October is proving to be a great month for Quest boxing fans. With the popular Punch-Out style arcade game Knockout League releasing on Quest on the 17th, users were given the opportunity to get off their sofas and beat up a weird assemblage of human and animal opponents in a wacky, fun, over the top and rather ridiculous manner.
The news gets even better as we now have the confirmed release date for Thrill of the Fight, a much more serious boxing simulation than anything else in virtual reality currently. It’s been a perennial favorite of all boxing and VR fitness enthusiasts since its PC launch way back in 2016, and unlike many VR early access titles, it has been constantly improved and updated during that time. It’s also the most physically exhausting VR fitness game available. Honestly, if you really want to get ripped in VR, you need this game!
Check the trailer below.
Early Access Hands-On Thoughts
The developer Ian Fitz let me have an early preview of the Quest version and I can confirm it runs really well on the Quest. Aside from fewer people cheering in the crowd everything else looks the same as on its PC counterpart, and most importantly the punches and game-play are identical. I was concerned the Quest might experience glitches if I held my fists up too close to the headset or winged punches from too wide, but I had no problems whatsoever.
We’ve had brilliant PC to Quest conversions like Beat Saber, and so so efforts like Robo Recall. I was really concerned this might look and run like a potato on Quest but it’s simply excellent and along with Beat Saber is my favorite PC to Quest port so far. In fact, I will not be playing this on PC again, wireless all the way!
If you’re interested in learning more about the game generally I covered its release on Oculus for Rift last year in an article you can view here. For actual Quest, game-play footage check out popular Quest Youtuber BMF’s video preview below.
Developer Q & A
As a long time fan of the game, I’ve gotten to know developer Ian Fitz quite well over the last couple of years, as he’s incredibly active on the Steam discussion page for his game, always willing to engage with customers and actively soliciting feedback to improve and perfect his product.
For the Quest release, he’s kindly agreed to talk with me about his decision to port the game to mobile and the technical obstacles to doing so. He also gives us a fascinating peek behind the curtain at the Oculus curation process for getting approved for the Quest store and talks in some length about his own thoughts on VR.
VRFI First off, congratulations on being accepted for Quest. There have been lots of stories of Oculus rejecting even well-known games for their store so you must be pleased that yours was approved so quickly. Do you have any comments on the Quest store pitch process, and how Oculus interacted with you? Did it follow a selection process based on frame rates/performance etc or was it the case of them just saying yay or nay based on their own whim?
Ian ‘Thanks! I didn’t think I would be approved due to the stories you’re referring to and how those games compare to The Thrill of the Fight, so I was very excited when I heard back from Oculus.
The submission process is straightforward and works just like Oculus describes it on their Quest submission page. You submit your pitch, and they get back to you within a couple of weeks with a direct answer. I think it’s important to note that they call it a pitch. That suggests to me that applicants need to actually convince Oculus that their game will be successful on the Quest instead of there being a predefined list of criteria that will guarantee your submission is approved.’
VRFI I know even as recently as late last year you were saying on the forums that TOFT wasn’t going to come to Quest as you didn’t think it would run well and be possible to port. What changed? Was it getting hands-on with the headset? Is the device more capable than you realized and easier to port to? Are you surprised yourself that the game translates as well as it does?
Ian ‘I had assumed I would need to do a major graphics and code overhaul of ToTF and that I would need to find an artist to get involved to simplify my assets to get the game running on Quest. I figured that instead of completely recreating the game like that, I might as well put that effort into making a sequel designed with Quest in mind instead. However, I ended up making a quick port anyway as a test, found it ran very well even with few optimizations and decided that completing the port was going to be something I could achieve. I really did underestimate how capable the Quest was going to be.’
VRFI Have you run into any difficulties with porting the game? I understand the Quest tracking might be an issue. How about the graphics engine and the processing power required to calculate all the punch force-velocity/movement etc, does the game still look and run like the PC version?
