Blog

Baby Rage Games: An Introduction

My business partners Alex Davis and Billy Cavanaugh started a VR company called 2020xr a little over a year ago. I joined as their CTO in July and have helped on board two more programmers and a 3D artist. This past month we changed our name to Baby Rage Games. We are creating a PC/VR multiplayer cross platform game and we will be releasing a single player version later this year. We are waiting to start development on the multiplayer mode due to Unity’s change in networking tech which is affording our lean team time to experiment and iterate on the design of our single player arcade mode. Our long term plan is to enter the eSports world with our game allowing players to compete either on PC or VR, but still drawing inspiration from the way that new VR games like Onward are hosted at VR tournaments.

From day one we knew we wanted the game to be more or less the same on VR and PC so every time we add a new feature, we have to make sure it works for all platforms. This is resulting in a design approach that is very gameplay focused and not so much VR focused. Unlike other VR devs, we are not trying to add cool VR-only features in our game. In fact, we are stripping them out to create a balanced experience when playing against someone on a PC. Keeping our design simple will allow it to be fun on both platforms.

Sometimes we will go for weeks with out touching a headset and will only test our game with a mouse and keyboard. But inevitably someone will say “Hey does Oculus even work right now?” and we will have to go in and make up for lost time. Here is a screen shot of a test level along side some scripts that we use to toggle between platforms while we develop:

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Our current goal is to wrap up an arcade mode similar to Call of Duty Zombies and get it out on the market as soon as possible. From there we plan to release rolling updates and move forward with the multiplayer mode.

We will be releasing more information soon. Follow us on Twitter or contact us if you have any question.

20/20 XR Update

Since I left Skydance Interactive and the Archangel: Hellfire team to join 20/20 XR I have been working on a new VR/PC cross platform game IP that is currently unannounced. Here is a very early stage screen shot:

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At 20/20 XR I have been spending most of the time doing early stage start-up things: recruiting, planning, setting up the office, doing research on tech that we will be using for our first game, etc… However, for the first few weeks in August I worked on a VR architecture walk through prototype which we are still shopping around in order to close deals with real estate developers. This would allow us to extend the runway for our original game development. All of the art is “programmer art” for both of these screen shots so pardon their lack of quality.

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Book Recommendation: For anyone interested in learning how to motivate your employees in the year 2018, check out “Drive” by Daniel H. Pink.

 

Archangel: Hellfire Update

I recently wrapped up Archangel: Hellfire with the team at Skydance Interactive. It is currently available to play as a beta and the full free release will be available July 17th 2018.

Archangel: Hellfire is a valuable case study because we were forced to push against the grain of standard VR first person shooter games. Hellfire’s premise (as a cockpit-based mech game) allowed us to focus a lot of our development time on game design rather than VR specific feature development. By dialing back the amount of simulation and touch control based interactions, and iterating on combat mechanics, movement systems, and multiplayer gameplay experience, we discovered several valuable, yet subtle secrets to VR game development that I will cover in this section.

With a limited timeline and budget for the game, we wanted to create something that got as close to a classic first person shooter as possible. We wanted to create a fast paced, tactical experience that felt familiar and fun to play, but also complex enough for a high level of replay-ability. The last thing we wanted to see was people taking off the headset after a couple minutes and saying “That was cool, I have never experienced something like that before.

No. We wanted to see people slam the headset on the ground, scream “what the f–k”, get pissed at their opponents, and say “Put me in again so I can avenge myself.” We wanted people to get competitive as hell. We wanted to push the VR eSports universe to the next level.

And even though we wanted these things – we knew it was going to be hard to get them, simply because of the fact that relatively few people actually own headsets today. However, whatever time players would spend in Archangel: Hellfire, we would make it as intense as possible. We would set a benchmark for competitive game play in the VR space.

I will talk more about the development of Archangel: Hellfire in my upcoming book: Silicon Beach GameDev. Follow me on instagram for further updates.

Book Recommendation: “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari, for a deep historical look at the evolution of the human being as well as the society and ideology that surrounds it. Many intriguing patterns and perspectives on human kind are revealed here, all of which are incredibly relevant today.

What is Ambrose Hunter?

I have started a new video game project in collaboration with my friend Dylan Cinti – this project is called Ambrose Hunter. Ambrose Hunter is the story of a video game developer slash entrepreneur making his way in Los Angeles. My friend Dylan is writing the novel portion of the project, and I am making the video game portion. There are aspects of Ambrose Hunter that can be considered experimental infotainment because they double as a professional advice – including a free eBook we will be releasing called Rules of the Gamedev.

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Dylan and I worked together on an interactive film project, Profiles of the Forgotten. Now, we are combining our talents in a new way – literature alongside a video game.

Technologically, Ambrose Hunter will be cannibalizing my past two video game projects,  reusing the driving code and character code of one and the other. I will also be adding new systems which have not been implemented in prior games, including a save system, a time system (time is always passing and there is a night/day cycle) as well as an open world exploration model – you will be able to explore areas without being forced to do anything in particular, but there will also be missions and characters for you to meet. You will also be attacked by homeless people and infested by cockroaches.

In other news, I have been working on a multiplayer update to Archangel VR at Skydance Interactive. I will be releasing a VR Game Design eBook that talks about the development process therein, going into the details of network programming, VR design, and overcoming obstacles of VR development.

Stay tuned – more updates to come.

Book Recommendation: Edmund Burke’s “A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful”, for a analytical breakdown of how the mind appreciates art and literature with a focus on the elements of terror, uncertainty, fear, and negative aspects of life as the core constituents of emotional experience.

