Gerald is a technology enthusiast and software engineer, aspiring to empower and entertain others through technology. Gerald started his career working on small games and simple electrical circuits and worked his way through degrees in computer engineering and computer science.
Currently, he works full time as a software engineer and develops video games for a small LLC called RGB Schemes he founded in 2016 during his spare time, while also toying in fields such as machine learning, circuit design, and more.
You are listening to the VR AR Pioneers podcast, brought to you by Admix.in. We interviewed top professionals who share their exact formulas for success in development, growth and funding an XR startup, and I’m your host, Juan Felipe Campos. Okay. VR, AR, pioneers. Remember on every episode we give away resources to help you grow your VR AR project. To enter the giveaway, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and message the word “done” to Admix.in/giveaway to prove that you did it again, visit Admix.in/giveaway and message the word “done” to prove it and get your free resources.
Juan: 00:45 Hello and welcome to another episode of the podcast. Today. I am with Gerald McAlister and Gerald, what are you working on?
Gerald: 00:51 Oh, so I do virtual reality game development in my spare time I work under a little LLC I put together called RGB Schemes and we are focusing really on making virtual reality experiences that are not only um, immersive but really make full use of the medium and you know, trying to figure out what limitations there are and how we can work those limitations into our games.
Juan: 01:14 That’s so perfect for the podcast because you’re actually in the, in every sense of the word, actually pioneering the technology that’s available for us and trying to push that into the future instead of playing in this comfort zone of what was possible two or three years ago. You’re actually keep pushing that frontier. Right?
Gerald: 01:29 Exactly. Exactly. And so we, we kind of look at the technology now and I think everybody sees this, there are limitations with virtual reality, you know, mobile headsets have three degrees of freedom and that can be a very limiting factor when you’re trying to tell a story. And so we focus on how do you make that a part of the story, how do you make it so that it’s no longer a limitation but an actual strength to the game itself.
Juan: 01:49 Right. Oh, that’s such a great way to see it. So give us a little bit of context about your background. So before we dive into what you’re working on.
Gerald: 01:55 Yeah, definitely. So, uh, I grew up doing game development in my, when I was in high school and stuff, I actually started out kind of just hacking together games for different systems and stuff and I’m all self taught on that end. I went to school for it and then I graduated, got a job, I did some stuff with like indoor warehouse GPS stuff and then I went on to move to another tech company doing stuff there. And then in my spare time I kind of started saying, hey, you know, I’ve been doing this game development for free now I want to kind of learn how do you make games and sell them, how do you make it so that it’s worth somebody’s time to buy these games and work around limitations with like console hardware, VR hardware and other things.
Juan: 02:33 Right. That’s super interesting. So you’re coming more from the product side, making a great product and now you’re actually starting to step into the business side of things, trying to understand customer acquisition and growth and how to treat it more like a startup than a passion project and you know have it take flight from there. Right?
Gerald: 02:47 Exactly, and so you know right now I’m still mainly focused on just learning, you know, when you make an LLC for example, how do you do the taxes behind that, but also how do you do the marketing, how do you make a game trailer that sells the idea and is really interesting with virtual reality because most of the people watching your trailer on a 2D traditional screen, how do you convey what virtual reality is like, right, and especially with no video editing skills, it’s, it’s very interesting for me to work with other developers who are also exploring these things and then to also kind of work in the technical side, you know, can I film it in such a way that it’s got a mixed reality experience that better conveys it or is it maybe better to make an augmented reality experience that describes it as well.
Juan: 03:28 Wow. Okay. Awesome. Awesome. So I’m sure you have some great insights that you can share with our community. They’re typically either developers or business people that see opportunities in the AR and VR space. They want to jump in. What’s something that you’ve learned from your years of experience treating this as a passion project and now trying to get it to actually scale more as a startup that you can share with the community here.
