The Battle of Winterfell is over, but there’s still plenty left to fight for
The Battle of Winterfell is over, but there’s still plenty left to fight for
Sex games are an underserved market
Four years ago, StudioFOW was known as a collective that createdIn these movies, characters would routinely get raped and abused until reaching a mental breakdown, all for the viewing pleasure of millions of hungry fans. Today, StudioFOW is still around — but now it’s making a video game that is
Subverse is a hybrid video game that combines tactical RPG gameplay (think XCOM), shmups, and cinematic visual novel elements. You can explore a galaxy full of planets hiding secrets. You have a ship that you can upgrade, and a crew that you can get to know through backstories and loyalty missions. But also, you can sleep with all of the women you recruit.
If this kinda sounds like Mass Effect, that seems intentional — Subverse wears its influences on its sleeve. At one point, the Kickstarter pitch jokes that the game’s navigation mechanics are “stolen from well-known sci-fi games,” but the similarities go beyond that. The sexbot character, for example, is very reminiscent of Mass Effect’s EDI. But where BioWare games have shied away from focusing too heavily on the romance elements, Subverse leans fully into the relationships between characters. While there is a story, watching people bang each other at the player’s preferred speed and pose seems to be the primary motivating factor behind Subverse’s gameplay. StudioFOW promises that your crew is perpetually turned on, and seemingly there to please the player, cleavage physics and all.
“The better you perform in combat, the more you explore, and the more you talk to your waifus – the better your rewards get!” the Kickstarter reads. “Each waifu will have unlockable, fully animated, StudioFOW quality hentai scenes which you can view whenever you wish from the comfort of your own Captain’s Quarters.”
Given the developer’s pedigree, you might expect that Subverse’s debauchery is as brutal as the wider StudioFOW oeuvre, but surprisingly, that’s not the case here. While StudioFOW heavily emphasizes the action, DC, the creative director, told Polygon that unlike their previous work, Subverse will not feature rape.
“Subverse will feature fully consensual sex,” DC said. “It was a creative decision on my part.”
Given that Subverse aims to release on Steam, StudioFOW’s options for portraying things like rape is limited. While Steam does sell games where people get it on, the distribution platform recently pulled a title called Rape Day because it posed “unknown costs and risks,”Kickstarter, meanwhile, It’s possible that Subverse couldn’t exist and be sold on these platforms if it included the type of sex that the studio is known for.
As DC tells it, early scripts for the game were darker, but these iterations didn’t work out the way the studio hoped. “We tried a number of rewrites then eventually went full on comedy and it IMMEDIATELY clicked, like overnight,” he said. The aim was to create a lighthearted game with “memorable perverts and deviant villains.”
To wit, Subverse features a character called William Dildofingers, who apparently has inflatable phalluses attached to his robot hands. If this sounds ridiculous and a tad immature, the kicker is that, as of this writing, Subverse has raised $1,787,407 on Kickstarter — well past its goal of $129,409.
Subverse’s success on Kickstarter can be boiled down to a variety of factors. For one, StudioFOW has been around for a good while, and its hardcore porn films have produced a legion of devoted fans. Many StudioFOW creations have been viewed millions of times. If a fraction of that audience donated to the Kickstarter, it’s no wonder the project is doing so well.
More overtly, sex games continues to be an underserved market in the video game world. Games about sex are few and far between, and any game that depicts the subject has to deal with things like age ratings. Retail stores often refuse to stock adult-only games, while platforms like Steam try to hide their existence unless you opt in. Despite this landscape, hunger for games about sex is alive and well in the video game industry.which specialize in risqué games, boast that it has millions of players every month. Many of these existing sex games, however, do not look or play like the AAA video games that Subverse is trying to parody.
Still, there’s the question of why players would trust filmmakers to make a good game. StudioFOW claims that some people on staff have already shipped titles on Steam, but it also helps that they’re already familiar with the development tools necessary to bring it to life.
“We switched engines to Unreal 4 last year [to make movies], and since it’s primarily a games engine, we thought it would be a natural progression for the studio to try and make a game with it,” DC said.
With less than a day left to go in the fundraiser, it seems likely that the project could hit $2 million. Already, donors have unlocked a variety of fundraising milestones, such as added characters, more chapters, additional lewd sequences, character vignettes, and even a manga adaptation. Rewards, meanwhile, are strictly digital — the campaign offers things like digital art books, adding names to the credits, Discord access, naming planets, and even designing a love sequence. This, StudioFOW explains, was done to make sure that its budget isn’t wasted on physical rewards that take away from the game’s actual development.
