#300: Defining the VR Platformer with Lucky’s Tale

paul-bettnerPaul Bettner is anxiously waiting for the Oculus Rift to launch so that he can finally see how real people react to what he’s been pouring his heart into over the past three years. Playful Corp’s Lucky’s Tale is going to be bundled with every Oculus Rift, and he’s biting his nails waiting to see how it will be received. The early indications are that it’s going to be a beloved platformer game that people associate as one of their earliest VR gaming experiences, which is why a lot of people have been saying that it’s the The Super Mario Brothers of VR. It’s a surprisingly immersive, incredibly compelling, and just a super fun game to play, and helps to define the genre of a VR platformer, which is why Oculus wanted to bundle it for free to everyone who buys a Rift.

I had the chance to catch up with Paul during the Sundance Film Festival to talk about the finishing polish on Lucky’s Tale & tuning the sweet spot of VR, what they’re working on next with the $25 million dollars they’ve raised, reflections on this moment leading up to the launch of the Rift, how far they’ve come over the past 3.5 years, and how this journey of the VR revolution all started for him.


This is the episode 300th of the Voices of VR podcast!

Over the past two years, I’ve published a total of 90 hours & 28 minutes of content, which would take 3.8 days straight to listen to it all. The average length of a podcast is 18 minutes and 6 seconds, and I’ve covered the following 11 different professional VR conferences from around the world:

  • 2014: Inaugural Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Conference, Immersion 2014, & Oculus Connect 1
  • 2015: Game Developers Conference, IEEE VR, Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Conference, Oculus Connect 2, Seattle VR Expo, & VRX VR Intelligence
  • 2016: Sundance, & Unity AR/VR Vision Summit

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Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast.

[00:00:11.973] Paul Bettner: My name is Paul Bettner. I'm the founder and CEO at Playful Corp. And what's happening for us is we are a couple months away from the launch of Lucky's Tale. So we have a studio of about 40 people, a little bit north of Dallas. And we've been working on this game now for several years with Oculus. And we're just getting ready to show the world.

[00:00:33.957] Kent Bye: Yeah, I was helping curate some VR experiences at the XOXO Festival and I got an access to a demo and I played that one level for like four hours because it was just so fun. It just reminded me of the joy of like a platformer game. And so I can just make a prediction right now that this is going to be like a huge hit because it's going to be kind of like the Super Mario of the NES. It's going to be the thing that is bundled with each of the Oculus Rift. So what's that feel like?

[00:01:03.042] Paul Bettner: We'll see how it feels in a couple months if that ends up happening. I mean, if people react to it that way, that would just be the greatest honor and the thing that I certainly would be the most excited to experience and everyone at the studio is just so thrilled with that potential because, you know, we've had a lot of experiences like what you just described. We go to trade shows and we've shown the game to several people. I'm sorry you had to play one level for four hours. That's kind of rough. But last one I think we did was PAX and PAX was actually really great because it was a lot of It's not as much industry people, it's kind of fans, basically, is what the PAX convention is like. And people would come up to the booth and they'd be so skeptical. Because even if you see it in motion, and I think people have seen it on YouTube and such, you know, people can have this reaction of like, what's the big deal? Like, I don't get it. It just looks like a platformer. Why would I want to play that in VR? Why do I even want to have a third-person experience in VR? And then they would put it on, they'd play that level for 10 minutes, and they would just take it off and they would have a similar description to what you just said. They would say, this is like the very first time that, like, I had this moment when I was a kid and I would play that packed-in Nintendo game, you know, Mario, or Mario 64. People use that analogy all the time with the game. And there was this magic that I experienced as a kid, and I didn't think I could experience that again until I played Bucky's Tale. And people say that, and that's just the most incredible thing to hear. And even though we've been working on the game, when I do sit down and play it, I have that same feeling. And I can't wait to see if that does scale out. If once real consumers get their hands on it in just a couple months, if they say that same thing, that's just going to be the most incredible moment for us.

