What’s Life As an Intern at Wevr?
I’m Chuck, Tsung-Han Lee. I have been a Product Intern at Wevr for 15 weeks, and today is my last day at Wevr. It was a beautiful journey.
In the meantime, I’m also a graduate student from Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center(ETC), Master of Entertainment Technology, and that’s where I found Virtual Reality. Then I decided to follow Virtual Reality as my career path.
Thanks to Carl Rosendahl, one of my favorite professors, Tony Parisi met me at our satellite ETC SV campus which embeds in Electronic Arts in Redwood City. He always wanted me to talk about the “joke” how we met — Tony found me in the bathroom. Long story short, he went to bathroom, and I went after him but “not on purpose”.
“Oh actually I’m looking for an internship.”, I said.
“Oh maybe I can hire you.”
Then he hired me.
Don’t want to get you wrong — NOTHING MORE HAPPENED.
I started my journey a month later at Rothenburg Ventures co-working space. That was the first location of Wevr SF office. On the first day of this journey, I was pretty nervous, because it was the first time to work as a full-time employee (this is a full-time internship) at a real company in the United States. Btw, I’m from Taiwan, a small beautiful country on the pacific ocean.
At the first week, Tony asked me a question: “What do you want to achieve after this internship? What do you want to put on your resume?” I was pretty surprised. Most of people from what I heard, they let interns do what they don’t want or don’t like to do, see intern as an assistant to them. But not Tony. He wanted to know what I want. That was the first impression — he cares.
I have been in the producer role for several projects including Imago and Garden. So I told him maybe project management is what I want to put on the resume. He immediately started talking to the producers Jody and Jim in Wevr HQ in Los Angeles, wanted them to bring some production related work to me and teach me something. Jody asked me to “audit” the team scrum standup meeting every morning. I kept showing up on the Hangouts, until I felt guilty because every time Jim asked me “What’s up Chuck? Anything want to update?” in the standup, I said “Nothing, just auditing the scrum.” I felt like I was wasting people’s meeting time, so I never show up again later. However, I kept doing that for almost two months. I learned a lot about what a mature scrum looks like and how it works. Really appreciate Jody and Jim’s help about project management. They are both great scrum master.
I want to share some good VR design materials to you:
- VR Interface Design Manifesto
- Buttons in virtual reality — a UI/UX design approach
- Making Great VR: Six Lessons Learned From I Expect You To Die
I have the access to Vive anytime I like. In the meantime, I’m in charge of demo support in our small San Francisco office, the office with only Tony, Jason and me. (We have another 50ish “Wevrers” down in LA) When we were in Rothenberg Ventures, Dylan, Sophia, Tommy or other Rothenberg people would bring people to our desk and ask us if we could show Vive demos to them. (We moved to Orange Capital in March) Some of them were in this small VR industry already, but most of them were just planning to step into this amazing world. Because of this, I made a lot of friends, so I always love to help out. But the most important reason I helped was because — it was the first time in VR for most of them. I got to see their “first-time” reactions. They got amazed. They got surprised. They got shocked. The funniest reaction is, they got scared and shit in their pants. In the meantime, I got to know if the VR design in those games are intuitive enough for the first-time user. As a game designer, this is pretty valuable for me. People tend to spend more time than usual platforms to figure out what’s going on in the game even they struggle a lot, because this VR is whole new experience for them. Sometimes, I’d immediately tell them what to do, which button you should press; sometimes, I just let them go wherever they want, until they couldn’t take anymore and asked me.
“Demo Support” sounds like a cheap job, but for me, it’s not. To make a good game, I have to listen to the audience. To make a amazing VR experience, I need to listen to what they like and what they don’t like. We all have blind spot when we are designing something. Playtest is the best way to figure out my blind spot and fix it in the next iteration. And the most important lesson for me in showing demos — VR doesn’t have a lot of consumers yet. Consumers would never understand the feeling before they put the headset on.
