Following the studio’s acquisition by Meta late last year, we haven’t heard much about Twisted Pixel, a veteran VR game studio which made several exclusive titles for Meta. Now we’ve learned of the first details of the studio’s next project.

Following the launch of several non-VR games, Twisted Pixel Games in recent years has become largely focused on VR. The studio has built several VR games, exclusively published by Oculus Studios, for the Rift, Go, and Quest headsets. The most recent being Path of the Warrior (2019) for Quest and Rift.

After working closely with Twisted Pixel under Oculus Studios, it was announced late last year that Meta had acquired the studio, along with several others.

Considering that we haven’t seen any new release or even game announcement from Twisted Pixel since late 2019, it wasn’t clear if the studio had remained properly intact, or if it had been absorbed into the Meta mothership and scattered to the wind.

But now we have our first glimpse of an answer. According to job postings published this year, the studio has been seeking to fill various roles to work on an “unannounced VR game using the Unreal Engine.”

Considering Meta’s priorities at this moment, it’s almost certain the game will be built for standalone Quest headsets only.

The mention of Unreal Engine (specifically UE4, as noted in some listings) is certainly interesting. There’s a very small handful of Quest games that have been built with Unreal Engine. The other, more popular choice by far, is Unity, which is largely thought to scale better to the low-end hardware of the Quest headsets; not to mention it’s almost always the first to get the latest Quest developer tools from Meta.

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Other job listings for Twisted Pixel mention “experience developing a multiplayer networked game” among the ‘Preferred Qualifications’ of candidates, which gives a strong indication the next game from the studio will be built with some kind of multiplayer functionality.

Considering the timing of the studio’s acquisition announcement, we’d guess that Twisted Pixel is actively building a VR game that’s primarily targeting to launch with Quest 3, or shortly thereafter (though will probably be backwards compatible with Quest 2 as well). With Quest 3 rapidly approaching, we should learn more about the studio’s upcoming game in due time.

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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."
  • VR5

    Considering that we haven’t seen any new release or even game announcement from Twisted Pixel since late 2019, it wasn’t clear if the studio had remained properly intact, or if it had been absorbed into the Meta mothership and scattered to the wind.

    That was never a rational thing to assume IMO. Why would Meta buy a game studio and then disband it? Makes no sense and I don’t think there’s precedent.

    Games take long to make and 4 years+ isn’t particularly long for a modern game. Means we can expect a full fledged AAA, like Wrath II.

    • Nevets

      Yes, that particular comment that you highlighted makes no sense at all.

    • psuedonymous@mailinator.com

      “Why would Meta buy a game studio and then disband it?”

      Because that’s not an uncommon occurrence after game studios are acquired by a larger entity. e.g. every studio acquired by Valve (like Campo Santo), the inevitable fate of every studio acquired by EA (like Westwood), etc.

      • VR5

        Valve and EA are exclusively game companies and staff is then used on other game projects. Meta isn’t primarily a game company, if it were to absorb Twisted Pixel would they be asked to do non-game work? Or Horizon Worlds, or join another acquired gaming studio?

        The situation is much closer to Microsoft’s Xbox division which acquired studios to bolster its exclusive line up against Sony and Nintendo. Disbanding a studio means at least one exclusive less being made at a time. Same with Meta, they need high profile games for Quest. Disbanding a studio acquired for this purpose means at least one less such game being made. Possibly more if the studio works on more than one project at a time.

    • Ben Lang

      It’s not the first time it would happen and it wouldn’t be the last.

      It’s not that they’d purchase with the intention to disband it, but when you buy a small team you often find that it consists largely of people drive by a lot of passion for their work and colleagues. Sometimes when you join a big company the dynamic changes enough that people’s interests and incentives change, which can cause them to lose passion, move to other projects, or even leave the company.

      That seems to be what happened with Downpour Interactive / Onward, which was acquired in 2021 and didn’t ship a new game before its founder departed earlier this year saying:

      It’s been an honor and a privilege to work on Onward with my team and give our players something to enjoy. There’s been plenty of battle scars, mistakes, lessons, and wins over the years.

      Another big thing I learned was the difference between a large corporate company vs a small startup, and the pros and cons of each. Some things work better in certain environments.

      Sometimes the acquiring company’s priorities change and well laid plans are cut. That seems to be what happened with Ready at Dawn whose Lone Echo II was original supposed to ship in 2019, but was acquired in 2020 before the game finally shipped in 2021. But since then the studio was impacted in a major way by Meta’s big layoffs earlier this year, reportedly cutting 1/3 of the studio, including its founder.

      And let’s not forgot Oculus. It took some time, but 100% of the company’s original founders and executives left (or were pushed out of) Meta, and eventually the entire brand itself was dissolved.

