Getting student access to virtual reality tech

Getting student access to virtual reality tech

By Daniel Nyberg

April 10th 2014 at 2:00PM

Indie developer Daniel Nyberg looks at how students can start learning to develop for VR now

[This article was written by Obscurus developer Daniel Nyberg]

Being a student and indie game developer, I have noted how privileged I have been. In my country, Sweden, students get government grants for studying. This means that any free time can be given to what I want to do, which is game development. Over the past half year I’ve been working on a virtual reality exclusive game called Obscurus. Being a student helped me immensely as a VR game developer.

Campus research center

Being a student, you have access to a lot of technology that you couldn’t access anywhere else. Motion sensor technology, state of the art screens, eye-tracking, complex sound systems, and most recently virtual reality. On campus organisations like visualisation and research centres often have access to this otherwise expensive technology, giving students a forum to play with cutting edge technology.

With the advent of cheaper VR development kits like Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus, universities are more willing to appropriate them for student use. You will need to share the dev kits or have limited ability to lend them, but at the end of the day, you don’t need to buy the dev kit yourself.

Knowledge pool

Universities are also a great place to get in touch with other skilled people. Professors, researchers, and other students are a valuable resource for a student wanting to work with virtual reality. The professors and researchers can point you in the right direction for previous research and ideas. Other students can help you by pointing out gameplay flaws, play testing, and programming solutions. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when you’re surrounded by wheelwrights.

Cheaper licenses

Another aspect of development that students benefit from are the cheaper software licenses. Many game engines offer a student discounts or affordable licenses, and Autodesk gives access to full versions of their applications if it’s for non-commercial work. You can hone your skills before having to shell out the big bucks.

Student competitions

Lastly, there are lots of competitions, both in the video game and the more general visualisation/graphics field, that you can only access if you are student. These competitions range from game competitions like the Swedish Game Awards, where teams compete with their vertical slice of gameplay, to the C Awards, which is strictly for new research done by students. I myself was privileged enough to win the C Awards, boosting my indie dev career with some much needed cash.

These competitions are only open to students, so often times your competitors are few. This gives you a real chance even if you just submit your demo. VR is exciting a lot of people around the world, and is especially exciting to juries in these kinds of competitions.

In conclusion, as a student you have a lot of resources at your disposal that other indie game developers do not. You can get access to hardware you can’t afford, you can get help from researchers in the field, you have access to cheaper software just for being a student and you can compete in competitions no else is allowed to.

So go out there, and explore the new world that virtual reality gives you!

Want to get involved in our VR special all this week? Have something to say about virtual reality and what it means for developers? Email James.Batchelor@intentmedia.co.uk to find out how you can take part.