Gerald: 03:46 But I think the big thing I would recommend a lot to do is like, you know, focus on the, not necessarily the niche markets, but the areas where there hasn’t been a lot of exploration done and you know, you’re going to find.
Juan: 04:00 How do you differentiate?
Gerald: 04:02 So it’s, it’s a little weird the way that I kind of view it, right? I think a lot of people look at it as a niche market and some people look at it as a working with limitations.
Gerald: 04:09 I kind of view it as this meld between the two, right? I’m kind of going back to what I was talking about before with like three degrees of freedom headsets. Um, our first game was focused around this idea of how do you make a game that is engaging and uh, and also, um, you know, something that people want to play and has action to it and is story driven, but you can only look around, you can’t physically move your body, you know, that’s a very concrete limitation at the same time, the game genre that we’re targeting, of platformers and stuff is kind of niche in VR, you know, a lot of the VRs focused on shooters and, you know, exploration and stuff where you’re in the first person view and that’s the focus. Whereas when you’re controlling a third person character in VR, there’s not a whole lot of games around that.
Gerald: 04:53 And so there’s this niche and uh, you know, challenging technical spec that we’re dealing with. And so what we ended up on was from the idea of, okay, you’re controlling security cameras in the game. Security cameras don’t need to move around, but because you are acting as a security camera, you can jump between other cameras. And so you can do this world exploration in the game where you can see different parts of the world and everything. You can have multiplayer experiences with big, large levels and at the same time we’re still doing a platformer experience.
Juan: 05:24 Yeah, that’s super cool. So your advice to the communities basically try to not see the limitations as weaknesses, focus on the strength and the storytelling and the opportunity that’s there because of the limitations and it can actually turn into the best aspect of your game. The fact that it does have that kind of like hook to it. Right?
Gerald: 05:44 Exactly, exactly. And that’s something that we’re continuing to focus as we start working on the next games. You know, we’re focusing now on the Oculus Rift and one of the big things with the Oculus Rift is that the recommended setup that Oculus ships with by default is a forward facing experience. So you really only have 180 degrees of view to work with. And so the big question we’re asking is how can we make a compelling experience that only uses 180 degrees field of view, but is quintessential to having VR as a part of that experience.
Juan: 06:16 Right. Right No, that’s. I think that’s such valuable advice. I think anytime that a new hardware like this comes out and people try to translate things that have worked well in other mediums, but to this new platform, users end up kind of feeling cheated out of what used to work out better in the previous platform that they were on. So like, oh, why would I, why would I pioneer if I can just get a better experience in this racing game or in the shooting game or in this fighting game in the previous console. So that really slows down the early adopters wanting to jump on board. And it’s kind of bad for the industry as a whole when people just keep seeing these limitations says like, oh, I’ll just wait until it’s par with console gaming. I’ll wait until it’s par with PC gaming. It may never actually be par, like if I just take a totally different direction altogether and I love the angle that you’ve taken with it, uh, with this, uh, how would you recommend kind of looking at these opportunities for finding them or trying to break into, into those niches?
Gerald: 07:09 I think. I think it’s, and I think that’s what’s interesting, right? I think the first part is identifying what you’re trying to develop, right? And really focusing on what the core experience is. So with the case of our first title the guidance team, we knew we wanted to do a platform or that was set in stone and we, we knew that there were limitations we were going to face without having positional tracking and stuff. And so from that point on, what we did was we sat down and we looked at this game idea and we said, okay, we can’t build like a full, you know, walk around the room and explore it with your character and all that. We know that’s not possible, right? You have these limitations, how can we get around them? And so from that point, we started looking to the real world. I mean, that’s the best way to allow, you know, security cameras are everywhere and yet we don’t ever expect them to move. Why can’t you play from the perspective of one another great example of this,
Juan: 07:56 That still cracks me up, that’s awesome.
