Jonathan Ovadia and the team at AEXLAB possess the tools for success as enthusiasm, curiosity, and determination fuel their commitment to provide gamers with an unparalleled experience in immersive reality. While the tech industry at large is known for people who “think outside the box,” game developers in particular often display personality traits seen among successful people and the AEXLAB team is setting new industry standards for user interaction related to VR.
“I am so grateful to be able to put all my time into something I truly love and have a passion for,” states Ovadia, a handsome, single 26-year-old who focuses all his time and energy into developing VAIL, a VR multiplayer competitive shooter focused on tactical gunplay and team-based action.
Ovadia is CEO of AEXLAB, a virtual reality technologies and gaming studio, and with his team the studio has raised over $750,000 over the past few weeks on StartEngine, a crowdfunding site that offers equity as stocks so the community can invest in their future of VR gaming.
Many development studios are starting to pay attention to the rapidly growing immersive tech industry, but AEXLAB is among an elite few who had faith in the tech early on and begin developing solely for VR from the ground up. They were maintaining other jobs to pay the bills while staying up until 2:00 am to figure out how to make movement more fluid and natural or discuss narrative direction.
While the AEXLAB team is focused on netcode, community, and aesthetics of the game, VAIL has an amazing back story and there definitely is room for brand expansion as the story itself would be a great fit for animation, live action films, merchandise, etc.
A good portion of VAIL’s creative narrative comes from Elizabeth Ann Clark, a Miami-based musician and multimedia artist with a soft-spoken voice who tells stories through her creations. Also known as Virgo in the music world, Elizabeth and her partner Albert Ovadia started exploring VR in 2015 when they began development on video game experiences for their music releases. Elizabeth’s exploration music video game called Water Planet launched first and the early iterations of VAIL began taking form during this time before shaping into a full scale production.
None of us lives in a bubble and sometimes seemingly small interactions or occurrences end up influencing our future or sending us towards a completely unexpected path.
The Journey Begins
Albert, better known as Aoud, was seven-years-old when his younger brother Jonathan was born. Although they have different mothers, Jonathan describes Albert as the best brother anyone could wish for and some of his earliest memories involve Albert impressing him with his magical Pokémon skills.
On the ranch where they lived in Miami, the boys cared for dogs, horses, pigs, chickens, and other animals. Once Jonathan received a donkey as a birthday gift and he tells the story with pride as it’s obvious he enjoyed growing up in an atmosphere where freedom and nature were appreciated.
When Jonathan and his brother weren’t doing farm chores or otherwise occupied, they spent free time playing computer games like Call of Duty and Runescape. Later they graduated to World of Warcraft, Valorant, and Halo.
Meanwhile, a beautiful, quiet young lady was growing up in California with an equal appreciation for nature, a passion for sharing stories, and an ability to craft worlds through various artistic mediums. Elizabeth’s parents encouraged her creativity, homeschooled her for a while, and provided the future artist with opportunities to express herself.
They could’ve remained on opposite sides of the continent, but when Jonathan was around 17-years-old, his mother was looking for a fresh start and Albert believed there would be an opportunity to pursue a career in music in Los Angeles. Jonathan’s mom packed up the family and moved to LA along with their then 12-year-old sister and Albert soon followed.
Shortly after moving to LA, Albert was at a club one night and his friend kept hounding him to talk to a pretty girl who appeared to be alone. The normally quiet Albert finally relented and struck up a conversation before asking her for email.
This chance meeting in LA led to a beautiful friendship that later blossomed into a more defined relationship that the two refer to as a “partnership,” identifying the fact that they’re in this together as equals.
A couple of years later, the tech world began hearing rumors of promising development in the field of virtual reality, but there had been many promises and many broken dreams over the years so even those who wanted to see a VR gaming headset succeed were skeptical.
People had grown weary of hearing “this time it will be different,” but in fact a homeschooled teen named Palmer Luckey had made some amazing discoveries by tinkering with virtual reality headsets and fixing cell phones in his parents’ garage. The talented teen created a prototype and in July 2012, Luckey founded Oculus VR with Brendan Iribe, Michael Antonov and Nate Mitchell. By February 2013, the start-up was featured in the New York Times and in March 2014 the company was acquired by Facebook for $2.3 billion in cash and stock.