[00:02:38.967] Kent Bye: Yeah, back at GDC in 2015, I had an opportunity to play Lucky's Tale for the first time and talk to you and Dan Hurd, and I think that interview for me was a moment where you're talking about the sweet spot of VR, which in academic terms, you know, Mark Bolas might call it near-field VR, but, you know, these different ways of talking about having something within arm's length away, just ends up being super compelling and you know my experience is that it just kind of this is something that we've never really been able to experience before to be able to have that much dynamic interactive action with something that is like this little toy that fills me with a lot of wonder and awe because it just there's something about that magic of that sweet spot that is kind of activating all these neurons in our brain that had never really been activated in this way before.

[00:03:26.154] Paul Bettner: It's funny, you know, we didn't really have much of a choice in some ways because as we were working on a variety of different VR experiences early on with Oculus and we tried to just kind of let go our expectations because some of the early things we were trying just really weren't working, you know. I remember one of the early ideas, we said, oh, it'd be so cool to fly on the back of like an eagle like 10,000 feet above the earth. And then we tried it and it was like, well, everything just seems really far away. And like the eagle is cool, but everything else is, you know. And as we started working on these experiences, we just discovered that it was just so much more enjoyable when things were brought in close to you. And that sort of forced us to build the game in a certain way. And it's several things that are going on at once. There's what you described, the arm's length experience where our character is right there. We have a camera calibration step that aims to have, if you're sitting in a chair, Lucky is right on your knee. So his feet literally touch your knee, and what we do is we take the headset off and put the surface of the lens right on your knee, and that's where his feet should clip right through the lens. Then we know that he's in the right position. But there's this other thing that actually happens as a nice side effect, which is the world gets shrunk down and everything becomes this kind of toy-like experience like you described. I actually think at last GDC, I had a brief conversation with Gabe Newell at Steam about this, and he had gotten a chance to play Lucky's Tale, I guess, and he had played several other things. And he coined it the little people effect, which, you know, because in some of the Valve demos, they have these little tiny paper people, and there's just something in our brain is really tickled by little intricate things come to life. And so Lucky's Tale has kind of both that. It has this arm's reach, and then it also has this feeling of being inside of a toy world where all these little things have come to life right around you.

[00:05:08.327] Kent Bye: Yeah, it's something that I remember just playing it for the first time at GDC and I was just giggling. So I just I thought I was gonna play like one level and stop but I just like couldn't stop. I just had to see all the levels and so yeah, I mean for my that experience and you know, I'm somebody who did video games in high school stopped probably around 1994 and for a good 20 years didn't do anything and then so I For me to kind of pick up a controller again and sort of feel that magic of wanting to just get completely lost and immersed in a game, my own personal experience of that, I just expect that when things get released out there that you're going to see a lot of people who probably haven't touched games in a long time play the game and sort of find it oddly compelling in that way.

[00:05:54.588] Paul Bettner: So we were talking about this earlier, you were mentioning the four quadrants of VR and you just have these different types of VR experiences. Something that I'm really starting to wrap my head around now that we've been working on Lucky's Tale for a while and we're thinking about what comes next and what other experiences we might be able to work on. There's something that I think people are gonna see in Lucky's Tale and several other titles that are in similar kind of third-person experiences when the Rift comes out. It's the true experience of being inside of a game. So there are several other VR experiences where, okay, I'm in a spaceship or I'm in a race car and really what they're doing is they're giving you the true sensation of being in a race car or a spaceship or what have you. What Lucky's Tale is doing is it's putting you inside of the experience that you had playing a game as a kid, that what was happening in your head, now you're actually inside that sort of imagination world that you inhabited as a kid when you were playing the game on your TV. And that's actually a very different experience than, say, being in a race car in first person. And I think Lucky's Tale, I think, pays a lot of attention to that because, like you said, the scale of the world, the style of the characters, the camera, Everything that we've done has been designed to evoke that feeling as strongly as possible of this is what I always expected it might feel like if I actually was in the games of my childhood and You know everything the art style the music the sound effects. Everything is designed to evoke that feeling