“I have to say that the Kickstarter campaign has surpassed even my wildest expectations,” DC told Polygon. “I think it resonates with people because we’re trying to make a good game instead of the usual exploitative hentai fare that uses gacha and gambling systems.”
Why the secret of mainstream VR may be a near-instant setup
The Oculus Quest might seem like a modest step forward to the casual onlooker: it’s VR, minus the wires. But the product is more complicated than its simple silhouette suggests. A ortable, self-contained headset that doesn’t require a PC or sensors to deliver room-scale head and hand tracking in VR required dramatic leap forward from the Oculus team in a short amount of time.
Since the original Oculus’ release in 2016, the VR company has made a number of incremental technological streps that have led them here. Jason Rubin, vice president of VR/AR partnerships and content for Facebook, is confident those changes will impress the headset’s early reviewers and audience. That what looks simple will feel significant.
The hardware will be released on May 21, and pre-orders were opened today. You can already read our full review of the product itself, and I’ve been able to use the hardware in my own home, with no restrictions, for the past week.
I agree with Rubin’s assessment after spending so much time with the hardware. The Quest is an amazing piece of engineering, and it’s hard to believe that it’s able to deliver such relatively high visual quality and imperceptible tracking latency using only the self-contained, and somewhat aging,chip. For reference, that’s the same system on a chip found in a Google Pixel 2 smartphone.
“We’ve implemented many optimizations from the software stack to the hardware to give Quest the best possible performance,” Sean Liu, director of hardware product management, told Polygon. “For instance, an active cooling system allows Quest to run at much higher clock rates for sustained periods, letting us get more power out of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC.”
The hardware team even had to get creative with how the controllers connected to the headset, since it was so important to minimize latency.
“To achieve this, we invented a completely new custom wireless protocol that allowed us to reduce latency for the controllers to a lower level than could be achieved by using Bluetooth or WiFi — in fact, to a level as low as 2 milliseconds,” Liu explained.
But most players won’t care about the engineering that went into the Quest, what’s important is that it’s both fun and easy to use. And that’s where the Quest really shines: It’s completely self-contained, so it doesn’t need to be connected to a PC. It requires no external sensors, even though its controllers deliver, allowing you to manipulate objects in 3D space just as you would with a traditional Rift or HTC Vive.
You can stand in one place or sit down to play many games if you’re short on space, but room-scale VR is also available, as long as you have a minimum of 6.5 feet by 6.5 feet of unobstructed floorspace. Or you can switch between those options any time you’d like. That ease of use and nearly instant setup was the entire point, according to Rubin.
“We are competing with everybody’s entertainment time right now,” he said. “You can put on Netflix, you can go play PlayStation, you can go read a book, you could do any one of a thousand things. VR should not take half an hour or 15 minutes to get set up … That’s why we thought the most important thing to tackle first was [getting rid of] those external sensors and fidgetiness of setting it up every time.”
Much of the simplicity of the system comes from the Guardian system, which is a safety mechanism that shows you a virtual, wireframe barrier when you get close to stepping outside of your usable VR space. The Quest will even take you out of VR and show you the world around you through the system’s passthrough cameras if you step completely outside of it. Creating a new Guardian setup is as easy as looking down and tracing the area with the controller; the entire process takes around 10 seconds.
“Even if your Guardian has changed and you moved to a different room, it takes absolutely no time to paint Guardian on the floor and go,” Rubin pointed out. “It’s just not a big deal anymore.”
This change makes getting into VR so much easier that Oculus will no long offer any products that use external sensors, in fact. You may be able to track down an original Rift on the secondary market, but from here on out the Rift S and the Oculus Quest will be the standard Rift products offered for the full gaming experience, along with the more limitedand .
This is a big shift, but wireless, self-contained room-scale VR brings its own challenges. Rubin pointed out that it’s hard to tell how players will react to being completely untethered from the PC. Some people get a little too enthusiastic with their movements, while others take even more time to get comfortable moving around with the headset on.
“Sometimes you put people in wireless VR and they’re flying all over the room,” he said. “And thank god we have the Guardian system because they’re suddenly untethered, and it’s so freeing. Other people use the weight of the cable to tell them where north is, if you will, where their PC is. And without that, they feel a little bit naked, especially if they are used to playing with the cable, so they’re a little bit more conservative with what they’re doing. There were a lot of surprises.”
I asked Rubin why the review embargo lifted so much earlier than the Quest’s May 21 release date, and his answer was blunt.
“We get more sales,” Rubin told Polygon. “We believe in these products. We believe the reviews are going to be good. If you believe the reviews are going to be good, you want them out there as soon as possible … At the end of the day, anybody who holds [reviews] until launch day is worried.”
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