Women In VR spotlight: Lee and Jordan Brighton talk about Run Dorothy Run.
Lee and Jordan Brighton are the female founding duo behind Virtro Entertainment. An Australian couple with 2 kids, they’ve travelled to 35 countries, developed a love of VR while discovering North America in their RV, and have just announced the studio’s first VR title “Run Dorothy Run” – the world’s first endless runner rhythm game through Oz. We had a chance to talk to them about Run Dorothy Run launching on PSVR on Dec 12th.
Special thanks to Allison Berg for making it happen.
1. What is the history and backgrounds of the team?
Jordan. It may not be “cool,” but we like to refer to ourselves as an indie game company with an enterprise attitude. We’re proud of our systemized approach to leveraging new technologies. We built one of the first content management systems in Australia; we were also one of the early application service providers (before it was known as SaaS), and we’re again bringing a platform or “engine” approach to how we build games. We also ran an animation and television production business and travelled extensively before landing in Vancouver, Canada. Somehow, our technical background – combined with our love of storytelling – led us to VR. We’re building a wonderful team; our first hire was a user experience guru; we’ve got QA from an AAA gaming company, and scriptwriters and designers… and like most companies tackling VR, we’re developing our skillsets in VR as we develop the game.
2. What drew the founders to VR and to make a game?
Lee. We’re in our forties now and we’ve done a wide variety of businesses – probably a lot less fun than VR! I really do think there’s so much potential with VR, AR and MR for viable businesses to develop over the next 10 years. Whether its advances in medicine, manufacturing, retail, or education, so many industries stand to benefit from these new technologies. But the logical starting point is the gaming and entertainment world. Hence, our focus on games at Virtro.
3. Knowing that Wizard Of Oz is in the public domain, did the team look into other public domain options? What drew the team to the Wizard Of OZ?
Jordan. We did look at other public domain options, but kept coming back to Oz. It’s just such an interesting tale that’s got – in our opinion – a cross-generational appeal. It taps into our imaginations, it’s incredibly visual, and it’s got such a sense of whimsy. The attraction of running down the yellow brick road kept growing in our mind, until it seemed that an endless runner game was inevitable. Add in wonderful music, some fantastical storytelling and images, and you’ve got a natural VR experience. We’re planning to have all sorts of Oz downloadable content following the release date.
4. As women founders do you feel that VR has offered new opportunities for women and other underrepresented groups to find a place in tech? And how has it?
Jordan. Although VR as a technology isn’t actually “new,” most of the major hardware players didn’t introduce VR consoles until last year, so it does feel like the industry is still pretty greenfield, with opportunities for everyone to make a mark. VR, AR and mixed reality are domains ripe for equal representation of women and other diversity groups. We’re a female-led company, and we believe that we can build an amazing game with an amazing team that really reflects the diversity of society we live in. I’d be lying if I said we hadn’t met some female applicants who didn’t have the same confidence level as some of their male counterparts; I’d say their skills were the same, but the confidence wasn’t, and as an employer, I want to address that.
5. How does the VR community in Vancouver compare to the many places that you traveled to in order to do your initial research? How are you as a team helping to grow it?
Lee. Vancouver has just been an awesome city to grow our company. It’s got a unique combination of the technology know-how from Silicon Valley and the entertainment skillset of LA, but in Vancouver – which, if you haven’t been, is just a beautiful city. We, along with our kids, came to Vancouver from Australia on the Canadian government start-up Visa program. We are hiring a lot of young employees who are developing VR expertise on the job.
6. What resources and groups helped you to get to where the team is today?
Lee. The VR community seems to be pretty collaborative; it’s in all of our best interests to see VR technology take off, so we’re all rooting for each other. We’re part of the global association for VR/AR, the Vancouver VR Community, and the awesome tech accelerator program SFU VentureLabs that has hooked us up with a ton of connections. Plus, the local universities and design programs are full of great co-op programs and graduates with solid design skills.
7. What issues did you face in developing Run Dorothy Run?
Jordan. VR is still relatively new, so there’s a lot to be learned – and most of it without a manual! We worked incredibly hard to overcome the motion sickness challenges some experience with VR. Almost no one has years of experience doing VR yet – so whether our team is students or seasoned developers, we’re all learning together, and what really matters is the belief that you can do what you haven’t seen done before.
8. Monetizing has been an issue facing early VR developers, how do you feel about this and does this worry you?
Lee. For us, like all VR developers, monetization is a real concern. But I truly believe we’re at a tipping point; with announcements from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg committing to bringing a billion people to VR, or Sony’s intent to sell 2 million more PlayStation VR’s this upcoming holiday season, the monetization is coming. We’ve got skin in the game, and we’ll be around for the long haul.
9. Zombie Donuts sounds great! My cat named Donut would love to play it. Can you tell me a little about this upcoming game?
Jordan. Unless you’re annoyed with your cat, I’m pretty sure you don’t want her playing the game! It involves a marshmallow shooter. Zombie Donuts will first be released as a mobile VR experience on Samsung gear; you get to use that marshmallow shooter to blow away the zombified Donuts. It’s super fun, and, as you can tell from the title, pretty silly. It’s a great first VR game.
10. Why should people check out Run Dorothy Run?
It’s a great experience! Electro-swing music, dance moves, humour, and hours of great content; it's engaging entertainment; our play-testers ALL come back for more. Plus, we’ve got a few cross-fit nuts in the office who swear they are getting a good workout when they get slip on Dorothy’s shoes!
Check out Run Dorothy Run for Playstation VR on December 12th 2017