Here is the order I usually demo to people:
- theBlu: Whale Encounter
- Tilt Brush
- Space Pirate Trainer/Fantastic Contraption
(To the third experience, men tend to say “Do you have a shooting game?” Then I’d show Space Pirate Trainer; But if they didn’t ask, I’d tell them “I gonna show you my favorite game on Vive — Fantastic Contraption.”)
- Water Bear VR/Old Friend
(If they want game, I show Water Bear VR; if they want something else, I show VR music video Old Friend)
As an intern at Wevr, of course I have to show our own demo first. However, “theBlu: Whale Encounter” is a very good starting appetiser. It’s short, but let you wander in the room-scale system, which means you could walk around in a 5x5m space(15x15ft). theBlu’s an undersea experience, so it’s not a normal scene we would see in the daily life. It has edge, which gives players the feeling of standing at the cliff edge. It has the eye contact with the big blue whale, which gives players a subtle interaction but not too much. For people who never try Virtual Reality. This is definitely the best experience to start with because the players don’t need to learn about how to use the controllers, how to click the right buttons or any combination on that “simple” controller. (A lot of developers would try to make as many functions as possible on that controller.)
In Tilt Brush, you start with pressing the trigger and then it starts drawing. This one, people start learning how the controller works. Trigger is definitely the easiest button to press. Others are not. More interactions that players could use different brushes, colors…that allowed me to do my own tasks hanging on the JIRA board for a while. Even they said “I got the concept, I know how it works” after 10 minutes, I’d say “Go open the Showcase function”. That will be another 10 mins. You’d know it once you open that evil function.
Space Pirate Trainer is actually just a simple shooting game, but who doesn’t like shooting game? There is also an evil function called…”Scoreboard”. “I can beat that score, let me try one more time!” That’s what they usually said when they died five times in the game.
Nothing I mentioned below is more evil than Fantastic Contraption. As a VR evangelist who always tells people we have to “Design for the medium”, Fantastic Contraption is the best example than everything else on the Vive. It is designed for Virtual Reality. It’s like you are building your LEGO vehicle in a 3-dimensional space. The concept it pretty simple. All you need to know is there are wood stick, balloon stick, directional wheels and a pink bomb. Your goal is to attach the pink bomb to the vehicle you build and make it run to the right direction. However, with even tweaking a little piece of your vehicle, you could make it go to absolutely different direction. I’d say this game is all about physics and architecture. That’s why LEGO never goes bankrupt, because this is the real fun for any human being. Fantastic Contraption is the best example of “Easy to Learn, Hard to Master”. And that’s what every game designer wants to build.
Similar to Fantastic Contraption, Water Bear VR is a VR game about building and tearing out water pipes. Both Fantastic Contraption and Water Bear were computer games. They both don’t look fun in their computer version. However, when you play Water Bear in VR, you’d say “This is what it should look like!” and then stay in there for at least 30 mins. If Fantastic Contraption has the best VR gameplay, then Water Bear VR would be the one who has best VR design. How so? Fantastic Contraption always use text to tell you what to do next, but Water Bear is different. The VR design of Water Bear VR is so intuitive that you know what you should do next. For example, you would see the footprint circle on the ground. I tried to think that might not be intuitive enough for people. However, every time when I put someone into that game, everyone, I said everyone, knows he or she needs to walk to that circle and stand on it to wait for the next instruction. In game design, we call it “Indirect Control”. You don’t tell them what to do, but give them some hint, some symbol, and they know how to do. Every instruction in Water Bear VR looks like this, which makes it the best VR design game in my mind. Oh yeah, don’t forget to grab the “water bear” when you finish a level. They are so damn cute when you hold it in your hand. I mean, hold in your controllers. Try to shake them when you hold it. You’ll see something you wouldn’t expect.
Old Friend, is an animated music video made by Tyler Hurd. He is also the creator of Butts VR animated short film. He is one of the content creator that Wevr worked with. But this is not the reason I mention it here. THIS MUSIC VIDEO IS HILARIOUS. Almost everyone laughed out loud when they watched them, and kept saying “WTF is this! What did I just watch?!” This film was featured at Tribeca Film Festival and Kaleidoscope VR Film Festival, and got a lot of positive feedback even it’s a “negative” film. I became a friend of him because he sometimes visit us in the Wevr SF office. He’s the honest person I’ve ever seen. Way too honest, I’d say. He is a great human being.
