The process of becoming a VR developer has been a wild ride.
There are times I’m so excited about the possibilities I can hardly sleep, followed by bouts of deep existential questioning about our strategy, cash flow, and so many other typical startup issues that keep me up just the same.
This is life on the virtual frontier, at least from my perspective here in Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
I wonder how other VR developers are adapting to life on the virtual frontier?
We hear the occasional success story — the handful of games that made it big. I hear a lot less about their origin stories, postmortem lessons learned, or their plans for the future. I hear even less from what must be thousands of other indie VR developers out there making a go of it. What are you up to?
For better or for worse, with this post and others to follow, I’d like to share some of my experiences. Maybe others out there are thinking about getting into VR development, and my experiences can help you? Or maybe you can help me with advice on some of the hefty decisions I face on a regular basis?
Or maybe nobody cares. That’s fine too.
I’d like to share more about our process — the issues we face, the opportunities that excite us, and the hopeful future of what we’re trying to build. I’m afraid many of us are busy working in our corners at a time when we could gain so much from being more sharing and open as an industry. At the very least, if we open up and get some of our experiences in the open, it will give us something to look back and laugh about when we’re all hanging out in the Oasis someday.
First, I need to establish a few ground rules — just for myself and my own sanity:
- This is going to be a stream of consciousness. I’m not going to spend too much time editing the ramble. I apologize in advance.
- I think in spirals. It drives my team and my family nuts, but I’ve been this way as far back as I can remember. You might even think it’s two or three different people writing these posts, with competing viewpoints. Nope, it’s just me — thinking in spirals. That’s what I do. The good news is, spirals circle around a center. I might stray a bit, but I eventually bring it home. Bear with me, if you can. Maybe this ledger will help me manage it.
- I’m a highly sensitive introvert, and I’m prone to deleting an entire post, video or tweet at the first negative comment or down vote. I’m kind of a baby like that, but I promise to resist that temptation.
As is my tendency, I made a lengthy Google Doc to start planning this new endeavor. Somehow, it feels very productive to type away on a Google Doc. I’ll admit to spending an inordinate amount of time careful grooming and combing through my various planning docs, as is the habit of any good introvert. I have dozens of them covering every nuance of the business. If Google is ever hacked or gets shut down, I’ll be screwed and I’d deserve it (note to self — back up Google Drive). I rambled out a 5 page plan of intentions and topics for these posts before realizing I should just start writing those thoughts here openly instead.
These might not always be posts like this. I might just tweet. Maybe I’ll even make a mixed reality video, or audio podcast. I’m not sure yet.
I might also post ‘scraps’ of ideas that I’d like to dial in on at some point, but don’t yet have time. Rather than letting these ideas collect dust in my Google Drive, maybe I’ll post and revise drafts over time as time permits.
I’m also going to start being more transparent about our development process. For example, we’re about to completely overhaul our user interface and user experience design on our Immerse Creator. Rather than keeping it a secret and having our team work quietly in a corner, I wonder if anyone else would find this process interesting? We’re in Early Access on Steam after all, isn’t that what it’s all about? We haven’t been nearly as transparent with our process as I had hoped we would be.
We’re also in the early stages of pitching for seed funding for Arch Virtual. I know there must be lessons I’m already learning in this process that could help other VR devs. If you’re a VR developer and already went through this, what advice would you give me and anyone else attempting the same?
Another topic might be the fact that we’re a remote team. I know this isn’t nearly as unusual as it was when we first started, and probably common in VR development, but I know there are lessons learned from being a virtual team building virtual stuff that could benefit others. I’d love to tell a few of those stories.
Off the top of my head, I’ll ramble out a few topics I could cover in future posts below. If you have any other ideas, let me know. Some of these are issues I’ve already faced and resolved. Some we’re up against as I type this. Others are issues I know we’ll be facing at some point in the future.
The only thing I know for certain is the answers to these questions are anything but certain, and it’s a moving target as the industry evolves. I have an absolutely brilliant network of advisers across the country that I trust and lean on for the big questions we face as a company, but I’m always amazed by their total lack of consensus. There is no right answer to any of this. Sometimes you just have to listen to your heart, or shoot from the hip and hope for the best. At the very least, I can tell you how I’ve handled or how I’m currently handling some of these issues, for better or for worse.
- Should we start a VR development company? Is there a big enough market?
- Should we build a game or provide custom development services?
- Should we try to patent anything? (I consistently resist, but everyone asks…)
- Can we make any money in VR development? Should we be making money in VR at this early stage?
- Should we be focused on one industry or remain open to all possibilities?
- Should we bring in angel investors? How does that work from a legal perspective?
- How will we handle bookkeeping, payroll, accounting, taxes, etc.?
- What are some good resources to help with decisions like this?
- How can we move the needle, gain more traction, and let more people know that we exist?
- Can we function efficiently as a remote team, or do we need to be co-located?
- How can we find and retain VR development talent?
- Should we stay focused on services, or build a toolset to help other VR developers? (aka the story of Immerse Framework)
- Can we effectively support both services and platform?
- Is the VR market big enough to support a toolset like Immerse Creator?
- Should we raise a seed round or grow organically?
- Should we bring in a business adviser? If so, who? Where do we look for someone with VR or similar experience? (p.s. if you know anyone, let me know.. )
- Should we have an advisory board? Who should be on it? How often should we meet? How much should they be compensated?
- Should we stay in Wisconsin or relocate to California?
- Arch Virtual is a confusing name — should we change it, or do we stick with it now?
- Should we overhaul the design of our website?
- Should we have a separate company for platform and services?
- Should I be spending my time writing all of this, or should my time be spent doing other things to help grow the business? Why am i doing this again?
You can already see the spirals.. I’m looking forward to sharing more of the joys, trials and tribulations of VR development, and hope it will be of value to someone, sometime, somewhere.
See you on the virtual frontier.