Military Simulations to the Game Room
Raydon Amusement Blasts into VR Biz Boasting Attendant-Less Play
by Casey Minter
A little over a year ago, the employees behind Raydon Amusements’ newly released Total Recoil VR game were hard at work on a wholly different task: training our country’s military with hyper-realistic virtual simulation systems.
The part of the outfit our industry knows actually spawns from the larger Raydon company which, for over 30 years, has been crafting training simulations to “drive user operational proficiency in situations where lives are on the line.” A hefty task and sobering work for its employees.
Recognizing the seriousness of their company’s mission, Raydon leadership wanted to provide an outlet for less serious endeavors, so the company adopted the spreading trend of Work This Friday (WTF for short). Entrepreneurial employees are given the chance to pitch potential projects that deviated from the main focus of the company. A good pitch would then be given funding and employees would spend one Friday each month working on it.
“The idea that led to Total Recoil was voted for unanimously,” said Stephen Haynes, Product Manager at Raydon and one of the employees involved in selling the now-released game. “The original concept was very basic: spray and pray. But the combination of that realistic recoil and the heft of the weapon, forces you to move your body as well.”
Raydon utilized its assets in building Total Recoil, combining years of experience crafting VR simulations with realistic military hardware, resulting in a game that was crafted with the coin-op amusement industry in mind. The configurable, small-footprint, attendant-less VR game features a display screen for spectators, an HTC Vive headset, an eye-catching cabinet and a repurposed, steel-framed gun that provides haptic recoil when you fire.
As an added bonus, the mounted gun is built from the same material Raydon builds its simulators for the military with, meaning it should be able to handle the beating a game can take in an arcade. The configurable barriers around the game can be used to make a bank of up to four of the games, which can wrap around a corner or a pillar in the center of the room.
Raydon’s team initially took the game’s prototype (which at the time was called Taste of Liberty and was a more realistic shooter, sans bugs) to some military conventions and a local bike week in Florida, near their HQ. After months and months of market research, and Raydon expanding its team to include Stephen, Monica Haynes and others, a viable business strategy began to form.
“At the start we didn’t really know what to do with it,” Stephen said. “We decided we’d redesign it from the ground up as an arcade game.”
The team went to IAAPA in 2017 to survey the market of VR games, and was treated to a massive showfloor full of budding VR game companies. Soon they saw a niche where they could fit in the market.
“Everyone kind of saw it at IAAPA. There were so many larger scale setups and some did it well while others didn’t,” Monica Haynes said. “We wanted to be uniquely different than that, and our biggest difference was in our hardware fidelity. What we were building was much better than what other people could.”
The team returned to Raydon with ambitious ideas, and Stephen prepped a pitch for the company’s senior management, securing well over a million dollars to redesign and build the game, with the ultimate market strategy of releasing it at IAAPA 2018. The team grew exponentially, with around 25 working on the project today.
“It started out looking like it would just be a small side project, but we realized that this is really fun for us!” Stephen said. “Before long, basically everyone in the company had their hands on it at some point. We want to reassure people that we’re not a start-up, we’re a 30-year-old company that’s doing something a little different.”
After less than a year’s worth of rabid game development and intensive market research, Stephen got in touch with members of AAMA. They were invited to present at the association’s Gala, where they officially debuted their newly built, Starship Troopers-inspired, bug-blaster: Total Recoil. The rep said the game was a hit at the gathering of manufacturers, distributors and operators, and by the time the team hit IAAPA 2018, it was ready for the hordes.
“We’re still learning things about the industry, and IAAPA was a big deal in helping with that,” Monica said.
Adding minor things like simplifying the start process, adding a swipe-to-play-again option and other changes have been motivated by customer feedback. The team is hoping to bring a revamped game to Amusement Expo in March as well, with art updates, a new weapon upgrade and more quality-of-life changes. Further down the line, they’re looking at adding a tethered multiplayer mode, so players could join up side by side in your arcade to squash some aliens together. But, that’s not all they hope to do with Total Recoil.
“Even though it’s a static cabinet with a tethered headset, Total Recoil itself can be a platform. Now it’s just a bug hunt, but it could have updates in the future,” Stephen said. “It could be Total Recoil: Zombie Blast.”
Stephen emphasizes that this future content would be available to customers who initially bought Total Recoil with its current one game. The game was on location in two places at this writing, with orders they sold at IAAPA shipping out this month. “The suggested MSRP for Total Recoil is $30,000, which relative to traditional arcade games these days, is looking equitable,” they say.
“We’re hoping to continue to grow and build the story of how we got here,” said Stephen. “I think it’s a compelling story, and it helps us show people that we’re cut from a different cloth. The human appeal of the game is undeniable. Nobody walked by it during IAAPA without checking it out and playing.”
Regardless, the company says it’s here to stay and feels it could well be a contender as VR games gain momentum. Be sure to look for Raydon at the upcoming Amusement Expo, and get in touch with distributors if you’re interested in purchasing Total Recoil.
For more information, go to www.raydonamusement.com.