Jonathan Blow, the creator of one of indie gaming’s fomative successes, Braid, has begun hiring a team to develop his first VR game.

Before Fez (2012), before Limbo (2010), and before Minecraft (2009)Braid (2008) was one of the breakout successes in the formative years of indie game development and distribution.

Braid is a fairly basic 2D platformer, but with the twist of intriguing time-manipulation mechanics which made it play more like a puzzle game than a typical side-scroller. The game was widely praised and its success helped indie game development become… well, a thingBraid is getting an Anniversary Edition next year.

Jonathan Blow, the creator of ‘Braid’ and ‘The Witness’

Now years after his 3D puzzler followup, The Witness (2016), creator Jonathan Blow is ready to try his game design chops in the VR realm with a focus on pure roomscale gameplay.

“This game has a boundary-pushing design and is made for untethered, roomscale play, with none of those game-ruining concessions for seated or stationary play,” says Blow.

While the game is far from a formal announcement, he recently shared that he’s looking to hire a small team of developers for the project, including a VR Lead Programmer:

Lead development of a new VR game, starting the game from scratch, using our in-house engine. This game has a boundary-pushing design and is made for untethered, roomscale play, with none of those game-ruining concessions for seated or stationary play.

Lead one other programmer and work with others at the company to build this game on a relatively rapid timescale. We’re looking for someone very motivated who can build high-quality technical systems without micromanagement.

Experience shipping VR games is a huge plus. Experience with Android and Vulkan rendering are a substantial plus (but it’s not a dealbreaker if you are fluent in some other rendering API). No C# Unity programmers please (unless you just happen to know C# and are better in a systems language than you are in C#).

Our engine and gameplay code are written in the in-house programming language created by Thekla. It is a modern systems language with high-powered features that do not cost runtime performance; we recommend looking into the language before applying.

Given the job description (“tetherless,” “Android,” etc), it sounds like the game is very likely to target Quest as a first priority, though Blow hasn’t confirmed any specific platforms of release.

Speaking to Road to VR Blow said that although this will be his first VR game, he’s dabbled in the medium before.

“I have been interested in VR for a long time. We had The Witness running on Valve’s pre-production hardware [prior to HTC Vive]. But the time was never right for me to do a game,” he said.

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As for why he’s looking back toward VR now? He says the hardware is ready.

“It is just more about hardware having reached a certain threshold that is pretty good now, so it will only get better from here.”

Blow says development of his new VR game is expected to begin in earnest starting in 2024, so it will be some time before we see a formal announcement.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • scottosaur

    Interesting to see. Blow can certainly be a divisive figure, but he’s inarguably somebody who takes games very seriously and is very detail-oriented. Building a custom engine and insisting on roomscale play at least mean this should be a pretty unique (and hopefully polished) experience.

    • Arno van Wingerde

      The polished part is what wonders me: games like this can be innovative, but there is a reason why people use toolkits like Unity….

  • VrSLuT

    No Blow Jobs for Unity Programmers

    • Arno van Wingerde

      Humor batteling political correctness… humor won!

  • Andreas

    Roomscale-only games is a bad idea. There’s a reason everyone else has stopped doing them. VR itself is a large barrier to overcome for someone, if they then also need a set amount of space free to move around to play a game… it’s yet another barrier. MR works in mostly any space, since you can see what you’re doing, but roomscale VR is a niche within a niche.

    • namekuseijin

      try Tea for God

      • kakek

        An awesome concept, but needs at least 2×2 meters to really work. I mean, I know the game can run with even less space, you end up turning on yourself constantly and that’s a bit nauseating.

      • Andreas

        It’s a good game, but I don’t think it negates the point I made about it being a niche within a niche. I’m not saying there aren’t good examples of roomscale experiences like Tea for God or Eye of the Temple.

    • VR5

      Most million selling VR titles are room scale: Beat Saber, Super Hot, Job Simulator, Vacation Simulator. Basically the games that break out of the VR niche, the most mainstream titles.

      • Andreas

        That’s not really how you define roomscale though. It’s games that require a large space to function. Beat Saber and Superhot can be played a minimal space, you just need to be able to move your arms. It’s not games where you move around the space using the room. They’re more “stationary” games than roomscale ones.

        And Job/Vacation Simulator… I know they’ve sold well, but they’re also ancient in terms of VR games (2016/2019 respectively). I very much doubt they would do as well if they came out today. The only roomscale that makes sense these days is mixed reality, mostly because it significantly shrinks the amount of space, or redecorating you have to do to use said space.

        That’s how I see it anyway. Could be wrong, I guess we’ll when this game comes out.

        • VR5

          You’re the one misunderstanding what room scale means. It means you play it standing up, moving with your own body, at the scale of your room, however small or large it may be.

          In Beat Saber you evade walls coming at you, you have to step sideways and duck. That’s exactly room scale. Likewise, in Superhot being able to approach enemies yourself is a boon. Neither game makes concessions for seated gameplay. These are the multi million seller titles, the ones most having entered the mainstream.

          It is very hard to make a game that captures the interest of millions. But if you can make one it being room scale won’t be a limiting factor. Rather, it will be part of why it is so interesting.

        • Arno van Wingerde

          My favourite game is in death:unchained where I use the room available to me to peek around the corners first. The more space I have the better, but I would need 2x2m (6×6 ft) at least. I also consider the cabin a valuable idea, where you measure part of your house and have zombies breaking in through windows and doors.
          Look at movies: the hero is sometimes seated, driving a car, flying a plane are some such. Mostly though, it is standing, running climbing etc. that is part of the R in VR for me!

          • Andreas

            Absolutely! Undeath: Unchained is fantastic, but that’s very much optional roomscale movement. The oldschool definition of what roomscale was/is (since apparently everyone uses it differently) was that you had to have a certain amount of space to even play the game – which is what this developer also wants to do.

  • namekuseijin

    Gosh! I’ve been asking for The Witness VR forever! This is awesome!

  • Ballsy VR

    Hmmm…I get where he’s coming from, but what he calls “game-ruining concessions for seated or stationary play” are unavoidable for disabled players who cannot walk or stand.

    • Arno van Wingerde

      True enough… but would that be a compelling reason to make all games also seated – even when that is at the expense of the immersion? Having “most” games available for seated play, disabled players have a world of experiences in VR available to them!

  • Cool. Another respected developer entering the VR scene. The more the merrier.