      So, it isn’t always as easy as ‘buy team, team continues doing great work’.

      • Christian Schildwaechter

        Oculus itself falls into a sort of different category. Smaller game studios often work as close teams, and a lot of the creative output derives from that structure, so abandoning that structure takes away a lot of the value.

        Hardware startups are much more often bough just to get the engineers, it is sort of an (expensive) way to hire a number of experts on a specific topic all at once. These will often be integrated into existing development teams, usually working on something technically closely related to their previous project and subject of expertise, but very rarely does the former team stay intact as sort of an internal development group. And in many cases development of the main product of the acquired company is stopped.

        Oculus may be somewhat of an exception here too, because at the time of the acquisition, Facebook didn’t have any serious hardware/VR development of their own that Oculus could have be integrated into, Oculus basically became their XR research. If Meta buys e.g. an optics company today, they will absorb the patents and expertise and distribute the engineers (with their approval) over their existing research projects/departments. Employees are often enticed to stay by giving them stock options that only become valid if they don’t leave the company for a specified time, regularly leading to lots of people quitting after two or three years.

        With Oculus the original founders and executives all left at very different times, and usually driven by internal policies that shifted the development, though the motivation was very different. Brendan Iribe left after Facebook canceled the Rift 2 to focus on the Quest, basically abandoning high end PCVR, while John Carmack sort of faded away when instead of focusing on improving cheap mobile VR HMDs to drive mass adaption, Meta went to chase the metaverse with lots of not particularly focused futuristic research instead of first improving usability of their existing products that were supposed to lead to the metaverse. They all had been fully integrated into MRL and supported the team and the vision, until the vision changed away from their own.

      • VR5

        Yeah but those studios were downsized as part of Meta’s year of efficiency campaign, which was mostly to appease investors and reinvigorate stock prices. Which worked, apparently.
        I still expect RaD to release something eventually. That is exactly not disbanding, other game companies also laid off staff.
        The Oculus label is still maintained for Oculus Studios, Meta’s gaming publishing brand, and for development. Oculus is not disbanded/dissolved.

  • Starkium

    I’ve been following this studio closely since path of the warrior. I’ve been trying to see what they’re working on, but there’s not much in the way of hints. I hope it’s another superhero style beat em up.

  • Christian Schildwaechter

    Unity is used for the majority of VR project, partly because it is a better target for low power devices compared to Unreal, which comes with a prettier default look, but also expects much beefier hardware. But with enough knowledge you can make Unity look (and consume resources) very much like Unreal, and also reduce the demands of Unreal enough to make it a feasible platform for Quest development. The reason to pick Unreal here most likely isn’t only driven by look and performance, but by the different workflow approaches of the two.

    There is a strange (and very rough) recommendation of Unreal for single developers, Unity for teams of two to eight, and Unreal for larger teams. Single developers benefit from Unreal coming with a lot of built-in tools, you get good looking results out of the box, but all your games will look similar to a first person shooter and require a fast machine, as this is pretty much the default setting for Unreal, and getting anything else requires a big jump in knowledge.

    Unity often requires completing your toolkit with lots of purchases from the asset store, which also allow to fill technical or artistic gaps in the team and increase development speed. By default the (Build-In/URP) rendering pipelines are optimized for rather slow hardware, allowing to realize even rather complex scenes without requiring advanced expertise in optimization. There isn’t much of team integration feature in Unity, you have to basically create your own workflows to match your specific team and developer roles, with can be both useful and annoying.

    Unreal Engine is more focused on integrating distinct roles, where a larger number of people not necessarily sitting next to each others have to contribute to a project. This is also one of the reasons why UE has become so popular in movie pre-visualization and VFX, as it integrates well into the existing production pipelines consisting of lots of tools from different vendors. So UE supports much more complex projects with many more participants, but as a consequence you need extra expertise just to properly integrate everything, unless you just use it out-of-the box like the single-developer mentioned before. These teams will often also include technical artists and people specialized in optimization.

    The pick of UE4 instead of UE5 with the (non mobile) promise of potentially significant improvements for VR through Nanite and Lumen hints that this will be a larger (AA) team that will benefit from the more flexible workflows, has the expertise to make it sufficiently fast for Quest, and aims to create something visually very impressive.

  • Blinkin73

    I’m still waiting for Sony to talk me into buying a PSVR2 over the Quest 3. There is so far only three things I like about the PSVR2 over Quest 2. The wide field of view. The bigger IPD adjustment. and a few of the games. I have far more invested into meta right now in terms of games. My PS5 is feeling lonely, but Asgard’s Wrath looks really great for a standalone headset game.