Deployment – Roam Wasn’t Built in a Day

As the Zero Latency deployment team flies out to deploy our 23rd Free Roam VR location, it has given me pause to look back at the journey we’ve been on over the last 2 years.

When I joined this company it was in that classic start-up phase, the exhilarating point when the product had been proven and the first clients were signing up. Beginning as a project manager I’ve led the deployment of new Zero Latency venues from number 4 right through the current deployment.

Zero Latency’s deployment team is made up of diverse professional backgrounds, united by the work and a focus on our goals. The culture and vibe of this team is crucial and has held us together through many 80 hour weeks, when days and time zones seem to blend into each other.

Driving an international project from Australia brings its challenges – the late night calls and the early morning starts. No one blinks at the hours. We’ve got one of those excellent and rare teams that just gets it done.

I believe it is this ‘back against the wall’ approach to our projects that has caused us to adapt becoming more efficient, polishing our processes and procedures. What was once a 42 day handcrafted deployment by Kyel Smith (co-founder & COO) is now performed in 5 days with 2 staff, followed by a week of retail training conducted by our training team.

Our dedicated Hardware and IT Build teams have continuously improved our methodology, documentation and processes, drastically reducing the time taken to manufacture and ship a new Zero Latency system.

There have certainly been bumps and dramas along the way. The deployment team has lived in casinos, slept in airports and eaten thanksgiving dinner by the side of a road. We’ve dodged hurricanes, typhoons and earthquakes. Most importantly, we’ve learnt what works in location based entertainment.

What works for a Family Entertainment Centre might not work for a Casino, or in a shopping centre or in a theme park. Each country and each client brings their own set of challenges from logistics, installation and into retail operations. What culturally might work in Japan might not work in Portugal, the US or the Middle East.

The strength of this deployment team is that from learning and improving on the run we’ve built a flexible best practice that we bring to each and every Zero Latency deployment. Each new client benefits from what we’ve learnt from the sites that have come before. This has become the key contributor to our success. Many of our clients have become great friends and have honoured us by coming back and committing to a second, third or fourth Zero Latency system.

As our 22nd site prepares for opening in a few short days, we don’t have long to celebrate. We’ve got a lot of excited clients eager to open before Christmas, each one in a new country.

Ryan Hamlet
Head of Deployment

5 minutes with Chloe Ho – Melbourne Operations Manager

I’m Chloe Ho, and I’m the Operations Manager at Zero Latency Melbourne. I work with a team of dedicated Game Masters to deliver the very best customer experience, as efficiently as possible.

What’s the Melbourne team like?

My Game Masters are awesome. I consider myself very lucky to have a passionate, engaged, supportive team who give 100% to every customer engagement. They’re a fun bunch of young individuals who are also very quirky, or as I like to say, they’re all very ‘extra’.

Most memorable Zero Latency moment so far?

The grand opening of Zero Latency Melbourne (15 August 2015). There were six of us around a table with a small red velvet cake, celebrating just before the first customers arrived. From our humble beginnings to our current team of 55+ full-time employees, I knew that it was the start of something special.

What’s Melbourne life like?

It’s really welcoming and accepting. I appreciate how diverse Melbourne is both in what it has to offer and who you can meet.

Melbourne dining trend of the right now?

‘Feed Me’ menus. I’m obsessed! We had our 2016 Zero Latency Christmas party at Dexter in Preston. I went back there recently to try their ‘Feed Me’ menu. 10/10 for their meat donuts and burnt sriracha corn.

Place in Melbourne to go catch up with a friend?

I’d invite them over to mine. I’m a homebody so if I can stay in my PJ’s and lend them a pair of mine, we’re sitting on the couch with a cup of tea and a family size block of Kit Kat.

What experience do you want Zero Latency customers to have?

I want to make a lasting impression because I believe that we only succeed if the customer has a great Zero Latency experience. The best VR experience they’ve ever had in their life. I want them to talk about the game for days after they’ve played.

Most used social media platform, personally?

Instagram. Kyle (our Brisbane Operations Manager) and I usually send videos to each other during lunch breaks. The fact that it connects us with fun filters is why I enjoy the platform. I’ve yet to learn how to use the filters but Kyle does a great job at it!

Best thing about VR?

Player reactions. I’ve watched hundreds of customers play our games and I never get tired of watching their reactions. The idea that a virtual experience can evoke extreme emotions in all of us is incredible and hilarious.

All-time favourite game?

I’m one of the very few people at Zero Latency who does not play games. If I had to pick, it would have to be Gang Beasts. I watched my colleagues play it recently and laughed so hard I cried.

How did you land the Zero Latency job?

I never understood what it meant when people said ‘I fell into it’, but I get it now. I responded to a Facebook ad in 2015 for a casual Game Master position after looking for full-time work for a year. One thing led to another and the Directors kept giving me more responsibility. Fast forward 3 years later and I’m still here. Yay!

Canines or Felines?

Canines of course! There’s a quote that says: ‘Be the person your dog thinks you are’. That pretty much sums up why.

