NOW Is The Perfect Time To Become a VR Developer: Where To Start

Kirill Karev
Jul 15, 2017 · 7 min read

“Look, if you had, one shot, or one opportunity.
To seize everything you ever wanted. In one moment.
Would you capture it, or just let it slip?”
— EMINEM.

If you are a 30-something like me and missed your opportunity to ride the wave of the smartphone era, then VR is probably your chance. New platforms like this come about once every 20 years and being part of it is a great career and business chance. Don’t wanna miss it, right?

This post is for indie game-developers, producers, entrepreneurs, product managers and all the VR enthusiasts willing to make a VR product.

The Big Bang is near

According to the Big Bang Disruption theory by Larry Downes and Paul Nunes there is a small window for gaining experience and experimenting and then — BANG! — the market grows at an exponential rate.

Here’s how they describe it:

The process of Big Bang Disruption begins as a series of low-level, often unrelated experiments with different combinations of component technologies. This relative calm may give incumbents the false sense that nothing is happening, or in any event that whatever might be happening is not doing so quickly enough to warrant a competitive response.

Yet when the right combination of technologies is assembled and paired with the right business model, takeoff is immediate. Customers from a wide range of segments, including mass market consumers, adopt the disruptor as quickly as its producers can supply it. Market penetration is often nearly instantaneous.

Have you heard that the VR industry is growing slowly or even dead? That’s what Larry Downes and Paul Nunes are talking about.

But anyway, why now? Let’s take a closer look.

You have limited time to get experience

It took 27 years for PC’s to grow from 2% to 70% of total U.S. adoption, 13 years for the Internet, and 8 years for smartphones (source: Samsung NEXT). Many analysts say VR will do this in the next 4–5 years.

Thus you have 1–2 years from now to get some experience, and 2–3 years to create something huge (don’t be shy, we all want to have an impact 😉).

If you are totally new to VR, you have to learn the basics. The guys from Oculus did a great job by writing the best practices for motion, tracking, UI and lots of other things. You can start here.

Although there are already plenty of articles on how to make things in VR, it’s still a very new market. Try new things; it would be great if your project brought new techniques to the market.

Users try everything. For now

Do you remember downloading tons of apps and games a couple of years after the App Store (or Google Play) was launched? There was a total lack of content back then; VR is no different now.

And more than that, VR enthusiasts are struggling to justify the expense of a VR headset to themselves and to impress their friends.

What does this mean? Cheap traffic to test hypothesis.

Just do your best to make great screenshots, promo video and description. Users won’t keep you waiting. A great concept/idea is a must, of course.

You can start small

Making something for a new medium is all about testing, failing and testing again. This is the only way to make something people need. Especially since the whole VR industry is currently in the test-and-fail mode. How to get the most out of it?

Build a community first. Fill it with people that are ready to help. Сreate and test a prototype with your community. Make them the testers and evangelists for your product. It will help you focus on the core features, which always drive maximum value. And it will also solve the traffic problem.

Example of a developer page on Patreon

Services like Reddit can be used to build a community; a simple landing page can collect emails; Patreon can be used to collect donations.

But what about the actual coding, the most expensive part of the prototyping phase? You can always find a developer on Upwork. Or you can learn how to code yourself.

No coding skills needed

A prototype can be built without coding skills. But not without any skills. You’ll have to deal with the game engine. It’s the code your game will be based on. The two most well-known are Unreal Engine (created by Epic Games) and Unity.

Fortunately, both of these engines can be coded using visual scripting language:

  1. Blueprints for Unreal Engine;
  2. PlayMaker for Unity.

Here’s how Tommy Tran defines Blueprints visual scripting on Ray Wenderlich’s tutorial website:

“Blueprints is the visual scripting system inside Unreal Engine 4 and is a fast way to start prototyping your game. Instead of having to write code line by line, you do everything visually: drag and drop nodes, set their properties in a UI, and drag wires to connect.

In addition to being a fast prototyping tool, Blueprints also makes it very easy for non-programmers to dive in and start scripting.”

It looks like this:

Source: https://answers.unrealengine.com

You can start with the Unreal Engine course that is approved by Epic Games. It includes 15.5 hours long and has 85 videos. You’ll make two games during the course and get a Certificate of Completion from Udemy afterwards.

Unity is a bit harder. Although PlayMaker visual scripting is a third-party extension of the engine (which does not have its own visual scripting language), you can also find some PlayMaker courses on Udemy.

Personally, I recommend Unreal Engine for the great community and Blueprints, but you are free to chose any game engine you like.

What idea to choose?

You can influence the market

Well, since the VR market is very young, there is a a lot of room for breakthroughs. Tons of problems remain unsolved: both hardware and software. Locomotion, wires and haptics to name a few hardware issues.

As for software or, more specifically, apps and games, I came up with these ideas (feel free to add yours in the comments):

  • New game genres and mechanics (like Star Trek Bridge Crew that is part board game, part space simulator);
  • New ways of interacrion, especially with new Vive Knuckles controllers;
  • Immersive advertising formats;
  • New Internet browsing experiences;
  • Immersive education tools and apps;
  • New ways of social interactions;
  • Apps to help patients recovering from illnesses;
  • Mixed reality notifications and warnings (when someone appears in a room, or the phone calling).

Creating something the world has never seen before is a unique opportunity.

And what is the last reason to start now?

You can grow with the market

This is the most important one. New platforms emerge once every 15–20 years. You are lucky to be able to be involved in the birth of one of them. Also, visionaries and heroes were not made in a day. It takes time to earn a trust. How much time exactly? Let’s figure it out.

It took Ryan Hoover — founder of ProductHunt — 33 months (from the first post on his blog to the ProductHunt launch post on Pando) to garner media attention for himself and launch his service.

Even if being the next Ryan Hoover is not your goal, you can utilize all the hype of the VR market to your own needs.

In 2021 VR/AR industry is expected to reach 100 million units sold and $18.6 billion in revenue (Source: IDC) or the half of the game console hardware, software, and service market in 2016 (Source: Venture Beat). And it’s just 3.5 years from now.

So, now you know the timing. You have 3 years to earn trust and to launch a startup, before it becomes exponentially harder.

P.S.

There are also some great pieces of advice on Quora. Just check these questions:

  1. I want to be a virtual reality developer. From where can I start? What are the best learning materials?
  2. What are the skills needed to learn virtual reality and what are the resources to learn virtual reality?
  3. What is the best pathway to be a VR developer?
  4. What are the steps to starting a virtual reality career?
  5. What are the virtual reality languages?
  6. Which college / university has the best virtual reality programs?
  7. How do I get started with my virtual reality idea if I have no experience in the industry?

Learned something? Follow me to learn even more next time.

Kirill Karev

Written by

Product manager turned into VR developer | For job/freelance offers https://forms.gle/5JzcNkp4sSVyFSsN7

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