[00:07:20.945] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think that, you know, the thing that comes to mind talking about first-person versus third-person perspective is that probably the most important podcast interview that I've done up to this point, that I would point everybody to go listen to if they haven't yet, is the one that I did with Richard Skarbez at IEEE VR. And he's talking about the two main components of presence being the place illusion and the plausibility illusion. With the place being like you're in another place and the plausibility that it's coherent. It makes sense It's a world that you believe that you're actually there and that There's a sense that you have some sort of agency in that world and I think having a character that you're moving around and you see that direct correlation between you know moving the joystick and moving around and is enough and you don't necessarily need to have to actually have your hands within the VR experience, which I think a lot of people, at least for me especially, used to think that that was the only way to have that true sense of presence. But, you know, you're kind of doing that in Lucky's Tale. And so one of the other things that Richard said was that the Uncanny Valley is n-dimensional. Meaning that if you're doing one of these first-person perspective experiences, then you have to do all the haptics, all the sound, all the stuff that if you try to crank up the realism past 10 to 11 on the visuals, then you're going to expect all the sound, the smell, the response to that. What I get from what you're saying here is that you're kind of like picking that sweet spot of all dimensions of the music and the graphic style is very stylized. It's got this distinct art, and it's not something that looks like it's a real thing. It's like you're in this imaginal world, and I think that this is one of the things that virtual reality has the most power for is to be able to take us into these imaginal worlds that would be literally impossible without seeing it within VR.

[00:09:02.690] Paul Bettner: And you know, the way that has happened, continues to happen in the case of Lucky's Tale, is that it's actually just what you said. I've used that phrase myself. I'd call it the VR uncanny valley, because at least in our industry, uncanny valley generally meant like a creepy looking face, you know, like trying to recreate an avatar that looked like a human. But what I've seen in VR is that you have this experience, you look down and OK, there's your legs, but they're not in the right place because we're not tracking your legs. And that's weird. And it takes you out of the experience. As we've been building Lucky's Tale, we've been so sensitive to those things that break that feeling of comfort, and we've just yanked them out. Like, we've tried several things. We've ended up avoiding things that we can't make ideal. So that's why you don't see yourself. It would be awkward anyway, because you're so much bigger than Lucky and you're huge in the world. And the world is shrunk down to this very comfortable scale and the motion of the character, the way the camera works. So, you know, we tried several experiments early on where, you know, we said, well, what if this was more of this free roaming thing and I want to be able to go this direction and that direction. And what if I can just rotate the camera around a little bit, move it around, pivot it around lucky. And that stuff broke our cardinal rule of comfort and we yanked it out of the game. And what we ended up doing is coming up with our own unique language for level design so that it does feel more freeform. There's definitely a sense of exploration in the game, especially in the later levels that we haven't shown off yet. We've found several ways to make it feel even more like the open-ended kind of platforming games that are my personal favorites, the Mario Galaxies, Super Mario 64, those games. But the camera is always behind Lucky. We don't ever rotate or yaw or do anything like that. The camera is only allowed to move at a certain speed. And so actually, I don't know if you noticed, Lucky can get a little bit ahead of you, and then it'll start to catch up. It'll drift slowly. And we actually break several rules of What's supposed to be a comfortable in VR and you really can't do a lot of this stuff in first person But the fact that you're watching a character move around and your eyes are fixed on that focus that really increases that sense of comfort and you know We really discovered a lot of these things by accident in some ways by just trying something that seemed obvious and then saying, well, OK, that should have worked, but it doesn't. So what can we do now? And what you see in the end result in Lucky's Tale is a series of those decisions that have come together to create an experience that feels exactly like you'd expect it to. You know, like, oh, yeah, of course, it's obvious. This is exactly how a platformer should be. But it wasn't at all. You know, like the fact that Lucky is 10 inches tall or so in real life. you know, real units. And, you know, if I had asked you before you played Lucky's Tale, how big do you think Mario is? Like really, if you met him, how big is he? And you might've said, well, he's probably like four or five feet tall, you know, I don't know. But we tried that and it's super awkward. Like his head is giant, you know, he's like, it's just like, oh my gosh, that's super creepy. I don't want to be anywhere near that. And as soon as we shrunk it down to 10 or inches, all of a sudden your brain is like, yep, That's what was happening in my imagination when I was a kid and I was playing. I never realized it, but that's what I expected. I guess Mario's really tiny, you know? And everything kind of has clicked together that way as we've focused on trying to be as natural and comfortable with the game as possible.

