Owlchemy Labs and Google join forces for the future of VR

Today is a REAAAALLY BIG day for Owlchemy. We’re positively thrilled to announce that Owlchemy Labs has been acquired by Google!

Continuing Owlchemy’s journey
We set out on a journey over six years ago to build the kinds of games we wanted to see exist. Over those years, we learned that Owlchemy, at its core, cares deeply about a few key things: building quality multi-platform games, solving tough problems with a small but absurdly talented team, sharing our learnings with the community, and Austin’s famous tacos. Now, as we look to the future with Google by our side, we couldn’t be happier. Our plan to build awesome things will continue forward stronger than ever.

This means Owlchemy will continue building high quality VR content for platforms like the HTC Vive, Oculus Touch, and PlayStation VR. This means continuing to focus on hand interactions and high quality user experiences, like with Job Simulator. This means continuing our mission to build VR for everyone, and doing all of this as the same silly Owlchemy Labs you know and love. We are continuing to do all of this with even more support and focus on building awesome stuff. It’s incredibly exciting that Google and Owlchemy are so well aligned on our goals and vision for the future of VR.


A parliament of Owls

Humble beginnings
Looking back on the past couple of years, it’s honestly pretty crazy to think about the humble beginnings of Owlchemy, growing from a team of 4 to a parliament of 23 owls today! Statistically, most small studios that work incredibly hard and make amazing things still go out of business after their first or second title. We simply wanted to make absurd and highly polished experiences that made enough money to support the development of the next one.

We eventually started to crest the hump with some success (thanks to our old school Owlchemy fans!) and we began to gravitate as a team toward solving tough problems instead of shying away from them (like more reasonable people would). VR acted as an electromagnet for our science-focused brains as it presented us with the most expansive field of untapped potential and tough unsolved problems. Once we dipped our toes into the VR waters in the early DK1 days, we quickly vowed to never look back and build a flat-screen game again, and to jump headfirst into the awesome potential of VR. The studio was hooked and we’d found our stride.

Finding success in VR
Job Simulator was our overnight success many years in the making. We pushed in VR so early and so hard that we were repeatedly told we were crazy, but we knew that we would never be satisfied by making a “safe bet”. We ignored the cries of “But VR died in the 90s!” and we instead spent over a year envisioning what was possible with a tracked head and hands. After a ton of experimenting and prototyping, we emerged with Job Simulator as a day one launch title for HTC Vive, Oculus + Touch, and PlayStation VR.

Job Simulator

We were honored to win multiple awards for our gameplay and interaction in Job Simulator, and we were elated to see the game become the go-to VR title to showcase the medium’s potential (and for folks to finally learn how to JOB)! Our work didn’t stop there. Seeing a strong need to show VR to everyone, we pioneered a new way to show VR footage with Spectator Mode and built out a new depth-based mixed reality technique. By the time we launched Rick and Morty VR, thousands of streamers were sharing their gameplay to millions of fans around the world on launch day.

Building a great partnership
Owlchemy Labs makes things that are absurd, highly polished, and filled to the brim with terrible puns & jokes that we love making. We both believe that VR is the most accessible computing platform and that there’s a ton of work to be done, especially with regards to natural and intuitive interactions. Together with Google, with which we share an incredible overlap in vision, we’re free to pursue raw creation and sprint toward interesting problems in these early days of VR.

To the future!
Thanks so much to our fans who have been smuggling stuffed animals, chopping logs, surviving on desert islands, and jobbing with us over the years, and a special thanks to our investors and partners who believed in us early on. It’s because of you and your support that we are where we are today. We’re insanely excited to join the Google family and we cannot freaking wait to show you what we’re concocting next at Owlchemy Labs. The future of VR is extremely bright, so we’re donning our lab goggles just in case. 😉

<3s
– Alex, Devin, and the entire Owlchemy Labs team

P.S. Check out Google’s blog post here!

Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality in the Press!

Hello Humans and Clones!

Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality launched last week, and the response has been FUCKING BONKERS. People have been throwing YouSeeks balls, opening real fake doors, and yes, manipulating plumbuses in ways we shall not speak of. The response has been overwhelming and we’re so happy everyone has been enjoying the game! Below are a few of the best of the press that’s come out!