That’s the result of doing demo support every week for more than three months. Make me believe more in Playtest, and understand the power of Playtest.
The last project I’ve been working on for the last few weeks — maker tool.
This was actually the reason why Tony hired me. However, a lot of people had been working on publishing the Transport on Vive and GearVR. So this project got postponed. Since I was the producer for the narrative VR film project ‘Imago’, Tony thought I could be the good person to test out the maker tool from a VR filmmaker point of view. I QAed every feature Marcel created. I cooperated with Daksh working on making all the example files of all the features, trying to use this to make future users understand how maker tool works. And Rebecca was the scrum master for the maker tool standup. And this time, it gave me a real reason to show up in the standup. I felt satisfied when I updated what I did the day before and what I’m gonna do on that day.
When I was making the examples, I would think as an user, see what kind of features I would like to have in this maker tool. Sound feature was the most interesting part, because there were so many things my Imago team couldn’t easily make it. For example, I could just change coordinate variables of a sound file in the maker tool and make a mono sound become a positional sound. We don’t even need expensive surround recorder and easily embed mono sound file into the VR film environment. I know Unity can do it with game objects, but Unity cannot embed videos as easy as maker tool, especially playing videos on android mobile device. However, I’ve been working on this maker tool for a month, so maybe I’m not that objective anymore. Who knows. Try it when it’s released then maybe you’ll have the same feeling as me.
As a result, I bought a Ricoh Theta S because I want to try more things in maker tool after I leave Wevr. Theta S might not have the high enough resolution for taking 360 videos. But it’s easy to shoot when an idea comes to my mind. I can test it out immediately and see the footage or images on my phone. Tony is the reason I bought a Theta S. He borrowed me his theta to me all the time. My internship is exactly 15 weeks. I’d say his theta was in my bag for more than 10 weeks.
I went to LA last week. And I knew that would be the last time to be in Wevr HQ as a Wevr employee. I went there to do the retro and sprint planning for the last sprint. I was pretty sad for the whole time in the LA office cuz I’m leaving soon. And a surprise happened…Shauna sent out an email but I didn’t see it immediately because I was walking on the street with Daksh:
Super sad to announce that Chuck will be departing the fair shores of our San Francisco offices at the end of this month.
Chuck, thank you so much for all your help over the past few months! We will miss you!!
There is a cake of gratitude in the kitchen — please come join us in saying goodbye!
It made me even more sad. As a non-native english speaker, I suddenly forgot how to speak English. My brain was messed up. My tongue wanted to say something but it couldn’t. All what I said was…”maker tool is such a good tool. I’m still gonna use it after I leave. Thanks for letting me work on that.” This should be the moment I thank everyone who had helped me out and all I said was maker tool is an amazing tool?! Fxck me… Anyway, everyone at Wevr was so nice to me. Can’t be more grateful to get this experience and get to know so many awesome human beings. I’ve definitely learned a lot more than I thought I would be. If you asked me what have I learn, I’d say “learned how a 50-people company works, learned project management and how to organize a scrum meeting, learned how to do research and know more about the industry, learned how to connect to people, learned how to QA a tool, learned how to make tutorial, learned sound design, learned more VR.” After cake eating, I took selfies with as many co-workers as I could find. A lot of people at Wevr said they like my energy. Thus, I’ll keep shining my energy to everything I do in the future.
After all of the positive things working at Wevr, you might be curious about what’s the negative side of it. I’d say it’s the communication between LA and SF. Over internet is harder than sitting side by side for sure. Slack is a convenient tool, but it will never be more efficient than talking face to face. However, I always try my best to reply the message as immediate as possible. Still, sometimes internet connection failure could be really frustrating, especially when I needed to grab files through VPN. If you really want to know the negative part, this should be the only one. Oh, and yeah, one more, Neville, our CEO, is way too kind. You can’t find a nicer person on this planet!
