Many of the people who bought a development kit from Oculus took a trip through Senza Peso, with operatic music and ghostly figures to inspire awe on a dreamy trip down the river Styx.
Arriving in 2014, the software made by Kite & Lightning became an influential early VR demo. It turned into a showpiece for many headset owners trying to convince friends and family they were seeing a preview of the future. After completing it, L.A.-based co-founders Ikrima Elhassan and Cory Strassburger took on some client projects, like VR experiences for the movie Insurgent and a pair of projects for GE. Last July the pair took their savings, left Los Angeles and embarked on a year of artistic exploration in the heart of Paris.
Now that year is over and, after dozens of investment meetings, the pair are returning to the United States with $2.5 million to build a strange new VR universe. Kite & Lightning is setting up shop in Santa Monica, which should provide access to world class game developer talent with major gaming studios right around the corner. Neither Elhassan nor Strassburger comes from a game development background, but they now have a relatively large pool of cash with which to assemble a team to realize one of the most conceptually rich and original VR worlds we’ve seen.
“Cory and I don’t have to unlearn a decade or a decade and a half of gaming design patterns that work really well only in traditional 2D games,” said Elhassan.
So what do a pair of highly skilled artists want to make after watching American culture from a distance for the last year? Self-centered jewel-encrusted trash-talking babies.
Think of a baby. Now cover it in tattoos and give it an incredible ego. You should be starting to get a picture of the world Kite & Lightning is building. The premise of Bebylon: Battle Royale is simple. Immortality has been figured out but nobody can get any older than being a baby. In this world, a game that pits infant warriors against one another becomes the center of society.
What started as a fun idea for the co-founders is developing into a fully realized world potentially home to a number of VR experiences ranging from intense multiplayer battles to cinematic stories that tell the history of the world . It is their first original intellectual property since Senza Peso.
“Kite & Lightning has been pushing the envelope in cinematic virtual reality for three years and we are thrilled to be partnered with this industry-leading creative team,” said Gordon Rubenstein, Managing Partner at Raine Ventures, in a prepared statement. “Their upcoming title, Bebylon: Battle Royale, is the most impressive social gaming experience we’ve ever seen and we believe is only the beginning of a unique metaverse that will captivate gamers and audiences for years to come.”
Raine Ventures led the investment round joined by Courtside Ventures, Comcast Ventures Catalyst Fund, Social Capital, Outpost Capital, Boost VC, and Jason Rosenthal, CEO of Lytro.