VR, lies, and video games: the weird origin story of Accounting+

VR, lies, and video games: the weird origin story of Accounting+

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You might be shocked to know that one of the most perfect work marriages in the gaming world – Stanley Parable designer William Pugh and Rick and Morty creator Justin Roiland – is built on a foundation of lies. Sitting down to speak with them about the virtual reality mindfuck that is Accounting+ on PSVR, I learned the grisly details of the birth their relationship. 

“This is true,” says Roiland. “I was in a building, and I was going down in the elevator and a couple of guys were in there. They just looked like video game people. They got out and I saw that it was Respawn studios, and I’m like ‘Titanfall, holy shit!’ So I tweet out, ‘Does anybody work at Respawn? Because I’m in your building.’ So William sees it and he responds…”

“Yeah sure, follow me, I work at Respawn,” adds Pugh. 

Roiland mimes taking out his phone: “So I follow him, we start DMing; I’m like ‘Dude, I’m in your building.'” Pugh buries his face in his hands.

“It was at this point I realized my plan had hit a problem…” Pugh laments. “So I had to send an apology.”

“But that’s for real how we met,” nods Roiland. “And then I realized who he was, and that he made The Stanley Parable, which is a game that I fucking love. I had to say ‘I don’t care that you lied, I don’t give a shit’; he came clean right away.”

The anarchic start to the relationship was the perfect bedrock for creating the utter insanity that is Accounting+ (which is available in an earlier form on HTC Vive as plain old Accounting). The game leads you through a series of rooms and scenarios including car chases, courtroom scenes, and being told to fuck off by a weird creature in a tree. It’s manic and strange and breathless but incredibly funny. You haven’t really laughed until you’ve done it with your head encased in a plastic headset. 

“The best stuff is the stuff that isn’t too over-thought, at least in the comedic sense,” says Roiland. “Game design can be overthought a little bit – you want to make sure it’s sticky and it feels good, but this game is very simple. The gamey side of Accounting+ is very basic, but then there’s all the narrative crazy voices and all that.”

It’s an approach that works for Pugh, too, which was clear in The Stanley Parable. “My whole thing is taking what would’ve traditionally been called a game and stripping away as many parts of it as possible, until you’ve just got a pure interaction,” he says. “That provides a really good platform for people’s individual creative voices to be on top of that. Sometimes that’s mine in the projects I do by myself; when working with Justin, it gives a lot of space for ideas and themes and style.”

Part of the game’s success comes from talented voice actors who loved to improvise. “I did write the whole cop exchange and some of the stuff in the demon summoning,” explains Roiland. “There were chunks, but I was always encouraging the voice actors to go off book, go crazy, do a bunch of random shit. Everybody in the cast – that’s what they want to do, and do really well. For one gang scene, the cast improvised over two-and-a-half hours of chitchat, a chunk of which made it into the game.” 

“In the end, that room, you could sit there for 35 minutes and just listen. They talk about porn, or about you drinking alcohol,” laughs Pugh. 

“Even if you just pick up the alcohol they will go on and on, and if you drink it, that changes to a new conversation,” points out Roiland.    

Watching Pugh and Roiland riff off one another, it’s exciting to think what they could come up with next – and Roiland says they “definitely” plan to collaborate again in the future. “I like to work with people I think are amazing, and then it’s just easy,” says Roiland. 

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