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April 1st: VR pivot

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I had a hard time falling asleep last night due to my excitement.

Yesterday I decided to take the big plunge and take a massive risk by deciding to build a Virtual Reality game. It's a bit of a direction change for us, but in our day to day operations, it doesn't have a huge change yet. We're still building the same game, and the production workflow hasn't changed much yet. But, we're going to be pairing up Virtual Reality headsets with the Leap Motion hand gesture recognition system (to solve the human interface problem VR creates). I ordered an Oculus Rift Dev Kit and the Leap Motion device, so it should be here in 1-2 weeks. I want to get a head start on building a demo right now, so when it arrives, we can charge full speed ahead with VR integration.

Since we're building a game about wizards and magic, our super early tech demo / proof of concept will be hurling explosive fireballs at a stack of crates (or zombies?). You'll be wearing a VR headset and using your hands to hurl the fireballs. The other really important aspect to the immersion factor will be getting the sound effects just right. The fireball needs to snap, crackle and sizzle just right while its being held in your hand. When you launch it, it needs to have a good whooshing sound, and when it impacts, it needs to have a solid booming sound. The sound needs to be just as convincing as the visuals to create a really immersive experience. The goal is to make launching the fireball as satisfying, thrilling and polished as possible, so that when people take off the VR headset and look down at their hand, they end up feeling very surprised that their hand no longer launches fireballs. This fireball launcher demo would give us a really solid grasp on all of the VR and motion capture gotchas and let us know the technical challenges of production. It would also serve as the first of many spells to come, and work as a test bed for handling VR issues like motion sickness and simulation sickness. It'll also give us an opportunity to pull non-technical people off the street and see how easily they can pick it up and learn how to use it.

Once we get to this stage in the production, it's also a lot easier for us to demonstrate to people exactly what we're doing. Not many people have experienced VR yet. Trying to describe "immersion" and "presence" is like trying to describe what a movie is to someone who has never seen or heard of a television before. You really just gotta show them.

There's also the pitch to investors. I think a majority have not been paying attention to Virtual Reality and what it's going to do to the entertainment and tech industry. Cell phones were the "big thing" of the last decade. This decade, it's going to be VR. It's going to be a game changer. The VR hardware platform is coming sometime next year. Big companies have invested billions to be the ones who are first to market with the hardware tech. It's 100% certain that VR is coming out, and based on the experience it offers, it's going to sell like crazy. It's an arms race. There's also an arms race on the software side to be the first, best game to play on VR. Our game is going to take about two years to release. VR will be a year old by then, so that's actually good. It means that a lot more people will have the VR device and we can sell our game to a wider established audience than just an emerging niche audience. Regardless, the time to start production on a VR game is right now. The sooner, the better. Other teams already have a head start on us, but none of them are making our game. If we can get our game done, and do it right, and release to market, we can be the leaders in VR gaming. That's where I want to get.

Last night I was talking with some weird British guy who was looking to create a pilot for a British reality television show about pairing up angel investors with entrepreneurs. Why are they coming to America? I don't know. I think I got selected to participate in the pilot. They're doing filming on the 24th in Seattle, so we'll see if we get selected. Dan is all for it, and said, "Well, I hope they're prepared for a very opinionated guy.", to which I reply, "I'm sure they'd love that, it makes for great television."
Whatever happens, it's most important to see this project through to the end and see it become a success, and I would love to get all the help I can get. If I have to get filmed to get money, then so be it. I kind of think my day to day job of writing code is just not very good for television, but that's not my problem ;)
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