[00:12:14.337] Kent Bye: Yeah, and in playing the game for four hours, part of the thing that I was doing is I was kind of like making up my own games and rules. Like, one of them was that I was going to try to not collect any coins on the first level, which is actually super hard. It's really hard. But I was able to do it in segments, but not in one continuous run. But that just sort of brings up, that seems like a game where you could legitimately create these different milestones or different things to kind of do. Is that something that you're Are you planning on trying to integrate to get that replay factor for people to keep coming back and replaying levels that they may have already seen?

[00:12:45.517] Paul Bettner: We totally are. And we haven't actually shown this yet because I think we haven't been to a trade show since we have kind of finally implemented this. But now in the game, the kind of progression between levels is more like a Mario Galaxy or a Mario 64 type of structure where you actually need to collect. You can kind of free form play a collection of levels, like three or four levels. and then you hit a gate and you can't go past that gate unless you collect a certain number of things and so you kind of have to go back if you haven't already and revisit some of the places you have and with different objectives so there's not a ton of different objectives yet and that's something we definitely would like to expand on too in the future but but there are several different things you can do in the levels now and they kind of reconfigure themselves a little bit and it's things that people have experienced before some of them so like there's a mode where you can go and hunt for all the red coins in a level and try to find, you know, a certain number of those. And what we found was just playing through a level like three or four minutes long and then you're done, or I mean, our levels are actually long enough, like eight, ten minutes. It's not enough, especially with these worlds. You're like, you don't want to immediately go on, you want to go back in there, kind of like what you've shared. And so we finally have found a way to actually integrate that in the gameplay and it doesn't feel arbitrary because it just feels so much fun to go back into the level and to experience it again with a different perspective and with a different set of objectives.

[00:14:07.372] Kent Bye: And I would imagine that there is a point where you had to make a decision to whether or not you were going to bundle Lucky's Tale into all of the Oculus. And I'd imagine that decision went something like, I'm going to either not do that and hope that we're going to sell enough to match that potential, or we're going to have it bundled so that everybody's going to at least have it and see it, and we may take less money because of that. So talk about that moment of having to make that decision.

[00:14:34.025] Paul Bettner: Yeah, well, I think you summed it up pretty well, actually. We did, you know, kind of really internalize that decision and think a lot about it, because ultimately what we wanted more than anything was for as many people as possible to play Lucky's Tale. And I actually remember the whiteboard that was full of all this math and these formulas of, like, attach rate and tie ratio. But at the end of the day, I reached out to Brendan at Oculus, and we talked about it. what we kind of understood together was, look, we've been working on this a long time together. And really, I mean, we have been working with Oculus from the very beginning, from before the beginning. And, you know, they believe so much in what we were doing and we believe in what they were doing. And we said, you know, this would be the way for us to really see this all the way, like kind of from the beginning to now and all the way. And also the formulas on the whiteboard showed us that this would be the way that most people would play the game. And, you know, Brendan, he's said it before, and that Lucky's Tale is, if not his favorite, one of his favorite experiences in VR. And to have that level of support from him, and he has such a, he's such the biggest fan of the game. Like, he loves it for the right reasons, which is that it's, I think, one of the better experiences you can give somebody for their first time in VR. It's delightful, it's bright, it's colorful. And, you know, he saw all these things in it that did evoke that kind of nostalgia to when Nintendo packed games in and that kind of thing. And he really wanted that, and we wanted that. And so we decided to go for it. And that really wasn't a long time ago. That was a fairly recent thing. And we knew we were hoping to get there, but we hadn't fully committed to it. And we did, and Oculus has truly lived up to their end of that in terms of just getting out there and telling people this is the game we really believe in. My greatest hope is that now when people play the game, they say, this is, I saw somebody on Reddit say this, and this is what I'd hope to see most. But basically their reaction was, hey, great, that just saved me 50 bucks or whatever we would have priced. I don't probably wouldn't have been 50 bucks, but whatever the game would have cost. And I loved seeing that reaction because I'm still biting my nails. I will be biting my nails until the moment that the game finally releases and I can get to see what real people think about it. Because I'm worried people are so skeptical. Like, again, why do I want to play a platformer? There's so many other things that in my fantasy I would play in VR and platforming isn't necessarily one of them that I thought of. But that reaction that I've seen with people when the news was announced that Lucky's Tale was going to be bundled was so positive, was so enthusiastic and people just really saying, gosh, that just makes me think of, I can't wait. I hope it is like that moment when I first got my Nintendo Entertainment System. And now, you know, that puts a lot of pressure on us. But I think there's a chance that people will say that we have lived up for that. I really hope so. You know, the version even that you played is several months old, and we've put a ton more polish into it. And I think people are going to be really delighted when they get to play the final release.

