Crowdfunders needed to set innovative VR game free to fly

A ground-breaking flying concept lies at the heart of a new virtual reality game that a young designer has until October 22 to get crowdfunding backers for.

Dragon still

Players take the role of a dragon and do something that so far has evaded all other VR games – they can flap their arms to fly freely, swooping through the skies.

Alex Spackman, who graduated in the summer with a Computer Games Programming degree from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), is the driving force behind VR game A Dragon’s Tale.

“One big limitation of existing VR is that you can’t go very far,” he explained. “I wanted to break the mould to find a way for people to be free, to explore big open spaces. This hasn’t been done before.

“At the moment there are three ways of getting around in VR; you point to a place and get ‘teleported’ there, you hold down a button and move to a point, or you walk around physically but are limited by the room-space.”

Alex Spackman and James Baxter 1

Flying high: Alex Spackman and James Baxter

As part of his final year project at DMU, Alex wrote code that created ‘fly mechanics’ which lie at the core of the new game.

“You don’t have to move, you can just flap your arms to fly and squeeze the controllers to swoop around. It’s wonderful,” he said.

Alex, 25, from Norwich, joined forces with long-time school-friend James Baxter to set up their Spillage Games company to take A Dragon’s Tale from idea to reality.

They recruited 3D modeller Graham Smith from North Carolina, music composer Imco de Gier from the Netherlands and UK-based animator Rob Munday, as well as several other contractors.

They managed to drum up enough financial backing to work full-time with their team for eight weeks to build the basic structure of the game, create the animated characters, craft the exploration of an interactive world, and master intricacies such as fire-breathing and picking items up.

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“It works, but it’s not finished,” Alex added. “It’s in alpha stage, working pretty well in such a way we can show it off.

“We now need the funds to take it into beta stage, giving versions of it to a limited group to test it.”

They launched their project on global crowdfund platform Kickstarter and have already had more than £4,000 pledged. Backers only pay up their pledge if the full £15,000 target is reached by 10.27am on Monday, October 22.

Backers are promised various rewards, depending on how much they pledge, including some getting to test the beta version and their faces on non player characters.

Dragons tale artwork 4 resized

If successful, the Kickstarter cash would enable the Spillage team to get straight back to full-time work until about January, enough to complete the game and showcase it at a major games convention in the spring.

If they fail, Alex and James, who in the interim have both taken on shop salesman jobs at Game stores near their homes in Norwich, will have to take out loans to move the project on.

Long-term, they hope to either market and sell the game themselves, or attract the attention of a major games publisher. They have already attracted interest (and Kickstarter backers) on the Sony staff in-house social networking groups.

Now they just need crowdfunders to sign up on the Dragon’s Tale Kickstarter page, which gives full details about how to grow your dragon and set it soaring through the skies.

Shoppers in Norwich this Sunday will be able to don a VR headset and test out the game when the team demonstrate their creation between 9am and 5pm on the main floor, to the left of the main entrance.

James, who lives in the south of the city, said: “The entire team put so many hours into this and the work has really paid off.

“We all lived this game over summer, every day we were in contact, planning parts of the game and bouncing creative ideas off each other.

“This is my first time doing anything like this, and every obstacle I ran into or mistake I've made, has been a huge learning experience.”

Dr Jethro Shell, one of Alex’s tutors at DMU, said: “There are some similar products to A Dragon’s Tale in the VR field but the studio Alex has formed are pushing into an area that has only recently become active, and are innovating within it.

“The use of the mechanics for flight captures a motion that VR gamers have yet to experience.”

Posted on Thursday 11th October 2018

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