“You’re an accountant.” That’s all the instruction you’re given before donning the VR headset for Squanchtendo’s appropriately titled first game, Accounting VR. Before there’s any time to begin sorting papers, the phone rings, and two voices (one speaking to you, the other yelling corrections from the background) instruct you to put on the VR headset in order to begin your accounting work.
What follows is an eclectic journey that will put you before the King of Virtual Reality, have you playing the ribcage of a two-headed skeletal creature like a xylophone, and, well, the rest is better off left as a surprise.
“Be prepared for things to get weird.”
While there isn’t much more to Accounting VR than listening and some brief, memorable interaction, the real meat of the game comes from the people behind it. The most prominent among them is Justin Roiland, co-creator of Rick and Morty. His obsession with VR began when he previewed the HTC Vive less than a week after it was unveiled, and has grown exponentially ever since.
Roiland isn’t walking this road alone. Tanya Watson is Squanchtendo’s co-founder, coming off of over 10 years of production at Epic Games, where she worked on titles like Bullet Storm, Fortnite, and Gears of War. They’re working alongside Stanley Parable creator William Pugh, as well as the team at his new studio Crows Crows Crows.
Get out of my world
A corded telephone and virtual reality headset tie each scene together, functioning as both integral story elements and interesting mechanics. The phone always anchors you back to the scene, keeping you informed of the context, or letting you know that you’ve committed a terrible atrocity without knowing it.
The headset, on the other hand, always signals a movement towards the next scene, and it’s awesomely intuitive. You’ll find it hidden somewhere within each scene, with often unpleasant actions required to retrieve it. We saw the same helmet concept applied in Fantastic Contraption to great effect.
As for the story itself, it really is just better to experience it yourself. Suffice to say, things get away from you pretty quickly, and the work you’re doing is anything but crunching the numbers. The reason it’s so compelling is its engaging and natural progression, a result of the game’s origin at a game jam, an event where developers work to create a game in a short period of time – in this case, less than a week.
An atypical process
It isn’t just fun mechanics and solid design that make Accounting VR so special. The game’s first real build took shape entirely during a game jam in March, with Pugh and Roiland working with Crows Crows Crows’ Art Director, Dominik Johann, or Dom.
“We were working late nights. I’d be typing scratch – dummy script – and I’d grab William and Dom and we’d go into the recording bay a few offices down and I’d record the voices. William did the main guy on the phone, Dom is the art director and he’s amazing, he’s in the background screaming.”
Accounting Simulator is the first taste of Squanchtendo that hooks you.
The result will have you bent over laughing with a motion controller next to your face the entire time. If you aren’t familiar with Roiland and Pugh’s work, be prepared for things to get weird. Part of the reason for that is their process, which is even weird for independent game developers.
“We knew what drops we needed, I’d dummy a script, and we’d pretty much throw the script out, improvise a ton. I’d grab the audio and cut it together, pass the files over to William, and a few hours later we had a really rough build with the audio in it.” While that might be how Rick and Morty works, Watson points out that most games don’t have any sort of voice-over until very late in the process.
Crunching the numbers
The official word on Accounting VR’s release date? “Coming soon” is Squanchtendo’s only response. The question of how much has a much more definitive answer.
“The game will be complimentary on the HTC Vive. You won’t have to pony up any money – it’s not one of those ‘buy 20 more gems’ or anything like that. It’s just a complimentary experience.” Roiland explains.
“It was important to me that it was free,” Pugh adds on. “Our previous release was free as well and we wanted to make sure, especially for Crows Crows Crows, that we didn’t want to start charging for stuff that was an experiment.”
They’re both looking forward to a wealth of new and unique IPs, and Accounting Simulator is that first taste that hooks you. “It’s designed to set the tone for Squanchtendo, to create an opportunity to get people’s eyes on a VR experience that’s totally the kind of stuff we want to do in the future,” Roiland muses, “If you just build an experience from the ground up for the limitations of the hardware you’re working on, you can make amazing things.”