[00:17:27.613] Kent Bye: And that kind of brings in the fact that your history in VR and Oculus sort of goes back way before even the Kickstarter. So when you tell people the story of how you got into VR and sort of your personal trajectory for, you know, how it's fit into this kind of modern renaissance of the VR revolution, how do you kind of summarize that? And what's the story that you tell people?

[00:17:48.551] Paul Bettner: So I have had the expectation and the hope for VR being a thing that I might someday get to work on in my career for, you know, probably 20, 30 years now. I didn't think it would happen this soon and I didn't think it would happen this rapidly when it did happen. And of course I went through the same kind of hype bust cycle in the 80s that we all went through. So we, most recently before our work in VR, we had been working on mobile, we created some great games there, we did Boards with Friends was kind of the biggest one that we worked on. And then about three or four years ago, I decided to leave that behind. We had actually sold Words of Friends to Zynga and had been there for a couple years and was kind of done with that experience, really wanted to work on something on my own again. And so I kind of went without a job for a while, for a few months, got really restless and started saying, okay, well, what am I gonna work on next? And I just had this thought and I thought, well, It was more of a tinkering thought, like not necessarily that VR was going to explode in the next couple of years, but more like, you know, I'll bet that the pieces that needed to happen to make VR a true consumer thing are available now, you know, with what I understood about the pieces of technology that go into cell phones, into various other devices. I thought, you know, you really could put these together and create something, I bet, that could work. And then I started reading the MTSB forums and just searching lots of places for information. Who's out there tinkering with this stuff? I didn't find Palmer in my searches, strangely. Or I might have found him, but I didn't recognize it. And this was like six months before the Oculus Kickstarter. But I had a friend in Dallas, John Carmack, who I had done some work with before. And I reached out to him, and I sent him this email. The email was, and the reason I'm recalling this now is because when we did this blog post recently with Oculus for the announcement of Lucky's Tale, and they put that picture at the end of the blog post that showed us visiting the Oculus Studios, well, it took us forever to find that picture, because it was on somebody's camera phone, and nobody could remember who, and anyway, as we were searching for that, I went and looked, and I found this email that I had sent to John Carmack six months or so before the Oculus Kickstarter. The email is just like it's like hey John, you know, what do you think? I mean, I really think this VR stuff could it could be a thing right now and it turns out he was working on like he was kind of tinkering with it himself and he knew but my email was like I think I ended it by saying something like, you know, I really think that right now, there's a Steve Jobs and a Wozniak somewhere in a garage working on this, and in like four or five years, I'll bet I'll be able to buy my first real consumer VR headset. And so that was like, I was actually off by like a year. That was like three and a half years ago or so. And so anyway, John, you know, he replied a little bit, but he actually, I don't know if he was, I don't think he was working with Palmer yet. But then later on, when I found out he was, I said, John, like I need, can I, you got to introduce me. And we flew out and we met with those guys and we started working with them. I mean, my first visit to their office, they, Brendan actually thought, cause I was a backer of the Kickstarter as well at the, like I put $5,000 into it cause I just really believed in it. And he thought I was there for that, because one of my perks was that we got, you know, come visit the offices. And he thought our little group was that, even though I was there because Carmack had told me to go meet with them. And so we're like, great, we're going to go pitch him as a developer. And so we show up and he gives us this wonderful, like, hour and a half long presentation about all the things that Oculus is doing and how awesome they're going to be. And then we start firing off all these questions about, well, what about this? And we want to work on this. And he's like, what are you talking about? And I was like, oh yeah, well, we're the game developers. And he thought that was a completely separate meeting that he hadn't done yet. So anyway, we started working with him then. And that was three years ago. We built a lot of different things just to try and figure out what was going to work and what didn't work. And Lucky's Tale is kind of one outcome of that, one result of that right now.

