Daniel Dilallo has worked on high-end console games such as Guitar Hero and Call of Duty. But now he has shifted into a hot new gig: making porn apps for virtual reality.

In some ways, this career transition is not a surprise, and Dilallo is not alone in making the leap. The move has opened new opportunities and a chance to make a fortune on the technological frontier, where everything is moving fast and the promise of riches awaits. VR is expected to be a $30 billion industry by 2020, according to tech advisor Digi-Capital. But Dilallo has had to leave some of his past behind, as porn doesn’t have the same stamp of legitimacy as the game industry does in many circles.

Jimmy Hess of VixenVR and Daniel Dilallo of 3x Studios.

Above: Jimmy Hess of VixenVR and Daniel Dilallo of 3x Studios.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Dilallo is based in Jacksonville, Florida, where he runs 3x Studios, which focuses on VR apps. He is working on projects such as a 3D-animated shopping mall for porn and a VR version of the Gold Club strip club in San Francisco. Fans can visit the virtual strip club and get lap dances that “look and feel like the real thing,” Dilallo claims. (Of course, no one is sitting in your lap, but the feeling is a lot more immersive when you see it in VR).

“I never thought I would go into adult VR,” Dilallo said. “I really liked the medical VR space. It had potential to help people. I focused on it and built a couple of prototypes. I approached some venture capital groups. VR is expensive. My type of designs combine film production and game development. I wasn’t able to raise the money to keep my team.”

So Dilallo had to think hard about what to do next.

He added, “The team was very valuable. Four highly trained developers could do the work of 20. But I couldn’t keep them working in that medical space. I started taking one VR project after another, from Lamborghini to Playboy. I made a little money from random development stuff in VR marketing. We were just getting by, and the space that was moving the quickest was the adult space. The adult space drives technology, and I am a direct witness to that.”

I met Dilallo at a virtual reality meetup at The Armory, the famous San Francisco landmark that is now owned by Peter Acworth, the owner of Kink.com (the maker of BDSM and fetish porn films). His company was among a dozen at the event that were working in VR porn. Dilallo has had a chance to shoot at The Armory, where they have tons of bondage props in the basement and store lubricant by the barrel. It is, of course, a controversial place.

But I met more game developers there than I expected.

Before porn

Daniel Dilallo signs a poster for a video game he worked on.

Above: Daniel Dilallo signs a poster for a video game he worked on.

Image Credit: Daniel Dilallo

Dilallo got to porn through a circuitous path. He may not be the usual person you think of when you envision a video game developer at a big corporation. He has tattoos all over, and he enjoys cage fighting. (I didn’t ask him a whole lot about this.) And he loves the night club atmosphere and places like gentlemen’s clubs.

He’s always had a passion to combine film and games. He started out as a tester at Acclaim Entertainment for about a year and a half. Then he went to college at Full Sail University, in Winter Park, Florida, where he got a computer engineering degree. He went straight to a job at Activision at a studio in Albany, N.Y., where he worked as a mission designer for an Amazing Spider-Man video game.

“My goal was always to become a game director,” he said. “I knew the different disciplines, and I knew I had to know engineering really well to be able to do design. I wanted to be a smart director and know the engineering side and know how my decisions would affect all the different disciplines in a game.”

He worked under the umbrella of Vicarious Visions, an Activision-owned studio, from 2006 to 2011. He went on to work on tools for Guitar Hero III and audio design on Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. He did game design on Spyro and then shifted to the innovations lab, where he worked on two Call of Duty and Guitar Hero prototypes.

Call of Duty: Roman Wars

Call of Duty: Roman Wars

Above: Call of Duty: Roman Wars

Image Credit: Daniel Dilallo

This summer, Dilallo received some surprise notoriety (albeit anonymously) under the nickname “Polemos.” He told sites such as Games Radar (and yes, he is outing himself here on VentureBeat) that he started working on a combat game set in ancient Rome. He did this work before he went to Activision.

He wrote the story about Julius Caesar’s 10th Roman Legion while he was in college. Then, while he was at Vicarious Visions, he proposed a game dubbed Call of Duty: Roman Wars. He was the lead designer for it, and it featured combat like what you’d find in the movie 300 and followed Caesar through the Gallic wars. His prototype showed scenes with thunderous music, and it included one level where Caesar besieged the city of Alesia in 52 B.C. The prototype showed Roman soldiers marching near the city and cavalry riding to the gates.

In 2010, the game proposal started gathering steam within the studio where he worked, with multiple coworkers contributing to the prototype during off hours, because they believed in it. Dave Stoll, head of Infinity Ward and former head of studios at Activision, said the project never got the go-ahead. And Dilallo acknowledged that it never got the green light. Vicarious Visions now works mostly on the Skylanders series.

“That was a prototype I created at the innovations lab,” Dilallo said. “I pushed for it so hard, and met with everybody in the Vicarious chain. But they went with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and the futuristic Call of Duty games. I don’t know what happened.

“There was a year and a half of craziness at Activision, where they merged with Blizzard and expanded Call of Duty to so many studios. It was a lot of turmoil during that time, and it was bad timing for that project.”