Dallas-based gaming studio Playful Corp. might not be a household name just yet, but it’s made-for-virtual reality platform game Lucky’s Tale is already on the radar after it was chosen to be bundled for free with every single Oculus Rift headset that’s sold.
The story of how Playful founder and VR game designer Paul Bettner hooked up with Oculus Rift is the subject of a brilliantly insightful piece over at UploadVR and serves as inspiration to any budding entrepreneur to never stop chasing their dreams. Bettner, who earlier created the popular iPhone game Words with Friends that was acquired by Zynga for $180 million in 2010, was so taken by the the concept of VR that he became one of the original investors in Oculus Rift when it was still looking for money on Kickstarter – indeed, he was just one of seven backers who pledged the full $5,000, enough to secure him a trip to Oculus’ headquarters for a tour.
None of this would have happened though if not for Bettner’s relationship with fellow entrepreneur and personal friend John Carmack, another person who also had big hopes and big ideas around the concept of VR. UploadVR relates how Bettner and Carmack met several times to discuss virtual reality and their ideas for what it could achieve, and it was during one of these conversations that Bettner was suddenly convinced and decided to back Oculus Rift all the way.
The rest, as they say, is history – Bettner went to meet the Oculus Rift team at their HQ, explained who he was, and immediately setup his own games studio (Playful Corp.) to begin making games for the Rift.
The article relates how Bettner and his new colleagues spent the best part of 2013 producing dozens of prototype games for the Rift, and it was around this time that Oculus really began to take off – grabbing $16 million in Series A funding in June 2013, followed by $75 million in December of the same year.
Meanwhile at Playful, Bettner and his colleagues had created over 40 titles for the Rift at this point, including a prototype called Super Capsule Bros. that would later evolve into Lucky’s Tale. To begin with, few people at Playful believed Super Capsule Bros. would make the grade because no one really thought VR was the right medium for classic platform-style games. How wrong they were.
While the guys at Playful were initially skeptical about the type of game this was, they quickly realized why this concept worked: After decades touring the worlds of their favorite platformers (like Mario’s Mushroom Kingdom), they finally felt like they got to a place like this and explore. What they saw in that Super Capsule Bros. prototype was the first — and, still to this day, the only — VR experience that allowed for continuous, free-form locomotion through a virtual landscape without causing motion sickness. Or, put in terms that the kid inside of each of them was shouting through their skulls: magic.