Kite & Lightning, an LA-based studio known for some of the burgeoning VR industry’s most polished experiences, today announced that their next big project, the VR vehicular melee party brawler Bebylon Battle Royale, has been funded to the tune of $2.5 million in seed funding.
The $2.5 million seed round was lead by Raine Ventures, and including Courtside Ventures, Comcast Ventures Catalyst Fund, Social Capital, Outpost Capital, Boost VC, & Jason Rosenthal, CEO of Lytro.
According to a Kite & Lightning blog post, Bebylon Battle Royale: A Gentlemen’s Game is going to feature more than what the studio was initially billing as action centered around “selfie stick wielding immortal babies beating up each other.” Instead, co-founder Ikrima Elhassan maintains that the scope of the game is much larger than previously revealed.
“While the Smash Bros-esque game is the fundamental core of BBRAG, we always envisioned a world that you could immerse yourself in. We want to create this amazing comedic world where you can craft your own personal character, cheer/boo/support your friends as a live audience member in the gladiatorial stages, or explore the world of Bebylon, from the shows it has to offer to the characters that inhabit it […] Basically, we want to create a mini-Sword Art Online… except in comedy… with adorable narcissistic babies….who love trolling each other,” said Elhassan.
Spectacle will be a major part of Bebylon. Spectators will be able to join the game for free and access more interactive features through in-app purchases, while the right to brawl in the arena (among other features of full-fledged buyers) will be earned by buying the game outright.
Elhassan says that the audience will be able to influence the fights they’re watching in various ways, such as throwing items into the arena and betting on the outcome. Major matches may be spectated by large numbers of users and the game will integrate VREAL’s VR steaming tech to make that happen on a large scale.
Players battling in the arena will be encouraged to deck out baby brawlers with an array of gaudy, boastful customizations, and to put on a show for the audience by taunting their opponents.
Kite & Lightning co-founder Cory Strassburger explains some of the game’s thematic premise—which revolves around the discovery of a cure for mortality which has the side effect of keeping anyone from aging—and how they hope players will relate to their characters:
“As we started building the game is was built on that story [about the immortal babies]… The [arena battles] were an outlet for the babies in this new culture to one-up each other. It became about being the most badass baby with the most fame and fortune,” Strassburger said.
“It’s a game of self expression. It’s all about who you become as a player. The whole Bebylon universe, including the game, is all about fueling yourself as a character. So you can unleash your ‘inner wild child’. As we approached that idea, we said ‘we need to create this platform where the player has enough ingredients to express that inner wild side in a way that’s hopefully entertaining to other players and spectators;’ at the end of the day we want to players to get super crazy and super creative and inspire their characters with their personality.”
Outside of the baby battling arenas, Elhassan says there will be a “mini microcosm of a universe,” a sort of MMO space where players will be able to see shows, take rides & tours, and visit gambling dens where they can watch matches broadcast on screens.
“We want a social VR universe where people are coming for the game but staying for the social,” he said.
Since their founding in 2013, the two-man team have produced a number of high polish VR experiences like the award-winning Senza Peso, Insurgent: Shatter Reality, the Batman-themed The CAVE, and GE Neuro VR to name a few.
Bebylon will be the studio’s first ever game, aiming to support Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR (with cross-play between all three). The studio says they plan to release the world of Bebylon in chunks over time, starting with the first in early 2017 and “every couple of months” thereafter.
The video below is an early look at what K&L call “very early work-in-progress gameplay footage.”