5 minutes with Krister Monsvik – Development Director

I’m Krister Monsvik and I’m the Development Director at Zero Latency. I work on the planning, coordination and efficiency of our Content and Core Teams. I am involved with breaking down requirements and making sure we’re on track.

What led you down this career path?

I was interested in games at an early age and always wanted to improve and add features to them. I’m a very logically driven person, which led me down the path of programming.

Around the time of finishing uni, I began my programming career at a games studio that was starting to develop a games engine from scratch, which we eventually ported to many platforms.

As that project and my understanding of the space grew, I got into leading a smaller team of programmers, which then led into producer and other management roles. While I find programming satisfying, helping teams operate smoothly and effectively has become the field I’m most passionate about.

First video game system you owned?

I’ve been around for a while… the first system I had was a Commodore 64!

Commodore 64 game you enjoyed the most?

I really enjoyed a little known game called Save New York, but the Last Ninja series was also excellent!

Favourite video game system so far?

The SNES was great. The controls were so pure. With games like Zelda: A Link To The Past, Super Metroid, Super Mario World and Mega Man X, it was hard to beat.

What aspect of a video game draws you to play it?

I really enjoy games where you start from humble beginnings and progress by improving your character in some way. Metroidvania (a subgenre of action-adventure) games do this well. I’m delighted they are having a huge resurgence at the moment.

What was your first mind-blowing multiplayer moment?

I’m from Norway, and we were really into LAN parties. Dragging your computer through the blizzard to meet up with hundreds of like-minded people was a blast. It wouldn’t be the first game, but Counter-Strike in the early days (Beta 0.6) definitely sticks out as one of the most memorable ones.

Which company puts out exceptional releases these days?

I’ve liked Blizzard for a very long time.

Most anticipated upcoming releases?

I’ve been looking forward to Metroid Prime 4 for quite some time. Anthem is looking great for a fun, multiplayer adventure. Days Gone are doing some really impressive zombie hordes.

What’s the appeal for you, creating experiences in VR?

I truly believe that virtual reality is the future. The pure immersion that is possible in VR is something you could never achieve on a more traditional medium like a monitor. It will take a while to get there, but virtual reality will certainly be part of a large portion of our everyday lives.

Alliance or Horde?

For the Horde! They are complicated and misunderstood. You might think they are the bad guys, but if you dig past the surface, you will realise that it’s not skin deep.

Game that you can always pick up and replay?

Double Dragon is an excellent classic game that is fun to play co-op. It also has a sweet soundtrack that makes for a neat ringtone 😉

5 minutes with Nathan Thomas – Creative Director

I’m Nathan Thomas and I’m the Creative Director here at Zero Latency VR. I have worked in video games for 20+ years – mostly as an artist in console development. I’ve experienced working at AAA studios like EA Visceral, but also smaller studios and even co-run my own studio – Space Dust Studios.

At Zero Latency I’m responsible for setting the overall creative and art style for our games. This includes working with our talented content team to define the look and fiction, but also to collaborate with the designers and programmers to ensure an excellent final game-play experience.

What inspired you into this line of work?

I always wanted to make games, and as a kid used to create sprite-based games with friends on a Commodore 64. At university there were no video game courses, so I chose Industrial Design and took science classes which was the only way to access SGI workstations, Amigas and 3D software. After working as a graphic, web and exhibition designer, I finally got to work in my dream job of video games in the late 90s.

What’s currently driving your creativity?

A love of universe creation, a sense of fun and creating immersive worlds with talented developers. In particular, creating fictions that are consistent and self-supporting, and then seeing players shouting and laughing within those creations is pretty rewarding.

Major influences when you were first getting into art?

I attended an art school as a kid, so we had guest artists showing different techniques and what was possible. I would also draw things like spaceships, dragons and characters from my favourite sci-fi, fantasy books and films. Finally, the arrival of the C64 in the 80’s was a massive influence both for playing games, but also experimenting with sprite creation, animation, audio and basic programming.

Which video game studios are doing interesting releases these days?

Naughty Dog and Guerrilla can do little wrong when it comes to storytelling and visuals. Also the explosion of independent studios such as Super Giant and The Molasses Flood creating really high quality content is exciting.

What draws you to creating in the medium of VR experiences?

The challenges of working in VR are also what makes it fun. The team here at Zero Latency are experts in messing with limited space (and players minds!) to make a world that feels vastly bigger than the real-world space. Secondly, the motivation behind creating free-roam VR experiences is completely player focused – the experiences are not compromised by in app purchases, loot crates or paid upgrades. It is refreshing!

Who’s the best video game villain of all time?

Borderlands ‘Handsome Jack’ – so villainous, so handsome!

What game have you sank the most hours into?

Most recently Horizon Zero Dawn + Frozen Wilds expansion, though have an incurable and recurring Trials HD addiction.

What’s a non-gaming artistic work that you think is exceptional?

The futurist work of Syd Mead. His production design in Blade Runner defined the look of science fiction for decades (and still does). I particularly love sci-fi when seen through a futurist lens – it is creativity focused on a possible future that doesn’t stray too far into science fantasy.