Chunks, an early access VR game from Facepunch Studios, makers of Rust and Garry's Mod, isn't Minecraft in VR. Although the company understands why you might be confused.
"I think we fucked up on the launch trailer," Facepunch Studios' Garry Newman told Polygon."We'd made a Minecraft-like tileset when it was called Vivecraft about a year ago and had become a bit blind to it. This has made a lot of people think we're cloning Minecraft. The only thing Chunks really has in common with Minecraft is that it has voxels. It shamed us that much that we removed the Minecraft clone tileset."
James King, the game's lead, agreed that the early media released may have given people the wrong impression of the game.
"I'm really happy with the direction we're going with the game though, which is all about making it easy to create and share fun experiences in VR," King said. "The most basic aspect of that is building things out of blocks like in Minecraft or Infiniminer, but you can also create your own types of blocks, mini-games, interactive objects and tools. We've provided some examples of things you can make on the Workshop, like the roller coaster building tool."
There isn't, frankly, a ton to do in the game right now. It's fun to build roller coasters and browse the very few things available on Steam Workshop, but this is clear an early access game that's only days old. Ideally Chunks doesn't become a fuller game; it becomes a way for other people to create games, or environments and experiences for other people.
"Where Chunks is different is that it's super, super, super moddable," Newman wrote in a blog post about the game. "It leans really heavily on the Workshop to provide new game modes and tools, in the same way that Garry's Mod does. Like Garry's Mod, it eats its own dog-food. The sandbox game itself is coded in the modding system, so you can go in and take a look at how it works. The source for all the default tools is included in an editable format right in the game's directory."
King wrote out his own series of goals for the game's development, including documentation for how to create plug-ins and the ability to use Steam Workshop natively, without leaving the game's environments. They're also thinking about local and online multiplayer, with other people either inside or outside of virtual reality.
The goal, in fact, is to make sure you can do as much as possible while in virtual reality. "I think the most exciting of those are about extra ways to create and share different kinds of content while staying in-game," King told Polygon.
"At the moment you can copy and upload things you build out of blocks to the Workshop without leaving the game, but it would also be awesome to paint new block textures without leaving VR, or create simple models for extra detail you can add to your world," he continued. "Player feedback is very important though. I'm always appreciative of suggestions on how to make the interface feel easier to use for new players, or examples of stock functionality people would like to see."
Playing the game today can be a bit overwhelming; there isn't much instruction about how things work, but it's interesting to be able to manipulate the environment in virtual reality. I was able to make a quick roller coaster and ride it, seeing my tracks from both above and below as I changed my size in-game.
Even without knowing enough about modding games or code to do anything serious, it felt oddly godlike to be in such direct control of the world around me.
It's also comfortable, which is something Minecraft has struggled with when moving to virtual reality.
"They're fighting against discomfort because VR isn't really suited to first-person games where you control your character's movement with a keyboard or gamepad," King explained. "The disconnect between the acceleration of the camera and the forces you physically experience can trigger simulation sickness, and it's not nearly as immersive as being able to physically walk around and interact with the environment like in Chunks."
The goal is to make sure you can do as much as possible while in virtual reality
Facepunch Studios is going to continue to make new modes, items and tools for players to experiment with and to help show what can be done. They're also aware that it's not exactly welcoming to new players at launch.
But anyone can look into the code of any of these releases to learn how it was written, and then write their own plug-ins or just experiment with what's available.
Chunks is in the early stages of development in an early market, and there aren't that many Vive headsets in the wild. Facepunch has sold 300 copies to date, which Newman says is more than expected.
"Anyone thinking they're going to make billions with a VR game right now is going to be disappointed," he said. "I'm sure in a few months when people actually have the hardware then VR game sales will pick up, but sales aren't really the important thing for us here."
"James made this game," Newman explained. "It's really fun to play with and we want to develop it more over a long period of time — so as long as the project pays for its own development and the people who play aren't disappointed we're incredibly happy."
Chunks is on sale now for $14.99, and is available for the HTC Vive.