Reviews


 
(Gizmodo, Motherboard, New Atlas, PCGamerThe Verge)

Interviews

Everyone has been wondering what it was like working with such an incredible IP like Rick and Morty! The short answer: pretty rick-diculous! Check out our exclusive interviews about the challenges we overcame during development, working with Justin Roiland and Adult Swim Games, and some of our favorite parts of the game.

UploadVR Interview – UploadVR delves into the origins of the project, the relationship with Adult Swim Games and the show, as well as a peek into the Labs themselves!

Oculus Blog – Oculus interviewed Alex about the process of taking 2D characters to 3D, player response, and the liberal application of squanch.

NVidia Blog – NVidia asks us about interaction, humor and working with Justin in their blog post!

Daily Dot – Daily Dot chatted with us about hanging out with our favorite characters, and the cultural zeitgeist of Rick and Morty.

Videos

One of our favorite things about launching a new game is all of the incredible Let’s Play videos and streams from content creators on YouTube and Twitch! Here are a few of our favorites…

REACT – The Fine Brothers’ REACT Gaming channel has fans of the show try Rick and Morty: VR for the first time!

JackSepticEye – We love Jack’s enthusiasm (and hair!) and he loves us! Always fantastic to hear his takes on our games!

And OMGitsfirefoxx!! Sonja dives into the game, praises our attention to detail, and lives that large life with Giant Morty Mode!

It’s been a great ride so far and we can’t see what else everyone thinks of the game! Keep at it and happy combinating!

-Owls

Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality – Available Now!

Wubba lubba dub dub!! After over a year in development, we’re proud to be launching Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality today on the HTC Vive and Oculus + Touch! Check out the brand-new launch trailer below::

You can buy the game right-freaking-now for both HTC Vive and Oculus + Touch. Links here!
Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/469610/
Oculus Store: https://www.oculus.com/experiences/rift/1196665787048646/

Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality out now!!

Working on an IP where almost everyone in the studio was already OBSESSED with the show was really an awesome experience. The entire team came to the project with incredible enthusiasm and hit the ground running. We learned so much about creating bipedal 3D characters in VR, building intuitive character interactions, portals, and, of course, the intricacies of Plumbus physics. We’re truly proud of what we’ve created here and we’re really excited for fans to get their virtual hands on this!

Also, we couldn’t have asked for better partners to bring this game to market! Adult Swim Games and the Rick and Morty show team have been endlessly supportive of us and our development process, believing in us while we exclaimed wildly, trying to describe our style of VR development. They trusted us with their beloved characters, knowing that we were ridiculous fans of the show before we started work on the VR game. We certainly couldn’t have done it without their help and support!

The Rickest part of Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality

And of course a very important thanks to Justin Roiland! Without him, this project wouldn’t have even existed. It was our first meeting that cemented the idea that building a VR game in Rick’s garage would be awesome, and his unique brand of VO really brings together the humor and magic of Rick and Morty! Honestly, we don’t know how he still has a functioning voice after doing all of those Rick recordings.

The Mortyest part of Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality

So the game is finally polished and ready to squanch right into your living rooms. It’s been months and months of prototyping, testing, and experimenting to create something we’re truly proud of and feels like an honest extension of the show. Sometimes VR is a lot more art than science, eh Morty?

And that’s the wayyy the news goes!
-Owls

Job Simulator Wins At Choice Awards + JobBot Plush Adventure at GDC!

The Owls are back from GDC and what a ridiculously amazing event this one was! Four talks, five panels, a Unity Keynote, and endless high-fives! Crowning the entire event was our enormous win at the Game Developer’s Choice Award, where Job Simulator took home Best VR/AR Game!

Owlchemy Labs takes home Best VR/AR Game at the Game Developers Choice Awards!

Owlchemy Labs is elated to receive the Choice Award for Best VR/AR Game.   The Owlchemy Labs team poses backstage after receiving the Choice Award.

This is a big one for us. This was the first year of commercial VR, and the first time GDCA even offered this as a category. Being selected as winner for this award says a lot about what the industry believes VR should be: high-quality, active VR with hands that’s built from the ground-up specifically for VR. We’re beyond thrilled for this honor, and we can’t wait to continue the tradition of making excellent, ridiculous VR experiences in the future!

