Over the past three years, Melbourne, Australia-based startup Zero Latency has been refining its multiplayer virtual reality arcade platform, which currently has three playable games for up to six players with plans to add eight-player support by the end of this year.
The idea came to co-founders Tim Ruse (who’s now the CEO) and Scott Vandonkelaar (CTO) when the two first saw the Oculus Rift while working together at web agency Roadhouse Digital.
“The Rift had just come out and there was also this craze with IRLShooter’s Patient Zero, which combined laser tag with real actors and a zombie storyline, and the idea was to put these two things together and create a new form of entertainment from scratch,” Ruse explained.
The pair left their secure jobs and turned to crowdfunding to kickstart the idea, raising $30,000 on Pozible in July 2014. Ruze said that while this was hard money to raise, crowdfunding allowed the startup to get the message out to VR enthusiasts who were eager to step into virtual worlds and fight cooperatively. This also opened the door for traditional VR investment.
By August 2014 the company had a 2,200 square foot system operating with two players in a completely tetherless freeform multiplayer environment complete with pistols. A year later, the team had upgraded the platform to six players combating virtual reality zombies with assault rifles in the Unity-developed Outbreak game.
Fast forward to today and the company’s development team has created three new games: Survival, a defend-the-fortress style zombie horde experience featuring a squad of heavily armored soldiers, Singularity, which pits a team of space marines against rogue robots on a massive spaceship, and Engineerium, a puzzle-based exploration of a gravity-defying ancient alien world.
Zero Latency has a team of 10 people plus some external contractors working on new titles as well as downloadable content for existing experiences. Vandonkelaar said it takes between seven and nine months to create a game. A new title will be introduced for the platform this August, which will expand the zombie concept to a longer, more exploratory experience.
“We’re a one-stop shop right now,” Vandonkelaar said. “While we’re not game designers ourselves, we’ve tapped into the local game development community. And we’ve spent a lot of time developing and exploring free roam VR. Our goal is to create 15 or 30-minute experiences that people of all skill levels can enjoy and get people through the system in a timely manner.”
By this June, Zero Latency will have 10 sites across the globe and 24 by end of 2017, including U.S. locations in Orlando, Boston, Philadelphia, Wisconsin and the Poconos. The company owns several facilities, including its Melbourne location, and licenses out its platform through partnerships with companies like Main Event Entertainment, which hosts the VR arcade inside its Pointe Orlando arcade and entertainment center.