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Owlchemy Labs, the maker of Job Simulator and Vacation Simulator, unveiled a new virtual reality game called Cosmonious High.

The Austin, Texas-based studio, which also made Rick and Morty Simulator: Virtual Rick-ality, has been busy working on Cosmonious High for the past couple of years, and it’s the first big game under its new leadership.

Alex Schwartz cofounded the company in 2010, and it saw rare success in the VR market with games that were hilarious and took advantage of the new generation of headsets. While many VR titles sank because the market took off slower than expected, Job Simulator was a real hit, with more than a million copies sold.

Under Google management

Google bought Owlchemy in 2017 and largely left it to its own devices. Schwartz and studio leader Cy Wise left in 2018. They recently resurfaced with a new startup called Absurd Joy. Devin Reimer took over as CEO at Owlchemy. Other leaders at Owlchemy include Andrew Eiche, COOwl (chief operating owl, who spoke with GamesBeat in an interview), and product director Chelsea Howe.

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Resizing something in Cosmonious High.

Above: Resizing something in VR in Cosmonious High.

Image Credit: Owlchemy Labs

“We love the ‘simulator verse,’ as we call it internally. And it’s been really fun,” said Eiche. “But I think that we wanted to branch out and do something different. And there’s a lot of stories to be told in high school as well as a lot of interactions. Our brand lends itself to building spaces where players can engage with a unique theme around them.”

Eiche said that Google let the studio operate autonomously, and that enabled it to move on to Cosmonious High.

“We went heads down and have been working on this game now for the past three years,” Eiche said.

During that time, the studio also released a major update for Vacation Simulator.

“For many of our owls, their day-to-day life has changed very little,” he said.

And the team has about 30 people now, about 50% more than before Google acquired it.

Back to high school

Above: An alien gets a new power.

Image Credit: Owlchemy Labs

Cosmonious High is a VR adventure set in an alien high school launching on SteamVR and Oculus Quest next spring.

Players take the role of an alien who has crash-landed at the school on the first day of class. Using unlockable powers, players will help repair the school and return Cosmonious High to its former glory. Along the way they’ll meet a quirky cast of characters, explore a colorful world, take classes, and more.

Owlchemy promises the game will have living characters. The latest level of VR interaction will enable the company to deliver dynamic characters that respond to natural gestures. Players will be able to high-five, fist-bump, and talk with a quirky cast of characters.

The world will also be a big “interactive playground.” And the high school will be the biggest space Owlchemy has ever built. Players can hang with friends in the grand hall, perform experiments in Chemosophy, and get creative in Visualetics. And players will unlock new alien powers over time. Players can resolve problems or just cause more chaos at the school.

The team chose high school as a shared experience that everyone could relate to. In fact, everyone at Owlchemy Labs has attended high school, Eiche joked, a little weakly.

“It’s a story of evolving and changing as an adolescent, and we have this player character who is an alien and gets these powers that enable it to evolve and change,” he said. “We call this common ground a swim lane, and high school had some really great creative boundaries for us to sink into.”

VR rebounds

Owlchemy’s view of VR is it should be a welcoming medium that makes people comfortable about experimenting. And he said the team is happy that products like the Oculus Quest 2 are selling well at last.

“We knew that was going to happen. We had the common hype cycle. We went through our trough of disillusionment. We thought about how we were going to grow and approach the market and we made it through to come out on the other side. We’re so excited now.”

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