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In 2010, after ten years of searching for meaning in his life, Toby Downton had a vision for a game that everyone could play in a virtual world. Captivated by what he saw, he proceeded to devote a large amount of his spare time to investigating how to make the vision a reality.
At the end of 2011 he left his job at the London Stock Exchange in order to commit to learning about technology and the world of tech startups. Soon after he co-founded Matter, a small digital innovation consultancy with two friends, and worked both as a business analyst, and in business development for the company up until March of 2014, when the Facebook purchase of Oculus Rift inspired him to write the book that showed the game and company he had envisioned.
In the year 2020, London-based gaming company Spiralwerks will launch their ambitious year-long virtual reality game, Solaversia. Over 100 million players from around the world, each given a unique number in The Player’s Grid that corresponds to their individual profile, will compete against each other across the solar system to be the last person standing and win the £10 million grand prize. Nova Negrahnu and her friends Burner and Sushi cannot wait to start playing. But when an international terrorist organisation sets its sights on the game and it’s creator, Nova finds her life turned upside down, as the line between simulation and reality blurs. Can she navigate between playing the game, coping with all the issues an eighteen-year-old girl faces and avoid the very real and present danger mounting outside Solaversia?
The world of virtual reality is about to fundamentally reshape the way in which we live, work and play. The Oculus Rift — the much-lauded and potentially transformational VR headset, which broke crowdfunding records in 2012, and was recently acquired by Facebook for $2 billion — is scheduled to launch in early 2016. While its most obvious impact will hit the world’s 700 million plus gamers, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes the potential VR impact to be far more profound: “Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face – just by putting on goggles in your home.”
The relatively new genre of virtual reality inspired science fiction, centred around the gaming industry is booming, with Ernest Cline’s bestseller Ready Player One already in production for a major movie adaptation with Spielberg directing. Downton is emerging as a driving force in the VR revolution. His novel Solaversia is just the first step in his thrillingly ambitious multi-platform story-telling experience that will explore the relationships between artificial intelligence, technology and the human spirit. Downton will be incorporating his tech-company – Spiralwerks – in the real world, developing Solarversia as a commercially available game, ready to storm the games market in 2020. Accompanying the publication of the Solarversia book, A Golden Ticket promotion will be launched this year, enabling games enthusiasts to win 100 specially reserved places within the Player’s Grid, through competitions, charity auctions and book sales.
About the author: Toby Downton lives in North London and is head of business development at Matter, a digital innovation consultancy he co-founded. He has previously worked at the London Stock Exchange and has also lived in Australia. Solarversia by Toby Downton (published by CreateSpace, RRP £8.99 paperback, RRP £2.99 ebook) will be released 31st August 2015, and will be available to purchase at online retailers including amazon.co.uk.
Talk Radio Europe interview with Bill Padley, August 2015