Maze Theory: making virtual reality gaming more immersive

Posted on: 05/08/2022

A business supported by Innovate UK is using artificial intelligence technology to make game characters more lifelike and responsive.

A UK virtual reality studio, Maze Theory, has been able to ramp up work on a new interactive game after receiving an Innovation Loan from Innovate UK.

The game is based on the BAFTA-award-winning series Peaky Blinders, a gangster family epic set in 1900s England.

It uses artificial intelligence to enable characters to respond to players’ gestures, movements, voice and body language.

Maze Theory was set up in early 2018 by industry veterans from PlayStation and NCSOFT and the management team at Output Group, a London creative agency. The company has already launched a successful Doctor Who game.

Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom is due to launch in 2022 but the COVID-19 pandemic had an almost immediate impact on the company’s development plans.

Maze Theory’s CEO Ian Hambleton said:

Getting finance was tricky during the pandemic. When Covid happened a lot of people stopped lending. The innovation continuity loan from Innovate UK came at exactly the right time for us.

It allowed us to adapt to the new challenges and fund extra hardware for our developers who were now home working.

The company also used the loan to fund extra staff, increasing the team from 12 at the start of the pandemic to 35 a year on. Within 2 to 3 years, they aim to have around 65 staff.

Ian added:

Getting the innovation continuity loan from Innovate UK felt like a really significant stamp of approval.

We’re playing our part in making the UK one of the most world-renowned countries for immersive storytelling.

Maze Theory previously received support from Innovate UK through its Audience of the Future fund, successfully completing an R&D project to make game characters feel more human and real.

The team worked on the original project with Goldsmiths, University of London and game developer, Dream Reality Interactive. Since then, the university has continued to use the technology developed by Maze Theory to support behavioural therapy work, using it to treat people with learning issues, anxiety and depression.

Ian added:

One of the brilliant things about that project is that we’ve now got a really strong relationship with Goldsmiths. We’ve got about 3 or 4 paid internships from
the university at the moment.

It literally catapulted the business onto the next level and gave us a huge confidence boost. We no longer feel like a small start-up but a key player in the games industry.

About Innovation Loans

Innovate UK is offering up to £25 million in loans to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. Innovation Loans are on offer to highly innovative late-stage research and development projects with the best potential for the future.

Each project that receives funding has clear routes to commercialisation and economic impact, leading to new products, processes or services with a particular focus on supporting and delivering future economy areas included in the Innovate UK plan for action.

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Current funding opportunities

Innovation Loans Future Economy Competition – Round Five

Opens: 20/07/2022 Closes: 14/09/2022

UK registered SMEs can apply for loans for innovative projects with strong commercial potential to significantly improve the UK economy.

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