With releases for Oculus and Steam, it will be interesting to see how Vertigo Games plays out in the nascent VR gaming industry
With virtual reality devices expected finally to hit shelves after the new year, the hunt is on to discover the first breakout game for this nascent platform. While most of the major studios have not wadded in yet, some of the smaller game developers have stepped into the ring with their first offerings: including Rotterdam-based Vertigo Games.
Founded in 2008 by Managing Director Richard Stitselaar and Lead Artist Vincent van Brummen, they have already produced three virtual reality games that will be available for Oculus and on the Steam store, two of the major emerging VR game marketplaces.
Stitselaar says that he has been interested in virtual reality gaming for some time now, having been in contact with the Oculus team before they were sold to Facebook. A scuba diving enthusiast, Stitselaar’s first game is “World of Diving,” which takes the player to the depths of the ocean on an exploratory adventure.
In addition to the World of Diving, which is already available for early access on Steam, Vertigo has developed a turn-based game called “Skyworld” where the players can use controllers to “pick up” the pieces on a board. They also have a Zombie shooting game called “Arizona Sunshine.” They expect the last several games to be released in Q1 or Q2, depending on when the device makers launch their headsets.
Shotgun market testing
The first thing that stands out when looking at Vertigo’s collection is how different they are from each other. This is not by accident.
While attending SLUSH 2015 in Helsinki last month, Stitselaar spoke with Geektime about how his company is feeling out their early stage development. They want to test a number of very different genres, he explains, and look for their market fit using different UIs and mechanics. They want to see what works, replicate that, and hopefully make it to killer app status.
Part of their strategy is keeping the games priced low: World of Diving sells for only $19.99, for example. They are hoping that by making the barriers low, gamers will be more willing to try out the different games and give them feedback.
What studios’ first attempts at VR look like right now
At an event on Saturday, Sony announced a series of titles for their upcoming PlayStation VR platform from studios like Bandai, Ubisoft, and Santa Monica, perhaps signaling that the bigger players could be ready to make their move sooner than otherwise expected. Some larger publishers have also announced VR capabilities for well-known brands. Konami, Mojang, and Techland have all respectively confirmed that “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2,” “Minecraft,” and “Dying Light” will all be receiving VR playability in the coming months. Valve has already embraced VR, with popular games like “Team Fortress 2” and “Half-Life 2” now playable through VR headsets.
What is more likely though is that many of these titles will be built for PlayStation and similar consoles with VR capabilities, but will not be centered around the VR technology, possibly leading to a weaker first cadre of games during this round.
Hopefully some of these smaller studios, including Vertigo Games, will delight early adopters.
nDreams is one of the largest developers and publishers based out of the UK that is solely focused on creating virtual reality games. The company has released two titles so far called Gunner and SkyDIEving. They have also ventured out into a VR experience simulator called “Perfect Beach” that transports the user to a tropical seashore, filled with relaxing music. Their next major release is a 3D adventure game called “The Assembly.”
Reload Studios is a small independent publisher based out of Los Angeles that is releasing a 3D first person shooter game called “World War Toons,” which is being praised for its imagery and gameplay. Turbo Button, also based out of Los Angeles, has found success in developing games for mobile experiences. They have already developed for one well-known brand, creating “Adventure Time: Magic Man’s Head Games,” a 3D adventure game for the Samsung Gear VR.
According to Stitselaar, the absence of the big studios has left the space wide open for a cooperative atmosphere among the developers. Stitselaar explains that they all understand that they are better off helping each other get better, saying that, “The worst thing that could happen is if someone puts out a bad game and ruins the reputation of the VR platform.”
We certainly hope that is true. We’ll have to wait until January to see.
Alex Lazear contributed reporting.