Ever heard of a virtual reality game called VAIL VR? Maybe a VR tech company called AEXLAB? No? Well, I’ve only recently been made aware of a virtual reality technology studio called AEXLAB, the developers of the upcoming shooter, “VAIL VR” and I’ve been in full research mode ever since. I got in touch with Jonathan Ovadia, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of AEXLAB, to talk a bit about VAIL and AEXLAB as a whole. While the game is currently in closed alpha testing, it’s set to make its big reveal soon, after 6 years in development. So who is AEXLAB, and what is VAIL VR? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the best virtual reality game on the market.
What is VAIL VR?
According to the game’s Steam page, “VAIL VR is an online-multiplayer shooter for virtual reality focused on tactical gunplay and combat. Experience team-based action and work together to achieve victory. Featuring social and matchmaking systems, finding games is effortless for casual and competitive play. Forge lasting friendships and communicate with ease using our built-in voice chat system and full Steam integration. With a full-scale ELO based Ranking System, automated tournaments, and a renown ladder, you can prove your skill in our core game mode, Artifact. Our team is actively working with professionals in the existing competitive scene, to hone the competitive gaming experience in VR. – features are currently in development. Featuring full-body animation, feel comfortable in VR with an approximation of your real body, without the need for additional tracking hardware. Choose your side and experience first-hand the strife between Colonists and REYAB.”
Who is AEXLAB?
AEXLAB is the developer of VAIL VR and is built from a fantastic team of people including Elizabeth Ann Clark, also known as the musician “VIRGO,” the Chief Creative Officer leading art direction. Clark possesses an extensive background in communication and film, and actually helped develop her own concept game called “Water Planet.” Water Planet is a single-player first-person adventure set in a distant blue world; the levels of Water Planet are designed around various VIRGO songs. Albert Ovadia is the Chief Technology Officer at AEXLAB and is a member of the Audio Engineering Society. “As a lifelong gamer, he heads programming and systems architecture.” Finally, Jonathan Ovadia is the Chief Executive Officer at AEXLAB. “As a virtual reality evangelist and gamer, Jonathan works with the community to progress the space.”
Development of VAIL VR
I got an amazing opportunity to talk to Jonathan Ovadia about the development of VAIL VR.
So you’ve raised over $350,000 for AEXLAB on StartEngine, I myself have never heard of this crowdfunding site, could you tell me a little bit about why you chose to use this rather than something like Kickstarter?
Ovadia: “The CEO and Founder of StartEngine is a Co-Founder of Activision. After speaking with their team we felt confident that this was the right direction. The difference between StartEngine and Kickstarter is that SE offers equity as stocks while Kickstarter does not. We wanted to give an opportunity to our community to invest in their future of gaming.”
You said you’re trying to build the first high-quality, immersive, interactive, and social VR gaming experience, what are your plans to create this experience? Do you think you’ve been successful? How so?
Ovadia: “I believe that VAIL is the best VR FPS MP game in the market. Netcode, community, aesthetic, and just being cool are all parts that make up VAIL. The community really drives our development as we work very closely and listen a lot to give the players exactly what they want.”
It says on your StartEngine page, “VAIL is unlike anything the VR community has seen and is a step change in the industry.” How is VAIL unlike other VR shooters like Pavlov or something like Stand Out? What makes VAIL special?
Ovadia: “You just need to try it. It works the way you expect a VR shooter to work and it is not janky.”
You participated in the Oculus Start program that provided you with the hardware needed to develop games compatible with their headsets, could you tell me a little bit more about this experience? What exactly did Oculus provide?
Ovadia: “Oculus provided community and hardware. This allowed us to dive deep into VR at an early stage.”
VAIL looks to be a completely different experience than that of “Water Planet”, can you tell me a little bit more about how you went from creating a cinematic experience like Water Planet to a competitive first-person VR shooter with Vail?
Ovadia: “Elizabeth created Water Planet while VAIL originated from Albert Ovadia. Elizabeth’s background is in MMORPG while Albert’s is in competitive first-person shooters.”
It mentions here that one of the problems with virtual reality is that “PC and console games lack social depth (as they are voice-chat only), how do you plan on solving that problem?
Ovadia: “In VAIL, players load into the armory where they can invite friends and hangout before queuing up directly into a [match].”
It says you support all major headset manufacturers including Oculus, the most recent headset from Oculus is the Oculus Quest 2. Are there plans to support this headset natively, or will it require the use of an Oculus Link cable?
Ovadia: “There are plans to support the quest as well as cross play between PSVR , Oculus and Steam. Currently the Quest 2 works with the Link Cable.”
I see that there is currently a closed alpha test with over 300 competitive players as of December 2020 testing the game. While I’m sure you have quality assurance testers that test the game on their own, are you also actively playing the game with these other 300+ players? If so, do you go in anonymously or do you make it known that you’re making the game while socializing with other players in the lobby?
Ovadia: “Sometimes I am anonymous and sometimes I’m Tropical. I have dozens of accounts. I actively play the game with the community.”
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me, Jonathan. I look forward to trying the game out myself soon!
I’m interested and excited to follow the development and release of VAIL VR and will continue to share more when I get a chance to play the game myself! You can also check out more about the game and AEXLAB in this video from ThrillSeeker on YouTube!