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Kite & Lightning Talks Bebylon Battle Royale, VR eSports and More

Kite & Lightning is finally making a full virtual reality (VR) videogame. The developer, known for its work on popular VR experiences such as Senza Peso, last week announced Bebylon Battle Royale for the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. Featuring an unusual premise, stylised characters and a focus on multiplayer, it promises to be unlike anything the studio has worked on before. As such, VRFocus spoke to the developer itself to learn more about the project.

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In the interview below Kite & Lightning’s Cory Strassburger talks about the basic concept for the title, explaining how the customisation might work. He also touches about the spectating aspect of Bebylon Battle Royale and if it might be considered an eSport in the future.

VRFocus: Can you tell us a bit about Bebylon Battle Royale?

Cory Strassburger (CS): So it’s a multiplayer vehicular melee brawler that takes place in this world called Bebylon which is filled with a bunch of eccentric bebies from the future.

VRFocus: So a multiplayer vehicular brawler… what does that mean?

CS: It means that you’ve got vehicles and you’ve got babies on these vehicles and they’re battling each other. And one of the fun parts is that it’s a first-person and third-person game kinda like [Epic Games’] Couch Knights where you’re in an avatar, a baby avatar, your opponents are in baby avatars and it’s basically like a remote control vehicle and you’ve got this arena front of you.

And the possibilities within that space are pretty dramatically grey. We’ve played with a whole spectrum of different types of gameplay within that space and even bouncing between first-person avatar and first-person into your vehicle and back. And so there’s nothing we’re committing to on that front yet but there’s going to be a lot of interesting gameplay dynamics within one game.

VRFocus: How does the control system work? Is it like a MotorStorm RC kind of experience?

CS: Yeah, it’s very similar, yeah. At this point they’re hover vehicles, so you’ve kind of got that hover craft dynamic. You’ve got the weapons and things like that. And, yeah, it’s very much like a remote control.

VRFocus: How does that translate when you’ve also got to worry about what your opponent is doing?

CS: Are you saying when it’s still third-person?

VRFocus: Yes

CS: Well it’s going to be a long process I think of just dialling things in. Like as we lock down the scale of the worlds, as we lock down on the spatial relationships with things in the world and the gameplay itself in terms of battling and the manuverability, I think we’re going to be dialling in that stuff for months I think before we lock down on what feels good.

VRFocus: How does the combat work?

CS: So, as of now, the combat is – you know, it’s a comedy based game, right? So instead of shooting missiles and guns our versions of those are going to be very like comedic weapons, like weapons of humiliation. And there’s a whole spectrum of the types of damage that those will do. But generally speaking, you know, as you start the game you’re going to like pick your arsenal of different things strategically depending on sort of your opponent or what level you’re at and then, for the most part, you’ve got the fundamental aspect of battling your opponent in terms of like health degradation. But you also have like ego points and things that sort of inspire showmanship.

So if you’re able to do a crazy knock down but at the same time taking a selfie-type thing you get ego points, you get showmanship points. That that’s kind of how you have an effect on the game as well, so that’s like the dual components, I guess.

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VRFocus: So are those a currency or just a score?

CS: There’s probably going to be some level of a currency system because there’s a big component of materialist qualities to the world and to the characters and to being the badass beby in Bebylon. So being able to buy fur coats and colours and an entourages and all these things are like a big component. So there’s going to be some level of currency. But as of now the ego points system is something that we haven’t fully fleshed out. So it’s going to be something that coincides with the money system and the damage system.

VRFocus: Can you talk a bit about that customisation?

CS: Again, a lot of this stuff is to be determined in terms of the amount of that makes it in the first game but the idea is that there’s two levels to this, right? There’s basic avatar customisation, there’s basic vehicle customisation, there’s definitely choosing your weapons and things? But then on the comedy front it’s kind of like a lot of the weapons – almost like the bare minimum example would be like in Joan of Arc, if you ever saw The Messenger, the English were attacking the French and they were writing messages on these cannon balls that they were like flinging over there.

And it was like this base level of something that was funny and personalising these weapons. So at a base level you’re going to be able to customise your weapons, make them more funny and fuse images into them, record voices into them. And those can actually – if they’re really effective with the right weapon – you could actually make your opponent laugh and maybe laugh really hard, in which case you could take advantage of that opportunity. I think if that becomes a strong part of gameplay, it’s like the funniest guy really is getting these advantages, that would be awesome maybe.

