When it launched for PC VR, boxing sim The Thrill of the Fight garnered an impressive 10/10 from VR Fitness Insider—and rightly so, with room-scale design to help you bob and weave your way around the virtual ring. While you may be familiar with the title from the Rift Platform, you may not know Ian Fitz—the one-person dev behind the game. “It’s just me working out of my home, usually in my PJs,” he says. With The Thrill of the Fight now available on Oculus Quest, we sat down with Fitz to learn how he turned this indie title into a full-blown knockout.
How did you get your start in the game industry? How about VR?
Ian Fitz: Before I started working on The Thrill of the Fight, I was 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 with the release of modern consumer VR I saw an opportunity to try making a game. I had dabbled with Unity before, but The Thrill of the Fight was my first earnest attempt at trying to make a game. Luckily the game did well enough that I could quit my job and focus on it full time, which is what I’ve been doing for the past three years now.
What’s your favorite part of the game and why?
IF: My absolute most favorite thing about The Thrill of the Fight is that in-game progression is tied to real-world progression. You’re not earning experience points and improving the attributes of some stand-in avatar that you’re abstractly controlling. There is no layer between you and the character. You are directly in control of the game through your real-world movement, and you have to improve your real-world self to get better at the game.
What advice would you give to a developer looking to start building for VR?
IF: Just dive right in! There’s no cost to get started, and ultimately the only way you’ll really learn is to immerse yourself as much as possible. Pick a simple idea, brainstorm what you could do next to get closer to completing your project, and then research what you need to do to complete that next step. It’s not going to happen overnight, but as you chip away at your project, things that initially felt difficult start to become second nature.
Did you encounter any challenges optimizing The Thrill of the Fight to run on a mobile chipset?
IF: I’m actually amazed at how little trouble there was. Due to my limitations as a solo developer, The Thrill of the Fight had fairly basic graphics on PC, but I still didn’t expect the Quest to be able to handle such a direct port with so few changes. In fact, I was even able to make visual improvements to the Quest version that I have now backported to the PC version! The only immediately noticeable visual compromises are simplified screen effects when the player takes a hit, smaller crowd sizes, and heavy foveated rendering, but otherwise the lighting and rendering quality is almost identical to the PC version.
Is the Quest version a full port of the Rift version, or does the content differ in some way?
IF: It’s a full port with all of the same content, mechanics, and the same physics system running at the same rate.
Who did you work with on the soundtrack and sound design? What was that experience like?
IF: I’ve mostly handled the sound design myself with stock audio and a lot of trial and error and learning to edit audio on the fly. Simon Lacroix from SilverJack Audio did put together the ambisonic soundfields that are used for the crowd sounds, and I think those turned out great.
What’s next for you? Any exciting updates in the works?
IF: The Thrill of the Fight first launched three years ago. I’ve learned so much since then about game development, VR, and boxing, and the VR market, hardware, and user preferences have changed so much since I first got started (and I expect the Quest to continue to shake things up, too). Right now, I’m in the very early stages of trying to start a sequel utilizing the experience I’ve gained and that I can hopefully throw more resources at than what I had available for the first game. It’s too early to even know much about what that project will ultimately look like, but I’m trying to make it happen. I hope to have more to share on that in the future!
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
IF: New users starting with the Quest version of The Thrill of the Fight should know that this game may work a bit differently than other games they might be used to. There are very few “game-y” mechanics, and the combat mechanics are meant to mimic real life as best as I could achieve. You and the opponent do not have hidden health bars that get chipped away at with each punch. Instead, the exact damage and hit location of each of your punches is looked at to see what effect it had. Make sure to practice on the boxing dummy to see what areas you should be targeting (and what directions your swings should hit from).
Even though the exact force of your swings is important, don’t just swing as hard as you can. I try to allow for everyone of any strength and comfort level to be able to play, so by default the game adjusts around how hard you’re punching and boosts (or lowers) you to a level the game is balanced around. If you don’t like that, you can turn it off and adjust your strength to whatever level feels appropriate to you.
The Thrill of the Fight also adjusts to your play area size and expects you to physically move around in your space more than most games do. Make sure you meet the minimum play area size of 6.5 feet by 6.5 feet and that your Guardian boundaries are completely clear of any and all obstacles at all times and that no humans or pets will come into your boundaries while you’re playing. All the fighting action takes place fully within your play area, which is marked as the red rectangle on the floor, so don’t be afraid to freely move around if you want to get the most out of the game. The Quest is fantastic for this because it’s completely wireless, and you can take it anywhere in your home where you have the most free space.
Thanks for taking the time out to chat with us, Ian. We’re excited to see more people step inside the right with The Thrill of the Fight on Quest!