[00:21:42.207] Kent Bye: And moving forward, you've raised some funding around $25 million, I think is what I saw reported. And so what can you say at this point about what can we expect next from Playful Corporation?

[00:21:54.377] Paul Bettner: Well, we're kind of in love with what we have come upon with Lucky's Tale and what we've kind of discovered there, which is that as i described earlier that sensation of truly inhabiting a game and like just being inside the imaginary world of a video game and enjoying that experience of being there with the character and in a way you've never had before you know it just seems that we've found something truly beloved there and we just would love to explore that more there's so many more things i think that would benefit from the same type of treatment, the same sort of migration into VR as we've done with Lucky's Tale. And I would love if that was one of the things that our studio was known for over the years. You know, if you look back, there are these historical cases of, you know, you've got Sonic, you've got You have all the work that Rare did. You have the work that Nintendo did. And we want to set ourselves apart by creating things that are as broadly appealing as possible, as friendly, just lovely kind of games that you could see any age, men and women, boys and girls playing. So we're going to keep doing that stuff. I'm also, as I mentioned to you earlier at dinner, I'm just so fascinated by the potential of social VR. That's kind of a whole separate other topic. But we'll see. We've got some things that we're playing with.

[00:23:10.486] Kent Bye: I think that the challenging thing right now about the VR landscape is that there's a lot of the VR technology that's going to be dictating the future of what's even going to be possible. So you have, like, differences in, like, the vibe and touch controllers, and then whether even you have touch controllers, and so you have, like, everything from mobile VR to desktop VR to room-scale VR, and then, you know, even beyond room-scale with out-of-home entertainment. And so, as a person who's trying to navigate where to put and invest and make a gamble and bet on, how do you even start to navigate all of this landscape of trying to figure out which thread that you're gonna really focus on? Because right now, I think it's really hard to do all of those things justice without having to compromise things. It seems like, at this point, you have to really pick a platform and take it to its limits for what's possible.

[00:24:00.150] Paul Bettner: We do, but you know, even picking a platform so to speak, you know, we've picked Oculus, we're working with them, and Lucky's Tale is an exclusive launch title with them. Even that doesn't really solve the problem because we worked with Oculus, we created Lucky's Tale, it's made for controllers, and if you hand me a game controller with a thumbstick and a button on it, One of the first things I think about is a platforming game, because it's one of the simpler, more joyful things that I can do with a controller. But there's nothing more fundamental to the design of a game than how the controller works, and Oculus is changing their controller after just a few months of it. They've talked about releasing the Touch controllers, I guess, later this year. And if it's going to be that sort of rapid progress, I think it's going to be kind of challenging for content creators like us for a while, because we kind of have to either just pick and go all in on a particular platform that we think is the most compelling to us, or we need to try to pick a least common denominator and make experiences for that. I know some developers are trying to create things that don't even have a controller. They're just kind of gaze-based stuff. I do see somewhat of an aggregate direction with touch controllers, with sort of what Oculus Touch represents, the Vive controllers, Leap Motion, kind of all trying to get to this. Because, I mean, the first time you show somebody VR, almost anybody just tries to find their hand. It's like the first thing. I feel like it's kind of a safe bet to say we could focus on those experiences. But I think for Playful, and we will, I think that's where you'll see us head in the future, is to try and continue to build on what we've been doing with the work with Oculus and hopefully build something incredible. And we like to ask ourselves this question like we did with Lucky's Tale in the first place. If Nintendo had invented the Oculus Rift, what would they make for it? And now I'm looking at the touch controllers, and I'm asking myself the same question. Imagine that that was Nintendo's big breakthrough next console was these touch controllers. You know, Nintendo has this incredible history of, like, if you look at the Nintendo DS, and it's got a touchscreen and a stylus, and they had this one breakthrough game, which was Nintendogs. And it was something nobody had ever seen before, and it made great use of the stylus, And it's almost like the Nintendo DS didn't deserve to exist until that game came along. And that game couldn't have even existed without the stylus and the Nintendo DS. And we like to try to make experiences like that. So that's what we're going to focus on. But at the same time, it's been so much fun and it's been successful for us to try to stay on the most bleeding edge possible. So there's always going to be a part of me and part of our studio that's chasing after that. And when we see something, we see some of this room-scale VR stuff that's happening, some of the stuff you were describing, this crazy 60-foot rooms kind of VR. And it's not just tech for tech's sake, but when you see some of those experiences and they truly reach another level of presence and immersion and just how compelling they are, we can't help but want to start playing with that stuff ourselves. And so we always have a lot of prototypes going on. got to Lucky's Tale in the first place is just saying, let go of what would work anywhere else and let's just try to build something for this. And we're going to keep doing that as well.

