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Joe Mares, Founder of Thousand Bit — Interview Series

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Joe Mares, Thousand Bit

In a bid to broaden our understanding of how VR continues to evolve in the gaming sphere, we decided to reach out to industry veteran Joe Mares, the founder of Thousand Bit—a startup company that is currently making moves to create a “haunted” virtual reality walkthrough experience. Here’s everything we learned from that rather brief, albeit insightful discussion…

Hi, Joe — thanks for taking the time to speak with us! For our reader’s sake, please could you introduce yourself? How did it all start for you, and what fueled your passion for creating video games?

Joe: I’m Joe, an award winning game designer and 20 year game development veteran who’s worked on almost every platform and genre, I even named the game League of Legends! I wanted to be a game designer since I saw an article in Electronic Gaming Monthly (I think) about the development of the SNES game Earthworm Jim circa 1994. I realized that a game designer was an actual job and from that moment on I wanted to be one of those guys.

Let’s talk about your startup company, Thousand Bit. When was the studio founded, and what inspired you to pursue this venture?

Joe: It was founded last year. I’ve always been a huge fan of Walt Disney and Disneyland, especially the “dark rides” like the Haunted Mansion and The Indiana Jones Adventure. I’ve been working in VR for about 8 years and realized that VR is a perfect vehicle to make modern day dark rides that can be anywhere and any size. I started by building a haunted house style walkthrough maze and people have loved it. I’m making a bigger push now to continue developing these experiences and getting them out to more venues, maybe even your home!

You’ve previously spoken about a “haunted” walkthrough project in VR. Could you tell us a bit more about this? Where did this idea stem from?

Joe: I’ve always loved accessible attractions that anyone can understand and have fun in without having to go through tutorials or anything complex. I like to use the strong suites of whatever platform I’m working with. VR is incredibly immersive, especially when you pair it with walking around, the user is convinced that they are in this environment. I think everyone has been in a haunted walkthrough maze, so to me the next logical step was to make a VR one. I studied haunts like the ones at Knott’s Scary Farm and Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios to get a similar feel, but combining it with things you can only do in VR. You have to try it out to see what I mean :)

If you had to compare the upcoming experience with anything else, what would it be, and why?

Joe: I think the aforementioned Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios is a pretty fair comparison. It’s a combination of that and something like Resident Evil 7. 

You talk about generating “fun” in video games a great deal. In your opinion, what is it that truly makes a fun experience for players?

Joe: Fun can be summarized as “discovery the user cares about”. Fun is actually about learning. When the user learns more about the world they’re exploring, then they’re having fun. Whether its relationships, a story unfolding, or the dynamics of various related aspects, as long as the world is grounded in its own lore, and the world can be made sense of, it is ripe for discovery (fun). In order to get there everything needs to be clear, engaging, and then have an element of tension – tension that is then cut by discovery. I go over all this in my upcoming book “Blueprint for Fun”.

Do you have any advice for those who are looking to grasp a foothold in the world of VR, or just in game development, in general?

Joe: Yes, start doing something today. Even if you make a game that’s just pen and paper, do it today. A lot of games I design even now are started from a pen and paper concept. You can graduate to using game editors like Unity or Unreal later on, but if you don’t enjoy the process of making pen and paper games now, you’re not gonna like it when you’re using a game editor, doing the programming, doing the art, and have a whole team waiting on you for answers later.

What’s next for you, if you don’t mind me asking? Do you have any other plans for the future? If so, could you kindly share a few details?

Joe: Yes, I’m releasing a book about how to make your product fun called “Blueprint for Fun” later this year. I’m speaking at AWE (Augmented World Expo) in a few weeks in Long Beach, CA. I have regular episodes of my podcast “Harbinger of Fun” continuously in development (where I talk to Disney Imagineers, Comic Book writers, Psychologists, etc. about how to make a fun product). I’m continuing development on my Haunted VR Attractions, and I’m also looking forward to helping you make your stuff fun! I’m available for consulting is what I’m saying.

Is there a preferred way of staying up to date with your work? Are there any social channels or newsletters that we should be taking note of?

Joe: Yeah, you can get my book, check out my podcast, and contact me if you want me to help you make your product fun at www.harbingeroffun.com, and you can check out my VR Haunt Company at www.thousandbit.com

Any final words for our readers?

Joe: Yes, the key to making something truly fun is being authentic to yourself when you’re creating something. Fun is about discovery, and the audience discovering how YOU think, is your biggest advantage, and it’s guaranteed to be a discovery (fun) for the audience. So don’t be shy!

Thanks for your time!

 

To stay up to date with Thousand Bit, you can visit the official website for additional information here.

Jord is acting Team Leader at gaming.net. If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.