I have intentions to make a VR thing. But I must stop and take stock.

So my previous company I worked for ran unprofitably for too long and so was forced to changed captains by the board of investors.  Downsizing in the process and my position as design manager evaporated.  

Not all was lost because my former boss, a board member but no longer at the helm,  had an escape hatch in the form of a VR startup.  

Earlier in the year,  I had an idea for a VR experience related to the company’s core product. So I threw in some of our product’s 3D visualization assets into VR, brought my VIVE in to the office and demoed it, and other games, to everyone there.   The idea was a hit but unfortunately I wasn’t assigned to developing the concept further.  It was outsourced to a small game studio instead.   Leaving me, their design manager, out of the creative loop for the project.

Oh you stole my idea?  You must be so creative.

Which was probably for the best because what I had in mind was much smaller, more experience oriented, than the tool like application the idea actually evolved into. 

Fast forward to the end of the year.  That job is now gone.  But the VR project was still going.  But now with the potential of being the flagship app for a new company.  My experience as a VR enthusiast was recognized and I was at last offered a piece of the VR action.   

I’ve been consulting on the new startup and I hope to eventually get equity in the company.   Most of the investors and first clients we need are on board and we even have a location to host our operations.  In the big city no less.  Ooh look at us, so fancy. 

It’s not for certain yet, but there is a possibility that we launch some time in the 1st quarter of next year.   Until then I have normal job hunting to do and … not much else. 

I could start a side hustle and freelance my ass of doing design and consultation work for others.  I’ve started poking my nose into the usual freelancing sites online, my profiles are slowly taking shape, but i’ve gone thru these before,  the whole freelance thing feels wrong and awkward every time.  My personality just isn’t compatible with the regular acoustic and visual telepathy required to get clients and then to negotiate the tightrope between what they want and what they actually need. 

Then there is just doing what I like and shill it online.   SketchFab, and Social VR markets like Sansar and High Fidelity are great places to put up what ever model or scene I feel like and maybe get a little cash bump every now and then.   This seems like a great way to spend my time to self improve as an artist without the stress of a contract.  Yet it would also be aimless, at the whim of my unpredictable hobby itch and I’d likely to procrastinate about and my skills would certainly plateau and stagnate without a greater objective or meaning than maybe getting a little munney. 

Putting my stuff up on asset markets still a good idea, it increases my visibility and sets up a convenient place to host a portfolio of work.  I just need a reason to make those things in the first place. 

So maybe I should try doing a game?

Before I just jump in and start beating digital rocks together, I need to take stock of what I have, and what I am capable of. 

Artistic Ability

My sketching ability is ok but not good.  With a little effort, I can take an idea i sketched out and turn it into a reasonably professional vector graphic. I’d rather not have do that ad nauseam for a game.  I’m fine with UI and Icon Design,  but I’ll have to source anything more complex i might need.   

Of course, the 3D front is much better.  I’ve been using Blender for a decade.  Before that it was using Bryce 3D to make fan art for Seaquest DSV in the late 90s.   (I’m still upset that today we don’t call telepresence “Hyper Reality”). 

I’ve made a few game maps and props in source engine for Anarchy Arcade, and I did 3D product visualizations professionally.   I also like to do photogrammetry as a hobby, and i’m getting good at optimization. EEVEE in the 2.8 Beta makes me squeal like Denis Nedry at the site of a can of shaving cream.  I can do real time assets.  No problem. 

Game Engine

I’m familiar with unreal Engine. I saw its product visualization potential and self – trained on it. months and months of documentation, following stock tutorials, and playing livestreams at 2x speed means i’m probably more comfortable with that engine than any other.   That and those volumetric PBR material demos in Unreal make me drool. 

Unreal’s node based bluprint graphs make perfect sense to me as
a blender user, .  Yeah I can do this. 

Technical Ability

I don’t enjoy text based programming/coding but I can if I must.  C++, C#, Python, and even (gasp) JavaScript are all valid options available my tool-belt.  Using a good IDE and version control will be a life saver here. 

What i like to design

My penchant seems to be for environments and things.  Not so much for animate objects with agency like people or machines.  Id like to branch out into that but i need to be aware that a lack of polished NPCs will be a limiting factor.  So maybe Environments and things should be the games subject.  Although most solo indies do exactly that kind of game for that reason. 

The fundamental skills for a solo project is there.  The most sensible thing is to get my feet wet with a minimally interactive experience. You know, a few stock assets, a single scene, and a sparse narrative.   It should be something bite sized and manageable for a solo dev and an absolute beginner.   If I care about a VR game thats worth a damn, I need to find some uncommon game mechanic that makes it stand out.  And I think I have one. 

I will explain in the next blog.