[00:27:07.787] Kent Bye: So with virtual reality, it has the possibility to do all sorts of different types of experiences from education, medical, and clearly Oculus is starting with gaming. But for you, what is the story you tell yourself as to why is gaming important for virtual reality?

[00:27:27.618] Paul Bettner: I think that in some ways gaming is undeniably the most natural fit for virtual reality. I mean even attempts to create things that people don't want to call games turn out like games in virtual reality and we're here at Sundance and we're seeing that. There's several experiences that they are described as film or something like that, you know, film meets virtual reality. But really they have all these game-like elements because it's hard to be a purely passive observer. And even then, just the act of looking around can feel active in some ways. So I just think that gaming is going to, it's the next generation's medium. It's the records of this generation or the motion pictures of this generation or whatever you want to call it. And virtual reality is its true home, is interactive entertainment coupled with virtual reality is the most natural thing. And you know, we can even look at science fiction and these things, you know, look at the holodeck in Star Trek. Those experiences, I mean, I don't know if you'd describe them as games, but they're exactly what I've been working my whole career to create, is that type of thing. The ability to truly inhabit a world, and interact with it and see what the outcome is and enjoy that experience. And so, you know, I don't know if we'll call them games, especially here in the West. Video games, unfortunately, still kind of a bad word. So they probably will come up with another word for it. But I think that it's really going to be the only type of experience that is consumed ultimately in virtual reality is going to be some form of interactive entertainment that we would call a video game, technically.

[00:28:59.847] Kent Bye: Great. And finally, what do you see as kind of the ultimate potential of virtual reality and what that might be able to enable?

[00:29:07.647] Paul Bettner: I think that the ultimate potential of virtual reality is to allow us to inhabit our dreams, in effect. Not only from the standpoint of, you know, facing our fears or reliving a past memory or, I mean, there's so many ways in which this technology can kind of enable this expansion of your mind, in effect. And not just in terms of the environments, but the experiences. And then when you couple that with the ability for other people to join you in that experience, you just get, I don't know, I get a little philosophical about it. But in some ways, perhaps it could be said that the reality we live in now could be someone else's virtual reality. And so if you think about it that way, what we're building now could potentially be the beginning of that. I mean, it could be the beginning of a whole other existence, a whole other universe. I mean, it's hard not to imagine that that's where it would get. In my mind, it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. And sure, when could be hundreds of years. I don't, you know, who knows, depending on whether you subscribe to Kurzweil or whether you subscribe to, you know, like different people have different opinions of this. But, but I do think we're standing on the precipice of the last most important medium. And we're just going to tumble into it. Like we're not going to like gently glide down. That's just not how technology works. The human race is just going to fall into this. And I don't think any of us can imagine what that's going to mean in 10 years, but I try to describe it to people and it just sounds ridiculous. But then again, if you had tried to describe a bunch of people walking around with iPhones 15 years ago, it would have seemed utterly ridiculous. The things that we do with this technology. So The impact that this technology will have is virtually limitless across all fields and all human experiences. And we're just seeing the 1% of the 1% of that right now. But it will happen so quickly. Awesome.

[00:31:07.812] Kent Bye: Anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say?

[00:31:10.714] Paul Bettner: Like I said, I just can't wait to see what people think when they get to play our first VR game. And I can't wait for what comes after this. We're going to try our best to keep up. Awesome.

[00:31:21.201] Kent Bye: Well, thank you so much. Thank you. And thank you for listening. If you'd like to support the Voices of VR podcast, then please consider becoming a patron at patreon.com slash voicesofvr.

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