Gerald: 07:59 Like when you’re. A great example of this is we, we have some, I have some friends that I work with sometimes and uh, I was mentioning to them like, oh, hey, we’ll work with being that. I kinda helped them get ideas for how to solve these problems. And uh, they were talking about, oh, we need some way for players to drink potions in our games. So should we just have like a menu that they select it from or like, you know, they just need to be able to heal themselves. I’m like, okay, just give them a physical potion. Give them the physical potion to hold and then drink in order to do that. You know, the same thing with swords and weapons in the game. If they want to pick it up, just put it on a table and let them pick it up. If they need a mini map, don’t just shove it in front of their face and have it be like a UI element, but actually, give them a physical paper map and the game and let them look at it and figure out where they are.
”I definitely would recommend if you're running into a challenging problem with virtual reality, take a look at the world around you. Figure out if you didn't have any kind of technology with this, how would you do this in the real world and go from there.Gerald McAlisterFounder of RGB Schemes
Juan: 08:46 Yeah, yeah, super cool. That’s great perspective. Um, and any other parting thoughts, uh, to the community? If you could just share one more thing from your years of experience in working with VR?
Gerald: 08:55 I think the biggest thing is, uh, I definitely would recommend if you’re running into a challenging problem with virtual reality, take a look at the world around you. Figure out if you didn’t have any kind of technology with this, how would you do this in the real world and go from there. What kind of experiences would you have? For example, if you were driving in a car and you couldn’t physically move around a whole lot, what kind of games would you play in those situations? And what can you adapt from those into a mobile VR experience? Similarly, if you could only face one direction, what kind of activities are you doing where you’re only kind of looking in one direction? If you’re reading a book that doesn’t require you to look behind you or to your side, that’s something you can do in that direction.
Juan: 09:38 Okay? VR AR pioneers. Do not forget to get your free resources for this episode. It’s very simple. You just subscribe to the show on iTunes and then once you’ve done that, message the word “done” to Admix.in/giveaway. Subscribe on iTunes and then message “done” to Admix. A D M I X dot letter I letter N slash giveaway to get your XR growth resources. See you on the next one.
Juan: 10:04 Okay, that’s amazing. There you have it. Gerald is sharing with us a way to look at real life activities and try to find the same limitations that we’re experiencing with hardware to create experiences that actually feel wholesome instead of you being cheated out of some features that can’t be done in the current platforms and actually being able to push the industry forward by inviting users into this really cool experience that you get to, that you get to go through from a unique angle as opposed to, again, just always running into these limitations. I feel like that’s something that a lot of developers run into and that’s why they’re coming to these conferences. Right now we’re at the FA conference and people are always trying to see what changed as opposed to just running straight all in into the things that are already working well. Really appreciate your input.
Juan: 10:47 What’s the best way for people to stay in touch with you or learn more about what you’re working on the game? What’s the best way to learn about that?
Gerald: 10:53 Yeah, so we have a Twitter handle rgbschemes, all one word, and we also have a Facebook page as well as a website, www.rgbschemes.com. Just look for the little bird. We have our games on there. We also do developer diaries, so if you’re curious about some of the technologies we implement in things, You can go on there and read about them. We have git repositories that you can go through and download too.
Juan: 11:18 Okay, awesome. Thanks so much for sharing with us.
Gerald: 11:19 Yeah, definitely. Thank you for having me.
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gemcalister/
- Website: http://www.rgbschemes.com/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/rgbschemes
- Make your weaknesses into strengths. Do this by integrating the limitations into the game to make them a strength to the game itself.
- For instance, the Oculus Rift default experience is a forward facing experience you only have 180 degrees of view to work with. Ask yourself how you can make a compelling experience that only uses 180 degrees of field view but is quintessential to having VR as a part of that experience. A car racing experience, for example, or reading a book are just a few possibilities.
- Don’t necessarily just try to translate what worked well from other mediums into VR but rather draw strength from all the unique aspects that make the VR experience special.
- Don’t focus necessarily on the niche markets but rather the areas where there hasn’t been a lot of exploration done.