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October 14, 2019
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Thunderballs VR - #1 - In the Beginning

by Dan SY on 02/04/19 10:08:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Who is Megafauna and how did we end up making a VR game called Thunderballs?  I’m so glad you asked!  We are oh-so-close to finishing it and as we do, we’ll post a retrospective developer blog to chronicle the process we've gone through creating it.

But first, we are super pumped to announce that we are now recruiting for the Thunderballs first access. If you have a Rift, Vive, or WMR headset and are ready to bring the thunder, head over to our new Discord server and DM me or the other devs to sign up. Getting feedback from players like you is critical during this final phase of development. Or, if testing isn’t your thing, you can still wishlist us on Steam to make sure you get all future announcements and blog posts.

Who is Megafauna and how did we get here?

First, there is Mat, our lead developer.  Mat earned his Ph.D from the multidisciplinary MIT Media Lab and is a builder of all things physical and digital.  Mat created Midnight Madness, the now legendary series of all-night New York City puzzle hunts that has spawned a surge of similar events around the world.  Midnight Madness started as a zero-budget underground event and evolved into a charity powerhouse, generating over $10 million dollars towards youth causes.

Along the way, Mat teamed with Adam after Adam captained the winning Midnight Madness team in 2004. Adam has worked in digital media since the internet was still in diapers. He is a lifelong gamer and got hooked on creating interactive worlds when the 2nd Edition DM’s Guide had just hit the shelves.

Following years of collaboration on Midnight Madness, along came Endgame, the one-of-a-kind puzzle series embedded into a book trilogy that challenged readers to try and win, literally, a half a million dollars in gold.

And then there is me - Dan.  I got into all of this to escape my career in finance, to get back to some of the coding and creating that I did in my younger days, and to make something that my 7-year-old kids would think was super cool.  (Bonus facts: Adam and I have been friends since preschool.  We also wrote a feature film script together about the mysterious death of his great uncle.)

Together, the three of us formed Megafauna, with the goal of creating amazing, immersive entertainment with emerging technologies. In early 2016, while Mat and Adam were still working on Endgame and I was still in finance, the three of us started brainstorming on what we could make together as a first collaboration.

We did not start initially with VR.  First, we spent a few months with the idea of a location-specific game on Governor’s Island in NYC, which we called Ghosts of Governor’s Island.  Then, Pokemon Go arrived, and we shifted focus to a bigger, less site-specific location based concept. Our working title back then was Wormholes, which could loosely be described as a globally-collaborative geocaching game.  We eventually decided that as an indie team, designing a game that needed a huge global player base to be successful just wasn’t feasible.

We briefly thought about making a mobile game after playing Monument Valley, but we were turned off by the trends in monetization and the hyper-competitive market for mobile.  Plus, after Midnight Madness and Endgame, we wanted to design an experience that surrounded you, not something you had to squint at a tiny screen to play.

VR was the answer for three reasons.  One, as a fully immersive medium it fit better with our interests and experience.  Two, VR was a relatively new market where we thought we had a more realistic chance to do something unique as a small indie team.  Three, there was plenty of cash for developers sloshing around, or so we had heard.  Oh Meat Loaf said, two out of three ain’t bad!

By the fall of 2017, we were setting up our Rifts, watching a ton of GDC Vault videos about game development, and tinkering with our fresh Unity installs.  We were officially on the road to Thunderballs.  Boom!

Posts in the series:
Thunderballs VR - #1 - In the Beginning
Thunderballs VR - #2 - Friends and Physics

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