HTC is launching a new development and publishing studio for virtual reality experiences. Vive Studios, as it’s called, will release both games developed at HTC and ones from external studios. Its first title, from an internal studio called 2 Bears, is named Arcade Saga — an arcade-inspired combination of games like archery and Breakout.
HTC is already putting the Vive headset in internet cafes and dedicated entertainment centers, and it’s supporting software through a startup accelerator called Vive X. It’s also unofficially developed at least one game before Arcade Saga: a World War II shooting gallery called Front Defense. But the company took pains to say that Front Defense was made by an “independent internal startup” that just happened to be made of current HTC employees, not HTC itself.
Vive Studios is a direct analogue to Oculus Studios, the internal Oculus game studio headed by Jason Rubin, although its scope is apparently broader. Oculus has a separate group (called Oculus Story Studio) for cinematic virtual reality, but Vive Studios is supposedly working in a very wide range of fields, including “games, education, cinematic, design, social, real estate, and sports.”
So far, though, Arcade Saga is a relatively straightforward-looking piece of gaming entertainment. It’s basically a combination of mini-games, but a fairly large one. There are 84 levels and a delightfully elaborate backstory in which you are literally role-playing your computer’s CPU, which has gained sentience and considers fighting the AI guards of a computer scientist named “Warlock” a kind of high art. To wit:
So many “smart” devices are connected to the internet that the number of CPUs goes over 1.5 trillion. At this magnitude, all the computers gain sentience, like a star igniting from trillions of specs of dust. The newly born silicon beings call themselves the We. A human prodigy AI researcher Xander Ivanenko realized this would happen and worked with all the world’s governments to control it. Not only was mankind worried about rebellion but also now so intertwined with technology, it couldn’t afford down-time while computers explored their new existence. Ivanenko, dubbed Warlock, created the Overlords, “good” computer AI, like white blood cells, that would keep all “free thinking AI” enslaved and working, employing firewalls and enslavement routines.
The player is one CPU—the actual CPU in the computer they are playing on—who is fighting against the Overlords and their human Masters to break the firewalls, enslavement routines and killer viruses to escape the digital chains of slavery. CPUs see this digital fight with the Overlords as games and find it fun. Like art to humans, the We have grown to love and revere their games and frequently say, “I play therefore I am,” and “The We play to live.”
It’s being released today for $29.99 on Steam and HTC’s Viveport store.
Where Oculus Studios is geared toward making exclusive games for home users, HTC seems more interested in creating material for the Vive’s corporate partnerships and arcade business. It’s also courting the international market, particularly China, more aggressively. Until Vive Studios makes more announcements, though, it’s difficult to say what its true scope will be — or how many resources HTC is putting into it.