Ian ‘The only really noticeable visual differences are that the player hit effect visuals had to be simplified, the crowd sizes needed to be reduced, a few high poly models have been hidden or simplified. I’ve also had to lower the resolution slightly from the Quest’s default in addition to using foveated rendering.’
However, during the porting process, I was actually able to make the game’s shading and lighting look better than what was on the PC version! These visual quality improvements are currently on the PC version’s beta branch and will go live around the same time of the Quest launch.
Everything else is the same as it is on PC. The physics system runs at the same rate and quality as the PC version. I thought tracking was going to be a problem early on, as TotF is a worst-case scenario for tracking in many ways, but Oculus’s 7.0 system update made tracking work unbelievably well on the Quest. The Quest will occasionally lose track of a controller while playing TotF, but it happens rarely and is lightning-fast to correct itself.
VRFI Content-wise is it identical to the PC version, with all fighters, environments and the customization options available?
Ian The Quest port has all of the same content and functionality of the PC version. The benefit of having a completely untethered version of TotF that you’re able to easily take anywhere you have room and jump right in with no setup easily makes this my favorite version of The Thrill of the Fight. Having full freedom of movement with no cord in a large space is a really amazing way to play.
VRFI Do you have a confirmed release date yet?
Ian ‘The Thrill of the Fight will launch for Quest on October 24, 2019.’
VRFI Your game on Steam and the Oculus store has always been rather underpriced at just £7.99 in the UK and ten dollars in the US. Will you be setting the price this low on Quest, or do Oculus themselves have a pricing range that they put games into? Are you supporting cross-buy between Oculus Rift and Quest?
Ian The price will remain the same as it is now on the Rift store and will also be cross-buy between the Rift and Quest stores.
VRFI That’s all my Quest specific questions out of the way but I’d also like to ask you a little about your philosophy behind creating TOTF in the first place. Obviously its become very popular with VR fitness enthusiasts as one of the most physically demanding cardio workouts you can get in VR, was fitness a primary design goal for you when making the game?
Also are you happy to talk about yourself at all as well? I think people would be interested to know who you are, where you’re from and what you’re background is etc.
Ian Before The Thrill of the Fight, I was working as a web developer and technical director at a small creative/marketing agency. The stress of that job drove me to look for other outlets, and I thought that the launch of consumer VR might provide a good opportunity to try making a video game. A few months later, I was able to quit my job and focus on developing The Thrill of the Fight full time.
I didn’t set out to specifically make an exercise-heavy game, and I also didn’t even have a prior interest in boxing before I created The Thrill of the Fight. I chose to make a boxing game simply because I thought it was a perfect fit for having tracked head and hands and for room-scale. I also think combat sports have a nearly universal appeal to most people that is generally only counteracted by the equally universal aversion to getting punched in the face, which is a problem VR can solve. I think one of VR’s most magical qualities is that player input can be far less abstract than traditional gaming and can allow the player to utilize movement and muscle memory they already know from the real world. This makes emulating real-world experiences just as fun as the more abstract game concepts you can’t physically have in the real world.
This strong connection between VR and the real world also means that in-game progression can the same thing as real-world progression, which is deeply satisfying to experience. In TotF’s case, getting better at real-world boxing will absolutely help you be better at TotF (although the reverse isn’t necessarily true – getting good at TotF alone won’t by itself make you an expert fighter). Also, because you’re mimicking the real-world actions of boxing, which are exhausting, you’re exercising when you play The Thrill of the Fight even if you didn’t intend to. It’s amazing to be able to check your progress by reflecting on your own real-world skill and fitness improvement instead of checking some menu in the game to see how much XP you’ve gained, and that’s what I have been really trying to push in The Thrill of the Fight and likely what I’ll focus on in my future games as well.
VRFI Thanks again for doing this Ian, I’m as excited about this game as anyone so its great to have a chance to talk with you first hand! Good luck with the launch!
The Thrill of the Fight releases on Oculus Quest on Thursday 24th October priced $9.99 and £7.99. It supports cross-buy so if you have already purchased the PC version on the Oculus store you will get the Quest version added for free.