Developer Perspectives: Obduction
Oculus Developer Blog
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Posted by Oculus VR
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December 2, 2016
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It's been a month since Obduction first launched on the Oculus Store, and we're excited to share this Gallery app success story with the developer community!



The developer behind Myst and Riven launched the spiritual successor to those award-winning titles on October 31, and the response has been overwhelming. Today, we sit down with Cyan, Inc. CEO Rand Miller to go behind the scenes of this visually stunning graphic adventure game.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you began developing Obduction for Oculus.

Rand Miller: All we've ever done at Cyan is build worlds. We started in the '80s building worlds for kids. With each decade, the worlds we built naturally became more and more sophisticated. When virtual reality surfaced, we knew it was the next computing platform that we would be optimizing for. We kept our eye on virtual reality, and when Oculus Rift was created, it was our No. 1 choice. The Oculus platform supported our vision of creating totally immersive worlds.



With your background in graphic adventure puzzles, how did you adapt your thinking for VR?

RM: With Obduction in particular, we knew we would create a solution that catered to both flat monitors and VR. We had to optimize for the largest audience, and VR was still in its really early stages. To help guide our thinking and design for Obduction with VR, we started by creating what we call our “box,” which outlines our design constraints and limitations. We weren't pushing either designs in one direction. Rather, we built for what worked really well for both the monitor and VR. Obduction is our transitional product. We weren't interested in doing something small for VR, especially since Myst was large and we didn't want to compromise expectations. Our project began three years ago and, at the time, VR itself had a limited audience. The way we subsidized the VR audience size was by building a hybrid. Times are changing now, though. We are all-in for VR moving forward.



What were you most excited about when designing Obduction?

RM: We spent three years thinking and building for VR, growing into its strengths and weaknesses. Some of the strengths are obvious. For instance, in VR, the interaction limitations in flat development are removed. There are new, completely unique ways you can interact with VR that you just can't do in flat monitor design. I haven't been this excited about design in a long time. Our surrealist adventure can now become someone's reality.



What challenges arose from developing for VR that you didn’t expect?

RM: When VR first started, there were major user challenges with large computer tethers and clunky goggles. There were so many tech distractions that you almost couldn't concentrate on the experience. But hardware and platform improvements continued and culminated to that “moment of yes.” Suddenly, the tech was alive with a sense of scale and presence. Getting that sense of presence was something no one had ever felt before. That experience is what changed everything for me.

One of the challenges we experienced while developing Obduction was around scale. We had a limited number of goggles during our design phase. Designers had to create in 2D and then test in 3D. Once they put on a pair of goggles to test their design from 2D, they would see the sense of presence I spoke of and their scale would be totally off. You'd get next to a motorcycle in Obduction, and all of a sudden it was enormous. Like for a giant—not an intended design scale. Because of the strength of presence, there were a number of scale issues our designers discovered quickly.



What was your reaction when your title was accepted as a “Gallery App” in the Oculus Store?

RM: While we were developing Obduction, we knew that the scope and level of detail we were aiming for might push the minimum requirements. We continued to work to optimize as much as possible, but as it got down to the wire we made the decision to preserve our long vistas and high level of detail at the expense of established guidelines. We were confident we could work with Oculus though, since we had been a part of the Oculus evolution for the past three years. When Gallery was suggested, we were worried the space itself would be hidden somewhere and treated like an afterthought. As it turned out, we were wrong. It has been really satisfying to be in the Gallery as a developer who is pushing the bounds of VR and creating new experiences. The Gallery proves that there is a market for apps like ours.



How did you determine your business goals for Obduction? What are your thoughts on the progress you've made toward those goals?

RM: We're an indie shop. We've been around a long time. We adapt. But that said, we have had our ups and downs from a business point of view. A few things guided our business strategy in VR:

  1. We were not enamored with a publisher model. The idea of downloadable content direct to consumers was compelling for us. We knew it had its challenges like more marketing requirements and top of the funnel efforts. But for us, this was a more compelling model.
  2. We had a strong feeling we needed to be in VR.
  3. We knew Kickstarter was an opportunity we could pursue.

All this led up to a strategy that included a Kickstarter campaign covering half our development efforts with the other half covered by ourselves and local investors, no publisher, and the hybrid model I spoke of earlier. We liked being able to define our own destiny and make that work out.

It was so rewarding to get the user reviews early on that justified all the paths that led us to being on Oculus. It's a grand experiment, and we're all-in. We want to push in all Oculus directions by utilizing Touch and Rift. Knowing that there is a place people can grow into is nice. It's so, so exciting!

Thank you so much for your time, Rand. We're huge fans of your work, and it was a great honor to share this time with you.

Please visit Obduction.com for more information, or download the game from the Oculus Store.

— The Oculus Team