I'm dismantling a satellite in Earth's orbit in order to fix my asshole genius grandpa's supercomputer. I need to fix it so I can order a part for one of his stupid, brilliant inventions. Why he can't just order it himself is beyond me, but I've never had the chance to question his orders before. After all, I'm just a clone of his grandson, born five minutes ago, and I can't even really talk yet. I bash the outer panel of the satellite with a mace, pull out the part Grandpa Rick needs, stop for a moment to take in the view, then step through a swirling acid-green portal that brings me here back inside my family's garage. Sigh.
That's what it's like to play Rick and Morty Virtual Rick-Ality, the new game from Owlchemy Labs and Adult Swim Games that is set in the absurd sci-fi world created by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland. This is not an effort of Roiland's independent VR studio, Squanchtendo, but it does harbor some similarities to its debut title, Accounting, when it comes to absurdity. Aside from vandalizing satellites and hopping through interdimensional portals, you can also shoot Rick's laser gun, search for hidden Justin Roiland improv moments, get endlessly berated by your grandfather even when he's giving you a compliment, and try to figure out what the hell a plumbus does.
There's one thing the folks at Owlchemy Lab—also responsible for VR hit Job Simulator—want to make clear: "Making this game delayed season three none, literally zero," producer Andrew Eiche and community and events wrangler Cy Wise tell Creators. We spoke to the duo and Adult Swim Games' Jeff Olsen following our demo. "I can speak to this from a very personal perspective," Eiche continues. "There were countless times when we asked if Justin would be somewhere, and the answer was always, 'No! He's working on Season 3.'"
The game actually started as a casual Twitter exchange of compliments between Rick and Morty co-creators Roiland and Harmon, and Owlchemy CEO Alex Schwartz and CTO Devin Reimer. "Justin Roiland was talking about how much he loved Job Simulator, and we tweeted back, 'If you like that so much we'll fly out to LA and show you new jobs!' And they were like, 'Ok!'" says Eiche. "The group got drunk and had Indian food and all at the same time came to this conclusion, 'We should put Rick and Morty and Job Simulator together!'" They pitched the idea to Adult Swim Games, who, fresh off the success of the depraved Pokémon clone, Pocket Mortys, quickly approved it. That's when they began working on the game.
Owlchemy Labs wrote the brunt of the storyline, with Roiland riffing on their scripts inside a personal recording studio in his garage. At one point they discussed "burp tech—to dynamically insert burps," but the project failed, likely resulting in Roiland reverting to his painful, beer-based process. In the process of making Virtual Rick-Ality, they become so immersed in the Rickstaverse that they had to recuse themselves of a Rick and Morty trivia contest in Austin. "Most of the studio has an encyclopedic knowledge of Seasons 1 and 2," says Eiche. "In the game, there's a reference to every single episode."
Wise adds, "If you walked through the studio during the studio during the development process at any time, at least a full third of the studio had at least one episode up on their monitor as they were working."
Owlchemy takes its development process as seriously as its lore. Every team member has access to a VR headset and must test each new element in a fully-loaded immersive environment before it can be integrated into the design. In the venture capital-driven world of VR, some studios must share their units between developers, forcing them to design heavily on a flatscreen, then see how many parts hold together once they're in VR.
This is a detailed way of saying that Owlchemy takes their shit seriously when it comes to giving artists the tools they need to make good work. Half the game's charm is in being able to throw beakers agains the wall and have them break, or pick up a medieval weapon and bash in a celestial body in high orbit. The mundane pleasure of exploring and destroying their interactive world isn't quite possible in traditional video games, and the freedom to blow shit up doesn't exist in reality.
The game is ideal for fans who have memorized the steps of creating a plumbus and think the first episode of Interdimensional Cable was way better than the second. Rick and Morty Virtual Rick-Ality gives fans the opportunity to break stuff without consequences and look your favorite late night animated sci-fi sitcom characters right in the eye. I can't think of a better way to spend 4/20.
Rick and Morty Virtual Rick-Ality is available today on HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. New episodes of Rick and Morty begin this summer, if we're lucky.