Justin Roiland absentmindedly twirls the faces of the Rubik's Cube in his hands as we finish setting up the camera equipment. "I'm playing Shadows of Mordor... I just got the Oculus Go so I'm like messing around with bunch of stuff on [that]," he mentions. "I'm playing on the Switch, I'm playing ... god, too many things at once. I have too many games right now that I'm sort of bouncing around, you know?"
We're seated in a plushly carpeted meeting room at Sony's E3 booth, here to discuss Trover Saves the Universe, an upcoming VR title from Roiland's Squanch Games. It's the studio's first full-length sci-fi action comedy adventure and second PS4/PSVR game, following last year's Accounting+. "I absolutely love VR," he explains. "I keep thinking about what other kinds of VR experiences that I wish existed now."
Trover is one such experience, employing the same animation and design style that fans have come to expect from the Rick and Morty universe. "It's sci-fi," he explained. "But it's also just got this sort of like light, simpler kind of aesthetic to the game by design and that's actually worked out pretty well for us. Like, on Rick and Morty, I designed Mr. Poopy Butthole and Noob-Noob, you can tell they're like... they look the same almost. I just like that kind of simple look, and we've taken that over into Trover." Roiland further credits a wide array of modern media in the development of the game's artistic style -- from Jim Henson Productions and The Simpsons to Peter Bagge's comic series, Hate.
The game challenges players to save their dogs who have "been dognapped by a beaked lunatic who stuffed them into his eye holes and is using their life essence to destroy the Universe."
"The game is actually fully playable on PlayStation 4 without VR and it's actually a very interesting experience," Roiland remarked. "It's almost worth playing it both ways because there's different jokes. It's the same story and the same general, like, flow but there's moments that are completely different. A lot of funny jokes are only in one version, and then [other] jokes are only in the other version."
"I personally prefer the VR version just because it's like, it's incredible to be in the world going on this adventure with this character," he continued. You'll be planet hopping across the universe in search of your missing pups, aboard a spaceship capable of teleporting them to any number of crazy oddball worlds. "I prefer being in those worlds," Roiland said. "I don't know, the Holy Grail for me is being able to transport people to places."
Despite the game's heavy reliance on sci-fi technologies, Roiland isn't particularly concerned with ensuring they are accurately depicted. He points to the game's "Telepod" teleportation technology as an example. "From a sci-fi standpoint we know this is a device that is essentially the car of the future. You can just get into it, type where you want to go, and then it basically rattles and shakes and the next thing you know the doors open and you're where you wanted to go."
There's no reason, he argues, to dive into explaining exactly how Telepods work, just that they do. "I know on Rick and Morty we had the time where they unfreeze time and they're in trouble because of it. The time starts splitting. That episode we got a little too focused on 'how,' the hows and the science behind it, and oh my God it was, it was spiraling us for sure."
When asked if the team ever just makes up technologies for laughs (looking at you, Plumbus), Roiland responds with a laugh. "Oh, all the time, yeah. A bunch of sci-fi gobbledygook. And it's like, no needs to know."
This irreverence has helped cement Rick and Morty's position as a pop culture icon, while rocketing Roiland and R&M co-creator Dan Harmon to even greater celebrity heights. However the show's popularity, like its protagonist Rick Sanchez, has revealed smatterings of toxic behavior among the show's fans. Like the time that the show used a gag about McDonald's "Szechuan Sauce" and mobs of unruly fans stormed the burger chain's restaurants across the country when it announced that more of the mythical chicken-dipping liquid would be released.
"To see [the fan reaction] turn into what it did. I mean I think it was a little sobering like, 'Oh my God the show's really getting big,'" Roiland said. However, the show's meteoric rise has not changed the team's approach to writing the show. Even with carte blanche from the Adult Swim, there are definitely lines that Roiland won't cross. "I think we know where the line is for us, both in just content, stuff that we don't want to be too edgy or whatever you want to call it, or do something in poor taste. You know what I mean?"
"Every fandom has, you know, it's made up human beings, of people," he continued. "And there's good, bad in every group so we can't worry about that stuff. Our fan base is humanity so, there's a lot of bad shit going on out there. And a lot of good stuff."
That dichotomy also appears to influence Roiland's portrayal of Rick. "I think he's a deeply flawed character, you know." Roiland said. "I mean that's sort of the point when we're working with that character is like, you know, he's got a lot of dark shit under the surface. He's also fun and crazy, there are fun things about him but we're certainly not writing him to be a role model by any stretch of the imagination."
No specific release date has been set for either Trover Saves the Universe or Rick and Morty Season 4. At least we still have these delicious eye holes to hold us over.
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