The State of VR 2017

I recently published a new vlog called The State of VR 2017. I have been working on the ideas for a couple months and honed them down to an 8 minute video. I feel strongest about my ideas regarding consumer applications, and those come toward the end of the video. My ideas on video game design venture into the realm of aesthetics and may not be as useful to the general public. I hope you enjoy the vlog, here it is:

Book Recommendation: “Real Time Rendering” by Thomas Akenine Moller, for anyone looking to understand the fundamentals of math based game programming and 3D graphics.

 

 

VR + AR Telepresence Applications

Paul Graham states that a product needs to be wanted/needed by the customer…desperately…like a child with a cut finger needs a band-aid, the need must be strong as possible in order for the product to succeed. If you want to sell a band aid, go to a kitchen full of sharp knives with many cooks working under pressure…. Etc..

What does a person want/need ordinarily?

  • To be with his family
  • To live in a comfortable place
  • To do well at work

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Unfortunately, these things conflict with one another. Families are expensive, work is hard to find, and comfortable places are not always where the work is. Many companies exist in places that are not ideal for raising families, like New York City. Say you run a company in NYC, but wanted to live with your family in Colorado. How would your family take it if you had to travel to New York every week? Your children would miss you, your partner would grow unhappy, and your life would be painful – and on the other hand, if you worked remotely from Colorado, your company would lack your leadership presence.

 

Right now, many working people have long commutes and travel which actively detriment the things that matter most to them, many people are forced to live in cities they despise because of the localization of certain industries.

 

What if we could introduce a technology that could alleviate the suffering that comes with long commutes, travel, and uncomfortable domestic situations? Well, it is called AR/VR, and it already exists. What we will discover is that the greatest strength AR/VR possesses is that of allowing the telecommunication of HUMAN PRESENCE in a way that surpasses all pre-existing communication technologies, it will change what it means to be AN EMPLOYEE, to be IN THE OFFICE, it will change what it means to BE, at least within reasonably effective limits.

 

As it stands now, there is a major issue with remote work: communication. Most remote work style communication is done via text, video, or audio. These are all subpar to sitting down face to face with a team member, and while they suffice for relaying directives and specific instructions, they fall short in the realms of creativity, collaboration, spontaneity, and empathy. VR/AR can capture 95% of a human presence and represent it in 3D space – only in the realms of touch and smell does it truly fall short – both of which are not usually important aspects of work life.

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If we can simulate the presence between two people in a room we can increase the collaborative potential of remote work ten fold and cut costs on travel, real estate, and improve QOL on all employees. Imagine that you work at a web design company – you could have a remote meeting with a client and bring her into your office for a virtual white boarding session where you could both write on the same white board while looking each other in the eye. The level of communication and understanding would completely trump that of a Skype call by relaying facial expression, hand gestures, and human presence. This would allow for unrestrained collaboration without the cost of travel, and an expedited communication of expectations with the client – ultimately resulting in a cleanly executed development process.

 

The ultimate success of AR/VR will be in telecommunicating human presence and physical space, this will be able to unlock the most important aspects of human communication: collaboration, creativity, spontaneity, and empathy for use across a network in ways that will expedite and improve the quality of remote work, delocalize industries, and give liberty to professionals to live where they want and work where they want.

Book Recommendation: “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki, for anyone looking for an introduction into how to think like a rich person.

The VR Advantage

What I have learned after examining VR video games is that they are not enhanced by AR/VR in a meaningful way.

I believe that interactive systems are highly functional when they use their input systems to effectively communicate information and allow users to interact with that information in a natural, intuitive way.

Looking at all of the games I have played in VR, the only ones that have made we want to come back for a second go are the multiplayer games. In fact, the first VR project I made was a multiplayer game.

When you play a multiplayer game, another human is sending you information and communicating with you in a way that makes you engaged and interested. The difference between a VR multiplayer game and a regular multiplayer game is that you get access to a deeper amount of information about the player on the other side than you could with just a computer, and this information is entirely to do with their BODY and HUMAN PRESENCE.

After reading books like Charisma Myth and People Skills, it becomes very clear that human communication is about much more than just the words you say, but rather the posture you maintain, the hand gestures you make, the pauses in your speech, the eye contact you transmit. VR/AR has the potential to capture all of these expressions and represent them in virtual space, and this is the true advantage of VR/AR over regular computers.

A single player game will not be superior in VR than on a screen, because no game will ever be able to be designed to interpret the minutiae of human expression and use it in a system of deep game mechanics. Only a human or AI can interpret this sort of information in a useful way, games only require simple binary inputs on behalf of the user because they are essentially static systems whose depth is not built on deep input but rather on shallow input being processed in a variety of contexts. This is not to say that single player games are not fun experiences in VR, it is to say that they are not evolved or more game-like.

I believe that the ultimate strength of VR/AR will come from humans coming together in virtual environments and communicating through immersive interactive systems, utilizing the complex input data generated with AR/VR in conjunction with creative and analytical VR tools that can help record and capture the communication between people. This will not only drive the success of remote work and telecommunication, but will also allow for new modes of streamlined, uninhibited human collaboration – two people will be able to draw on a white board at once while overlapping in virtual space. The ability to learn, collaborate, and instruct from remote spaces will see a major improvement and the distance between individuals will impede their work life communication and collaboration less than ever before.

I will be expanding on this topic with much greater detail in an upcoming video presentation, please stay tuned.

Book Recommendation: “Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami, for anyone interested in Japanese history, surrealism, madness, and what is perhaps one of Murakami’s best works.