While yesterday the VR community was on fire because of the new anti-modding update of VRChat and the price rise of the Quest 2, I was discovering a little gem of VR gamingsuggested to me by my friend Dario of Cybermachine Studios. The game is called “Rock Life: The Rock Simulator” and it promises to be a little revolution both for VR and for pancake gaming. Let me tell you more about it.
In “Rock Life: The Rock Simulator”, you play as a rock. You enter the VR world and you find yourself in a small land full of grass, with a rock in front of you. You can’t move, you can’t do anything, because you are a rock yourself. But you can stare at the rock while there are birds chirping in the background.
I have to praise the designers of this game because the game is very accessible: since you can’t move, and you can’t do anything, the game can be played by everyone. And it is also safe if you suffer from motion sickness, because… you can’t move. This is a genius move to guarantee inclusion for this game.
You can stare at the rock for how much time you want, there are no limits. There are also some achievements in the game, with one requiring you to be a rock for 20 hours, and the other one for 100 hours (to become a Gigachad rock). Unluckily, I’m a weak man, and I’m made of flesh and not of rock, so I abandoned just after a few minutes. Shame on me.
The game features a menu with two buttons:
- with one, you can change the rock type. You can choose a gray rock, a red rock, a round rock, a flat rock… there is a good choice of rocks to choose among. If you are a fan or rock (I mean the object, not the music), you will appreciate that. I’m sorry for NFT fanboys, but here there is no NFT rock you can purchase to exclusively be the monkey rock
- With the other one, you can change the environment. If the first environment is a CGI green garden, the second looks like a big zen garden reconstructed through photogrammetry. But don’t be afraid this can change the gameplay: in the new environment, you are still a rock and you can still do nothing.
I’ve found this experience very relaxing: finally, I have been able to do in VR what I like to do in real life. Just do nothing and pretend I am a rock. I still wonder why game developers keep doing those games implementing tiresome tasks like VR fitness movements, or puzzles. Rock is clearly what VR gamers prefer, and this is why this game has an “Extremely positive” score on Steam.
I’ve tried the flatscreen version of the game and it is very similar… you can be a rock, change a rock, and change the environment. But the flatscreen game is less immersive, I felt myself less like a rock, and more like someone watching a rock on the screen. This shows the power of virtual reality: thanks to the headset, I could feel like being a rock, something that has changed my perception of life. The only drawback of this embodiment regards the addiction it gives you to rock life. For instance, when a colleague of mine called me to ask to implement a feature in a VR application, I pretended to be a peaceful rock and didn’t move or speak, but he got angry and started screaming I have to do my job to get paid. I would have liked to answer his concerns, but rocks don’t speak.
Luckily, the flatscreen version offers also a way to meet with your rock pals. There is a multiplayer mode, and you can join multiple multiplayer lobbies where you find other rocks. I’ve joined a room with other two players, and so I saw 3 rocks on my screen. It has been quite emotional for me Because finally, I’ve been able to connect to fellow rocks and do nothing with them. It was so peaceful. The great feature of the rock multiplayer life is that since you can’t do anything, you don’t risk meeting trolls or people screaming. You are just all happy rocks. Unluckily multiplayer is still in beta, so it is not available in VR, yet: this is a huge pity. This program doesn’t exploit the potential of the rock metaverse.
I think the visual elements of the experience could have been better. The CGI environment, in particular, doesn’t give the proper realism that we rock fanatics would like to see to have the real rock experience. It looks a bit fake. Plus, when I played it in VR, my framerate was around 50FPS on a RTX2080 Super. The game is clearly not optimized for virtual reality. The photogrammetry environment is more realistic and runs at a better framerate, instead.
The ambient sound with chirping birds is instead quite relaxingso it is well done.
Input and controls
The Rock Simulator has also problems with game input. I could see my Oculus Touch controllers, but with a weird cylinder on top of them, and with a little sphere moving while I moved my thumbstick. The cylinder was totally useless, and the sphere moving with the thumbstick even more, considering that the thumbstick has no use in this game.
The in-menu game to change rock and scene is put on the left of the scene, but the rock is in front of you, so you have no way to look at the menu and at the rock at the same time, making the operation of changing the rock a bit uncomfortable. You have to continuously rotate your head from the menu to see which rock you have become. Plus, the rays that come out from the controllers to interact with the menu are too thin, so hardly visible, and this makes interactions even more clunky. Luckily, being a rock, I had not to interact that much.
When I was in the photogrammetry scene, immobile, with that rock in front of me, I truly felt to be a rock. I understood what is the life of a rock, always still, facing all the conditions that change around you. The game can really change your life making you become a rock. Or The Rock.
The game has a wonderful community of rock-wannabes that have active discussions in the game forum. Here below is an example of a dialogue that moved me.
“Rock Life: The Rock Simulator” is available on Steam on this page. It is free because the creators really wanted to give everyone the possibility to be a rock.
While technically the game needs some improvement, I liked how “Rock Life: The Rock Simulator” tried to make me feel like a rock. It is what many of us in the VR communities were waiting for, and probably one of the apps that will lead to the mainstream success of VR. Feeling there, with the rock, and being unable to move, have been sensations quite new to me, even if I have been using virtual reality for 8 years.
I also loved the multiplayer mode, and I think it is needed for the VR version, too. I would also advise the creators to optimize the game so that it can work also on the Meta Quest 2.
It’s a hidden masterpiece, and I hope that you all will try it. Rock on!
(Header image by BGNB Studios)
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