The last few months have been a wild ride full of adventure, hard work, and a refreshed sense of thought that has allowed me to become more focused as a VR engineer and programmer. Previously, I worked on personal VR projects with the comfort of knowing these projects will likely hide from world view on my SSD. However, I am now very readily tasking myself (and somewhat forcing myself) to show my off work publicly in the form of commercial releases. Not only will this help to grow my personal brand as a VR engineer/programmer, but also showcase my talents to prospective employers.
As a way of showcasing what I’ve done since my last blog post, I’ve listed some points for easy reading:
My Trip To Thailand / SIGGRAPH Asia 2017
In late October after participating in the MIT AR/VR Hackathon, I realized I didn’t have a clear direction on how I wanted to contribute to the VR industry, or how I was going to acquire the knowledge/talent needed for me to survive in the VR space. I also felt like I wasn’t learning fast enough, whether that be leadership skills, programming skills, or absorbing new personal perspectives. It was then that I saw an international event in Bangkok, Thailand, named the SIGGRAPH Asia 2017 conference. SIGGRAPH is a computer graphics conference where companies and industry professionals from all over the world come to talk about how they develop their project in relation to advances in computer graphics. This specific conference in Asia had a heavy emphasis on VR industry talks, making it a great opportunity for me to receive insight into the inner workings of professional VR engineering/development.
Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Mai Thailand
Me at the top of Phu Chi Fa
Although the SIGGRAPH Asia 2017 event was held in late November, I decided that this would also be a great opportunity for me to get out of my comfort zone to travel to Thailand, learn about Thai values and cultures, and spend some time to think seriously about my next career steps. I rushed to book my tickets, and for the months of November and December, I backpacked solo across Thailand’s lush villages and towns…as well as went to SIGGRAPH of course! The whole experience taught me a lot about myself, how I think, and more importantly that in terms of my career, I had to focus on results. Whether it was talking to fellow travelers or those in the VR industry for 10+ years, a repeating theme was to focus on the results of your actions rather than the assumed qualifications needed to achieve those results. In fact, I was fortunate to talk to Richard R. Hoover (VFX Supervisor on the film Blade Runner 2049), and he told me that he had no direct academic background in VFX, and started in the industry via creating animations for commercials. But his interest in VFX lead him to work independently with other directors to create models and figures used in VFX, and his exceptional portfolio landed him a job in Framestore Montreal, a VFX company. In March 2018 Richard won an Oscar for his work on Blade Runner 2049. Stories like Richards give me hope that I too will find success if I focus on the results of my work, whatever that ends up being.
After returning from my travels abroad, I knew I wanted to produce a project that would be released for the world to enjoy, as a well as a project that would test my abilities as a programmer. After rummaging through ideas, building various prototypes, and narrowing the project scope to a product that could be finished in a few months, I started work on what now is Neon Bullet. Neon Bullet started as a passion project from my unsatiated hunger for a mix of survival elements and action gameplay and evolved from a love to iterate, test, and perfect game feel. The basic idea of the game started from the concept of managing a players ammo count. Players could originally spend their ammo count in a number of ways, including firing their weapons, healing themselves from enemy damage, and upgrading their character. To earn ammo, the player had to defeat enemies. While in the final game, the core game loop is more streamlined, this concept stemmed from the players own ability and skill to manage their resources.
2 Weeks in Development
3 Weeks in Development
5 Weeks in Development
Adding an 80s post-apocalyptic flavor to this concept created an appealing synth-feel to the game, and through an enormous amount of iteration, the systems of the game were scrapped and rebuilt countless times. Although it was sometimes difficult to admit that a game’s systems were not working, this constant focus on an end product pushed me to realize that the grind and toil put in now will create more memorable moments when people enjoy what I’ve built. Also focusing on results, a crazy amount of test went into this game throughout its development process. The game’s UI is a great example – I made the decision midway through the project that a player’s upgrade will be available in real-time through UI on their controllers. However, navigating these complex menus turned out to be a challenge, and having all sorts of players test my game gave me real feedback about how the average consumer might react to these interfaces. In a final test, over 70 people tested the UI, then gave it a score out of 5 as a measure of how easy it was to use. The UI scored a 4.8 out of 5, which in my book is pretty impressive.
Neon Bullet also premiered at the MassDigi ’18 Game Challenge, where is placed as a finalist for the best indie game at the event. It will (hopefully) be finished soon, and release sometime in Summer ’18.
After the MassDigi ’18 Game Challenge, I decided to take a small break from Neon Bullet to apply for VR engineer/programming jobs while using Neon Bullet as a front-head to showcase my skills. I’ve gotten an enormously positive response from recruiters and employers regarding my work (no jobs offers yet!), and have radically updated my resume to reflect the skills I’ve gained in just 9 months since I first dived into VR. If you or someone you know is looking for an amazing full-time VR engineer/programmer, feel free to look at my resume and get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.