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Kauffman and Buckell win virtual reality competition

Developers claim $20,000 prize for designing social VR experience 

Bluffton residents Ross Kauffman and Tobias S. Buckell were awarded first prize in the Meta (formerly Facebook) Horizon Worlds Builder Tracks competition. The duo claimed the $20,0000 prize for constructing the "Studio 51" experience in Meta's Horizon World platform, a social virtual reality (VR) program that allows players to interact in user-created worlds. 

Studio 51 drops players into a rural music studio whose prior owner has mysteriously vanished. They can explore the space to unravel the cause of the disappearance or simply create music with friends using a set of virtual instruments. The attached image features Kauffman and Buckell’s avatars in this space.

"Virtual reality is still in its early days, and these are exciting times to be working in the space," says Kauffman. Earlier this year Kauffman established Hyperborean Studios, LLC with the mission of developing software for education and health with a focus on virtual reality. The studio's freshman offering, the educational game GeograVR, launched on Meta's App Lab in January.

The contest was Buckell's first foray into VR development, but the New York Times bestselling and World Fantasy Award-winning author has plenty of experience in constructing engaging narratives.

“After having written for video games before, it was amazing to get involved in gameplay and level design, particularly in the new field of virtual reality gaming. I really had to stretch myself in new ways,” noted Buckell.

According to Kauffman, "One of the best aspects of both the Horizon Worlds platform and the contest was the opportunity for collaboration. I believe it was the melding of our narrative and technical skills that helped our project stand out. Virtual reality let us work and talk together, even when one or both of us was on the road." 

The game can be accessed at . A virtual reality headset is needed to run the game.

Kauffman is currently working on a second project for Hyperborean, called Promethean Orbital Delivery. This is a VR game where building a knowledge of gravitational physics and geography are keys to the player's success. Buckell teaches Creative Writing at Bluffton University, and is looking forward to the release of his short story collection Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance and Other Stories from Apex Books.

About Hyperborean Studios, LLC 
Hyperborean Studios, LLC is an independent software development studio that seeks to improve users’ health and knowledge through the creative application of technology. Located in Bluffton, OH, the studio has a special focus on virtual reality development.

About Tobias S. Buckell 
Born in the Caribbean, Tobias S. Buckell is a New York Times bestselling and World Fantasy Award winning author. His novels and almost one hundred stories have been translated into twenty different languages. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, World Fantasy Award, and Astounding Award for Best New Science Fiction Author.