But it’s like we’re trying to fuse a lot of this open creativity into the game to sort of see what comes out of it, what people gravitate towards in terms of being funny and fusing their thing into it.

VRFocus: Do you see a future in sharing these creations online?

CS: Yeah, for sure. I think so, yeah. I mean, right now, it’s like there’s almost no limits in thinking about that aspect to it because the world just embodies so many awesome potential things like that that I think we want to at least be thinking about right now or actually putting in there if it makes sense.

VRFocus: I have to ask about microtransactions. Are you going to be offering these things for real world money?

CS: We haven’t locked down on that. We’ve obviously talked a lot about it. We’ve talked about every sort of possibility at this point but we just haven’t figured out how we’re going to approach that.

VRFocus: Let’s talk about spectators. When they’re in a match do they all sit around a table in VR?

CS: There’s that potential, yeah. I mean from my standpoint the more realistic it is or has the potential to be the better. So that would be an option. The other option is that, because there’s sort of this miniature world, you can actually as a spectator jump on these kind of floating buses, and those buses kind of shrink into the game. They become a part of the level. So you could actually sit and spectate with other people on these things inside a level and that thing can kind of move around and follow the action and things like that.

VRFocus: Will they have a level of interactivity? Like in a wrestling match where someone throws in a chair?

CS: That’s the idea. We definitely want to have the spectators be able to influence the outcome of the game. To what degree? Not sure. But definitely that’s an exciting thing for us.

VRFocus: So this almost sounds like an eSport. Is that something you’ve considered?

CS: It does seem so, right? I mean, at its core, we’ve got the game. But as you start thinking about these other layers it really does start to embody a lot of those qualities. I mean, a lot of – most people who do eSport games are like ‘Don’t game a game first. Don’t make a game out of a game that’s meant to be an eSport game, even though this seems like it really wants to be that.’ But, again, we want to make it fun and dynamic even if there’s no players in there and in that world. You’re still going to have this sense of people watching the spectating aspect to it. And if people are able to start filling in that world and it becomes something that would be awesome.

Because to me it’s like if the comedy’s really there and people are having a lot of fun with it, it’s just going to be a treasure trove for people just going in there and recording these things virtually like camera men, you know? If you’re like a spectator and you actually want to earn some points by shooting some killer videos of these top matches and editing them together, we want to try and make that a possibility.

VRFocus: Will spectators be able to bring their own avatars into the world?

CS: That’s a good question. Whatever it is out of the gate, what it eventually wants to become is that, for sure, you can – I mean even out of the gate I can’t imagine we’d do the spectator version that everyone’s going to look the same. You’re going to be able to customise to a certain degree.

VRFocus: How are you going to operate this online? Surely there’ll be expensive server costs.

CS: Yeah, that’s a good question for Ikrima. He’s been literally for the last two or three months going down those roads. I think we have a pretty good grasp on how we’re going to approach that and do that but I couldn’t give you any good details because I don’t know.

VRFocus: So which VR headsets are you aiming for?

CS: So we’re definitely aiming for all the desktop VR headsets. So it will be a PC game out of the gate and then potentially a PlayStation game. In whatever order is still up in the air.

VRFocus: So that’s Rift, Vive and PlayStation VR potentially. How’s development for those different HMDs going so far?

CS: It’s definitely just a fundamental pain in the ass with all the different change overs in the SDKs. But so far it hasn’t been – and we haven’t gotten into anything on the PS4 – but as far as the Vive and Oculus there hasn’t been any major hurdles.

VRFocus: Presumably that’s because you have experience in VR already?

CS: Potentially, yeah.

VRFocus: You’ve mentioned an open development process. Can you tell us a bit about that?

CS: Yeah, I think Ikrima has more in his mind on the details on that. But fundamentally I think we definitely want to share the conceptual stuff. We want to share once we actually get through things, potentially some movies, some bits of gameplay, we want to put that stuff out there and just start a feedback loop. I think from one standpoint we’re just a couple of dudes. Obviously we’re going to ramp up our team soon, but it’s like just getting some energy flowing and people kind of commenting on a lot of this stuff we’re interested in.

And then down the road certainly we’re going to have to open up some sort of a beta thing. I was considering some early access stuff but we haven’t really locked down on how far we’re going to go or how soon we’re going to go with that.

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