Thanks again Tony for giving me this precious opportunity. You not only let me know how important the connections is, but also introduced me to so many people, and telling some of them I’m your “right hand”. That’s the most honorable words ever! Every time people ask me about “What’s the feeling working with Tony?” I always have the same answer: “He is just like my friend, but in the meantime a good mentor and huge helper. He motivates me in many ways, especially becoming an entrepreneur.” And yes, I’m going to start my own company. He is definitely one of the most important motivators. The name will be Construct Studio, co-founded with a crazy artist, working on interactive storytelling production. So in the future, I might work with Wevr again, and publish several VR experiences on Transport using maker tool. Who knows?
In these 15 weeks…
I went to LA three times for Wevr.
I attended a Wevr Party which was behind the barber shop.
I attended Game Developer Conference 2016 for a week.
I attended Samsung Development Conference 2016 and SVVR 2016 at the last week.
I participated in VR Hackathon because Wevr was one of the sponsors.
I attended SVVR meetup and SFVR showcase.
I attended Super Ventures VR/AR meetup.
I was the guest speaker for VR Weekend, sharing my VR filmmaking experience.
I attended Women in VR/AR meetup twice.
My previous VR film ‘Imago’ got accepted by SIGGRAPH 2016 VR Village.
My previous game project ‘Garden — Mixed Reality’ got accepted by SIGGRAPH 2016 VR Village.
I started using twitter @oscar8012 sharing my experience at VR events and conferences.
I took Stone Librande’s (Lead Designer at Riot Games) Game Design class on every Saturday.
I met awesome human beings both from Rothenburg, Orange Capital and UploadVR.
I attended Tony’s Bowie concert.
I met more than 300 people and made more than 100 friends in VR.
I was there when Wevr published Transport on both Vive and GearVR.
I tried almost 90% of Wevr’s work (VR films, experiences).
I was sad when I realized I’m leaving Wevr.
I’m proud I was part of Wevr.
What a journey.
The following is the conclusion of what I did as a Product Intern at Wevr:
- Competitive Analysis — research and summarize competing video players, portals and apps that deliver aggregated VR content to consumers; understand their relative strengths and weakness, and recommend strategies for how Transport can differentiate and win with consumers.
- Production Support — assist product management in developing the Transport product and web site by coordinating content creators and other stakeholders within Wevr’s in-house production, engineering and QA departments.
- Maker Features Evaluation, Analysis and Development — use Wevr’s creation tool to assemble and publish interactive 360 video content, acting effectively as a “proto-Maker” to help product management understand the issues content creators will face when using our tool set.
- Demo support — assist Tony and other staff with demonstrating Wevr’s VR content and products for on-site meetings as well as external events such as Meetups, festivals, and trade shows.
And this was the intro email I sent to everyone on the first day:
Chuck Tsung-Han Lee <firstname.lastname@example.org> Jan 19, 2016
I’m Chuck from Taiwan. I will be the intern working with Tony Parisi in San Francisco from 1/18 to 5/1. Chuck is my preferred name I got from Gossip Girl. Chuck Bass is a guy in Gossip Girl with the playboy look but with a warm heart inside, which is exactly like me. So I named myself after him! My real name is Tsung-Han Lee. I love playing basketball and surfing. I go surfing every time I go down to LA.
I’ve worked on two VR related projects — ‘Imago’ and ‘Garden’. ‘Imago’ was a narrative VR film I made with 5 other people, and I was the producer/VR designer/marketing of the team. However, we haven’t published it yet. ‘Garden’ is a mixed reality experience using Google Project Tango. You can download it from Google Play. Tony wrote an article about playing the early version of ‘Garden’, and that was the first time we met. Enjoy! I’m also the creator of the VR/AR Mandarin community “虛擬實境Virtual Reality” and just gave two VR talks in Taiwan a week ago.
Thanks for having me. Look forward to seeing you guys later this year! If you wanna know more about me, here is my website: chucktsunghanlee.com
I don’t expect anyone to finish this. But if you do, congrats you finally finish it! Hope you enjoy it :)
(I tried my best to include as much as possible, but there were more.)
Chuck, Tsung-Han Lee