to learn about the lore of the world, the characters and interactions in all these hubs.
Would you like to be known as a VR-only studio, is the format something you’re dedicated to?
We’ve developed a number of VR titles in the past, all for Oculus studios. Our first game Esper was a launch title for the Gear VR. It was followed by a sequel, Esper 2, and then last year we released A Night Sky and Augmented Empire. So we’ve had a very strong balance of VR, especially working with Oculus for many years now. And we will continue to support it in the future. That’s pretty much where we stand, we don’t have any a specific policy on that, though.
Are most of the games you’ve made of a similar level of complexity?
No. Our first game Esper was two to three hours, it’s quite a short puzzle experience. And the sequel expanded upon that in every way. A Night Sky is a free-to-download experience. There’s not a lot of gameplay in that, it’s just a really classic introduction to VR in general. You look at the sky, connect the stars and then get a nice, pleasant, kind of charming animation. We contrast that with Augmented Empire, which is a 12-hour single player RPG which we put together in a year. It came out last July and was really, really positively received.
Is it fairly easy to get your titles working across the various platforms and control options?
So we work exclusively for Oculus and the games we’ve done in the past have been exclusively for the Gear VR, with the exception of Esper 1 and 2, which recently launched on Rift. The Gear VR controller launched at the beginning of the summer last year I think and A Night Sky was a kind of tie-in title for that. All of our games are compatible with the Gear VR controller. We’ve also found multiple ways to use the Go controller.
How long have you been working on They Suspect Nothing?
It’s a seven-month development process and it’s finished. I’ve no idea how! [laughs] It’s a master class in production if I’m being honest [laughs]. We’re 65 in total at Coatsink, but at its peak maybe 45 were on this project. When we were developing Augmented Empire that was nearly the entire studio. But we also publish titles from different studios as well and offer dev support. We helped develop the back end for Gang Beasts, which launched on PS4 last year. We don’t exclusively use Unity, we do use different engines, it’s just the most efficient for this kind of fast iteration process. We get a lot of graduates from Teesside Uni and it’s the engine that everyone seems to be the most comfortable with.
Are you designing in VR?
We’re making everything on Unity. It’s a very interesting process. Essentially, yes, we do develop in VR. There’s a very rapid idea generation prototype stage to it. I think we prototyped about 25 different gameplay ideas [for They Suspect Nothing] using Unity with this rapid iteration process before locking down the 12 that we kept for the standard game.