OFFICIAL JOB SIMULATOR MERCHANDISE

On top of that, we were elated to get a first glimpse at physical Job Simulator merch made by our friends at iam8bit! They’re bringing all of our virtual goodness into actual reality. Those who were at GDC were able to visit the iam8bit booth in the Official GDC Merch Store and get their hands on our JobBot plush pull-string toy, launching later this year! This was our first time actually touching it, so we were quite excited 😉

Everyone loves the new JobBot toy plush!

All of our Job Simulator Official [Human] Merchandise is available for purchase on the iam8bit store. From a talking JobBot plush toy to t-shirts, magnets, pins, and posters– we’re happy to offer so many different ways to show your love for JOB!

Official Human Merchandise for Job Simulator is available on iam8bit.

The Job Simulator JobBot Plush is available for pre-order on iam8bit.com! It can even be thrown at a wall, because we know from our time in VR that throwing things at high velocity is what people truly want to do, deep down.

JobBot was so happy to meet everyone that he took on San Francisco and the Game Developers Conference on his own! Here are some highlights from JobBot’s adventure.

ADVENTURES OF JOBBOT AT GDC


JobBot takes the town in an adventure unlike any other seen before!
JobBot takes the town in an adventure unlike any other seen before!

JobBot is loved by all, including Owlchemy Labs and friends from Radial Games!
JobBot is loved by all, including Owlchemy Labs and friends from Radial Games!

Rez Infinite creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi gives JobBot his congratulations for winning Best AR/VR Game at the Game Developers Choice Awards!
Rez Infinite creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi gives JobBot his congratulations for winning Best AR/VR Game at the Game Developers Choice Awards!

JobBot rolls out to party with all of their friends during GDC!
JobBot rolls out to party with all of their friends during GDC!

After a week of panels, partying, and chatting with friends both new and old, it’s time for JobBot to rest. Good night, JobBot!
After a week of panels, partying, and chatting with friends both new and old, it’s time for JobBot to rest. Good night, JobBot!
 

Check out the Official [Human] Merchandise for Job Simulator here!

-Owls

OwlchemyMR Mixed Reality Update 3

We are pleased to share another update on OwlchemyMR (formerly OwlchemyVR Mixed Reality)! We’ve added even more features and improvements since our last update. Here are a few we’re excited to highlight:

If you haven’t read our prior announcements, you’ll first want to get some background information by checking out our first and second blog posts covering our mixed reality solution. It lets you combine live video footage with complex virtual reality gameplay in real-time and in-engine — resulting in the best way to show off the magic of VR.

In this update, we’d like to showcase how our tech solves the problem of Mixed Reality blindness:

 

OUTSIDE-IN LIVE PREVIEW!

Peer into mixed reality in real-time on the camera!


Peer into mixed reality in real-time!

Since our mixed reality solution is in-engine and in real-time, a small external screen can be mounted to your camera rig. Using a simple HDMI connection, you can have a live view into the virtual world without any additional overhead! This makes getting great mixed reality shots much easier. You’ll also see we are using a custom-made 3D printed OwlMount to pair a ZED depth camera with one of the upcoming Vive Trackers.

 

IN-VR MIXED REALITY PREVIEW!

See mixed reality from inside VR!


See what you look like from inside VR!

Blindness in VR is a huge problem. We often hear players saying, “can you see what’s happening?” over and over again. Now we have a solution! We created a virtual mixed reality preview screen inside the environment, that corresponds with the exact location of the real-world camera. This gives actors new abilities that were previously unavailable such as framing a shot exactly as they want, or being able to talk directly to their audience. It’s also a ton of fun seeing yourself mixed directly into the VR environment and our in-engine solution allows this all to happen live!

 

NEW MIXED REALITY DEMO AND IMPROVED DYNAMIC LIGHTING!

Smoother, better, and more realistic-er!


Improved dynamic lighting!

We’ve made major improvements to how dynamic lights illuminate the player in mixed reality, providing smoother, more realistic lighting across the board. Our new Mixed Reality demo scene showcases these new lighting improvements, as well as many of the other advanced capabilities of OwlchemyMR in one fun mixed reality playground!

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

We’re continuing to add advanced features to OwlchemyMR, refine our compositing techniques, and increase the overall quality of the tool. When we have more to share about the future of OwlchemyMR and how you might be able to get your hands on it, we’ll let you know! Our signup form is located here!