All posts by Brian

Tuscany World Demo - Fenix Fire

Working With A Small Startup Called OculusVR

By | Behind the Scenes, Partners | No Comments

I met Brendan Iribe in January 2013, shortly after Oculus won their Kickstarter campaign, to discuss building a special environment for Oculus. They had a good sized office, filled with boxes and parts everywhere. It looked like they just moved in but were too busy working to make it any tidier.  There was a station where a couple of guys were fabricating new prototype sets to test, which were largely taped together with black tape.  Even though these prototypes were make-shifted together, the headsets still looked really well made, although with a homebrew feel.  There was also a table that had a graveyard of old VR headsets and helmets, which was really nostalgic and cool.

In order to demo their existing prototype, Palmer needed to come out and set it up.  I was immediately impressed.  They had a few demos working, admittedly with a few flaws, but you could see the potential.  I immediately starting thinking about all the new games I could make with this thing.  Suddenly I was filled with both excitement and fear, this is going to be BIG, I better not screw this demo up!

We then sat down with Nate and Micheal to brainstorm what this new project would entail.  They heard of me through my reputation as an environment artist from my time at Blizzard, Midway, and High Voltage Software.  I went in with a small portfolio, just a few images of different types of environments to show some range.  One of them caught their eye, a fantasy themed location that was bright and colorful.  “Everyone expects the dark, gritty sci fi, ” Brendan explained.  “Let’s do something bright, cheerful, and inviting.  This way, we’re open to more than the core gaming audience”.

I then suggested a Mediterranean themed location, something that was a tinge fantasy but still largely based in reality.  It would be realistic, but very idyllic at the same time.  Also, it had to be low poly to avoid any frame rate issues and contain some real world objects like desks and chairs. It was an easy suggestion for me: my wife and I had just returned from a trip to that area and took thousands of photos while in Rome, Tuscany, and Venice. They loved the idea and we went work.

I left the Oculus office with probably the first headset they’ve ever loaned out to any developer.  It was a taped together model in SD format with switches taped onto the front.  They wrote out the installation and operating instructions on a pink index card.  There was no box, just loose items, parts, and cables we threw into my wife’s purse.

We worked mostly with Nate while creating the first version of the Tuscany World Demo, interfacing with one of their first employees, Peter, on the Unity integration. There was a lot that was being figured out on the tech side, especially considering we were also making a C++ version of the demo that needed to have stripped down shaders.  It felt like developing for PS2 specs and materials to ensure maximum performance.

Over the next 14 months we’ve worked with Oculus on a handful of projects, including the EVE Online demo for CES this year.  I’ve watched Oculus grow from a few guys to a couple of hundred in a really short time.  Each time I go into thier office I’m impressed on how well they’ve adapted to their continually expanding growth.

Something else worth noting is the positive attitude that seemed to exude from every Oculus member, especially Brendan and Nate. After having worked at a few AAA console studios, you get a bit used to the cynicism that developers in our industry sometimes slide into.  I never got any of that from the Oculus guys.  From day one they all seemed to have a certain serendipity to them.  And a mission – to finally bring VR to the masses.  I could tell that they sincerely love this mission.

Gates Of Osiris Crab

Announcing Gates Of Osiris

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So a long time ago, after we finished and launched Roboto, Anna and I were thinking about what to do next. Our game was in the top of the App Store charts and we were on cloud nine, loving every minute of how mobile was drastically changing the game industry. During that month we went off and developed a handful of prototypes of possible follow-up games to our debut hit. One of these prototypes went on to become Gates Of Osiris.

Much of the inspiration for Osiris came from my time at Blizzard Entertainment, where I worked on Starcraft Ghost for a number of years. Anna and I loved Starcraft and we had a great art team on Ghost.  I was absolutely devastated when the game became “indefinitely postponed”. In fact, just two years earlier I moved Anna and myself across the country from Chicago, where I was working at Midway on Mortal Kombat, to Orange County – home of the Blizzard empire (known internally as “Blizzard HQ”).  Anyway, I always loved the idea of defending a base against an onslaught of creatures.  In many ways, Gates of Osiris is my Starcraft Ghost.