Each of these individual events impacted countless lives and will continue to do so in the amazing way that connections flow through our universe.
In 2015, reached out to Epic Games for support and they provided her with an HTC Vive so she could incorporate virtual reality into Water Planet.
“When my brother and I tried VR for the first time,” Jonathan states, “we fell in love! We knew this was our chance to fulfill our gaming dreams in an untapped innovative market!”
In 2016, Valve invited Albert and Elizabeth to Steam Dev Days, which was a pivotal moment and a deciding factor for them to enter this market. While Elizabeth worked on the level design and story for Water Planet, Albert began archetyping all the core systems for VR, which were expanded on once development on VAIL began.
AEXLAB now consists of six programmers and one artist who develop cutting edge interactive technology that prioritizes esports and social engagement. VAIL is designed with both players and viewers in mind and there are areas to socialize in an interactive armory space before queuing up for matches.
Jonathan and the team work closely with a community that consists of a few hundred playtesters. While some community members are new to VR or they consider themselves more casual players who can offer feedback about how the game feels overall, many are VR esports players with experience in some of the most competitive games on the market. Jonathan and the other developers actively engage with their community and play with them regularly in VAIL.
“VAIL is positioned to be the de facto competitive shooter for VR,” states Jonathan. “We’re working with the competitive community to build the best game for competitive players. We believe that VR is what esports needs!”
Based on global predictions for the market, which anticipate the VR in gaming market size to reach $92.31 billion USD by 2027, it’s reasonable to anticipate parallel growth of VR esports and the consumer VR market is still young so this is a great time to invest.
AEXLAB has raised over $850,000 in less than a month and is on track to surpass $1 million this week.
In VAIL, players have the opportunity to choose a side – Colonist or REYAB – and then jump into the immersive environment to experience team-based action and work with fellow devotees to achieve victory.
Set in the near future, colonists are a faction that live in a colony orbiting earth in a giant spaceship and they’re focused on what they can take while REYAB remain on Earth and try to preserve the planet as it is. Currently one huge disagreement is over artifacts and whether those should be taken or scanned by Colonists, but REYAB are definitely doing everything in their power to protect the them.
It seems like perhaps Colonists should just go away and leave the REYAB alone, but in fact the REYAB have taken over the function of government and everyone lives under them on Earth so it’s possible that they have their own issues. I’m not really sure, but definitely I’m inclined to lean towards that faction since I don’t see myself orbiting Earth in a giant spaceship.
“There are no good sides or bad sides,” explains Elizabeth when prompted with the question about who I should support in the battle. “That’s simply the complexity of the world they live in.”
While engaging in disputes over their claim to human heritage, players will experience full-body animation without need for additional tracking hardware, social features, matchmaking systems to find casual or competitive games, and a full-scale Elo based ranking system.
VAIL supports all major PCVR headsets and they’re part of the Oculus Start program, which provided them with hardware necessary to develop VR games compatible with Oculus headsets. There are plans to support the Quest in the future, but currently players can access the game on the Quest 2 with the Link cable.
Connect with the Community
We always encourage engagement with the VR community and if you’re interested in joining the VAIL playtests, you can do that via the VAIL Steam page. Friends requesting access as a group will be given priority to participate in the playtest so find some friends and submit your request.
With their persistence, determination, self-discipline, passion, and pretty much every other quality you’d expect for success, the AEXLAB team definitely possesses everything necessary to take VAIL to the top of the esports scene.
For me personally, though, those character traits are only part of the picture. I’m always cognizant of things like the ability to write proper netcode or whether someone has a solid business plan, but when I write feature articles, I also look for kind people who know how to connect with others because ultimately immersive environments are much more akin to our interactions in physical reality than those in traditional 2D gaming settings.
Individuals like Jonathan, Albert, and Elizabeth are not only developing core systems with the technology that will have a positive impact and implementing sound business principles, they’re also laying groundwork for the immersive worlds that will impact future generations as paths continue to cross and realities become a bit more merged.