The 3D Revolution

Domenic Merenda
Over the past few years, the adult gaming industry has steadily captured the minds and wallets of surfers, putting the player in the driver's seat of a computer-generated fantasy that involves everything from sex acts to the courtship ritual. This experience gives the user unprecedented control over how their fantasies play out and brings customization to the adult content experience.

But what does the future hold for this emerging market?

Hal Rogers is the lead developer for "Virtual Hottie," a first-person simulator featuring a number of sexual positions, threesomes and the use of toys. "Virtual Hottie" also offers an expansion pack that adds several well-known celebrities to its virtual harem.

"My wife came up with the idea [for 'Virtual Hottie']," Rogers says. "For about a year or two when I was trying to make a racing game, she wanted me to make an adult-oriented game and knew that my current project was going nowhere. She thought that it would be a big seller. I was completely skeptical, and in fact, I wanted no part of it. One day I stumbled across the 3D sex game of someone who would later become my competitor. I realized then that the market would quickly grow and that I could jump in now and get a nice piece of the virtual pie."

With the release of a recent addition to the "Virtual Hottie" product line, Rogers hopes to have his virtual pie and eat it, too. "We are planning a major new release of 'Virtual Hottie,' called 'V2.' This one is going to really blow everyone away with its realism in movement and textures," he says. "I had a revelation after I was pointed in the direction of Japanese sex games. They do it right: the quality is there, and they make a solid product. I couldn't sleep that night and came up with the idea of how to make our newest product."

3D Developers
Some of the emerging 3D developers have backgrounds that include leading mainstream gaming companies and they leverage that experience to enhance their adult-themed offerings.

"I had worked for DreamWorks Studios and then Electronic Arts, but the games created by these top-level studios were poorly designed and boring," Neal Nellans, owner of the "SomaSex" product line, says. Nellans' line also includes "SomaVision," "SomaDoll" and "3D Playmate."

"Games like 'Tomb Raider' and 'Dead or Alive' would come out and all I would think is, 'sure her boobs bounce, but can you fuck her?' Adult games are a specific niche market that appeal to today's male who spends about as much time playing games as going to the movies or watching porn."

Even with his background in mainstream gaming, Nellans didn't find the road to adult gaming an easy one.

"Without examples of the work, it was initially difficult to explain what the games were trying to accomplish," he says. "This was several years ago before the 'Grand Theft Auto' porn modifications and 'Playboy Sims' on the Xbox."

But persistence and good receptivity from performers helped get things started. "The models that came in were always happy to be able to try something new, and most liked the idea of their voices being used in a video game," he says.

One thing is for sure: Adult gaming is here to stay. Adult entertainment historically has pushed the advancement of technology, especially in driving the demand for high-speed Internet access, and with the progress of the past decade, the combined industries are sure to continue evolving. The question then becomes one of technology keeping pace with user expectations.

"Sure, I want to virtually fuck Heidi Klum in an immersive heated jelly suit that sucks my cock like a high-class Vegas hooker, but is that likely to become available in the next two years to the average person with an analog modem on the Internet?" Nellans asks.

Rogers enjoys the ease of selling his products to the home consumer. "Gaming technology has come a long way," he says. "People can access the games with their home computers, so it's a real no-brainer as far as selling goes."

In the meantime, Rogers sees the industry moving toward a greater sense of realism. "What is going to happen, in our newest games and in the Japanese games that I've seen, is that motion capture from real people will be used to get the proper sex positions and motions into the game," he says. "It's really incredible. We are almost to the point of having true interactive porn. Realism is achievable for the first time in motion and visuals."

Rogers also sees greater customization options leading to an experience that the user has greater control over. "You can rotate the girl around, do what you want to her and customize her how you want," he says. "A lot of these things are already in the current 'Virtual Hottie' game, but it's about to get a whole lot better."

Says Nellans, "There will always be a lag in advancement because of the stigma of porn. I can't license a development kit from Sony or Microsoft because they have content restrictions, although those systems have huge numbers of customers who would seek out this type of content if it were available."

If consoles are giving the cold shoulder to adult content, the industry could be headed toward handheld devices. "Right now, you're seeing something interesting happening on portable systems like the PSP and Video iPod," Nellans says. "The customer is demanding porn on these systems even though the companies that produce them would rather prevent it. When porn itself becomes mainstream enough to sell to the technology, then that is when the boom will really happen."

And because development cycles can be compressed for adult games, companies can come to market quickly with new ideas. "From concept to creation, the original 'Virtual Hottie' game only took 3-4 weeks to develop," Rogers says. "After that, I put up a website, did a small amount of advertising and spread the word, and immediately I started to get orders. I was already making thousands of dollars per month in the first months of being in business. The surfers were happy to get something that most of them probably hadn't seen before, and the models were happy to get their bodies turned into 3D and make a good chunk of change off their games without lifting a finger."

While we may not see full-immersion virtual reality in the next few years, some exciting changes are on the horizon for 3D adult games. A customer base hungry for innovation and companies energized to deliver it will mean a steady stream of new and improved offerings for some time into the future.