After some early tests on mobile, back in 2011, it became clear that the hardware was too limited for the type of game Osiris needed to be, so we put it on hold for a couple of months.  At that time, Roboto fell rapidly out of the charts which created an immediate panic for solvency. Luckily, we were contacted by Red Bull to do a racing game and from Wow Wee to create an app based toy line. We were forced to put all the games from our game jam on hold, including Osiris.

When we had time between milestones and deliverables on the client projects we kept coming back to Osiris, which was now a PC game. It was sooooo much fun using all the graphic bells and whistles that Unity has for the PC platform and a relief to not worry about the limited hardware performance of mobile. The game quickly began to take shape, centering around a vehicle similar to the Warthog from Halo.  As the “hero” you are able to build and repair structures and engage in combat from one multipurpose unit.  We call this unit the “GAV” or “Ground Assault Vehicle”. We also set up multiplayer and began testing deathmatches online with our friends.  I also sent a copy to our friends at Unity.

Over the next year we kept working and tinkering on the game, off and on, between client projects, which were now John Deere, Chevron, and Oculus (the Tuscany World Demo). About 6 months later, after we were finishing our Source prototype I got a call from Unity about Osiris regarding a possible publishing deal with the new Unity Games Publishing initiative and a technology partnership with Qualcomm. After a few conversations and meetings with the Unity and the Qualcomm guys Fenix Fire began officially converting Osiris from a PC game back into a mobile game, as a really high end mobile game – perfect for Osiris.

That was back in December 2013. Shortly after we started Anna and I went back to Chicago for Christmas with our 6 month old son for some much needed decompression and family time. This time also gave me a chance to finish the design of Osiris, which we did by cutting RTS style units from paper and acting out gameplay scenarios. We used these scenarios to create our rules set, unit types, mission sets, and gameplay loops focusing on the mobile version first, which has a very aggressive launch date of June 2014. With a dev cycle this fast for a game of this magnitude we needed all the design locked down early so we can focus on the content.

January and February were a complete blur of quickly converting all the assets from PC to mobile, bench testing the Qualcomm SnapDragon hardware, creating the creatures and programming the gameplay with the focus on combat. On March 3rd we needed to stop producing content and polish our demo for GDC as we were scheduled to co announcing the Osiris with Qualcomm and Unity. Even though it’s still a bit early I’m hoping that the style of gameplay and art style resonate with an audience. I personally love playing it, even in it’s crude current form, and can’t wait until after GDC to continue back on the game. Of course, I hope you like where it’s going too.

As a way to stay in touch with updates and progress on Gates Of Osiris, be sure to like the game on its brand new Facebook fan page here.



Ready, Fire, Aim – A Fenix Fire Update

By | Announcements, App Updates, Behind the Scenes, Games, Partners | 2 Comments

It’s been a crazy year for us so far, and I can’t believe it’s already half over!  We started out this year with this new website as a way to better connect with our fans, and it has actually been doing a pretty good job of that.  You have been commenting in the forums and on our blog posts, which is really cool for us to see. Thanks for reaching out.  Anyway, I want to give you a run down of what we’ve been up to and where we’re going. Read More


Operation Giant Coming To Ouya

By | Announcements, Games | 8 Comments

Fenix Fire is proud to announce a new type of brawler for the Ouya game console titled Operation Giant.  We’ve only been working on the project for just a few days, and generally don’t announce something so soon, but Operation Giant is different.  This game is our official contest submission to the CREATE Game Jam for the Ouya Game Console.  If we Read More


Fenix Fire To Develop On Ouya

By | Announcements, Partners | One Comment

Happy New Year everyone! We can’t think of a better way to bring in 2013 then with our own Ouya dev kit, which we’re happy to announce has just arrived, and it looks good.

When we first caught wind of the Kickstarter campaign about a company attempting to make a new kind of game console, we instantly fell out of our chairs from the pure Read More