VR Observer was fortunate enough to sit down with Pablo Farias Navarro to discuss the company he founded, Zenva and their current Kickstarter campaign: “The Complete Virtual Reality Game Development Course”. Check out our article here:
1. Tell us a little about yourself, what is your background and what brought you to Virtual Reality (VR)?
I’m a software developer and founder of Zenva, a startup dedicated to teaching game development and programming. Back in 2012, I was very interested in HTML5 game development and found it quite hard to find good quality material to learn, so once I learned it the hard way I created an online course that taught people how to make games with HTML5 the way I would have wanted to learn. One thing lead to another, teaching online became my full-time occupation, and 5 years later we’ve taught programming to over 200k students from all over the world how to make games and how to code.
My interest in VR comes all the way from watching The Matrix, Abre Los Ojos (the original Spanish version of “Vanilla Sky”) and ExistenZ in the 90’s and early 00’s. I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi so VR has always been somehow present in my mind. Inception is one of my favorite movies.
What brought me to VR game development was curiosity and I guess a merge between my interest in game development and sci-fi interest. I bought the Samsung Gear VR after having tried VR at a local meetup. At first, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of content, but after playing Lands End I was blown away by the possibilities and started learning what the development process of VR games entailed. Bought the HTC Vive and the Oculus to try the higher end and to start making demos with Unity and Blender. That is when I decided I wanted to work exclusively on VR courses in 2017, starting with this Kickstarter but with the idea of going much deeper in follow-up courses and explore some new concepts while teaching.
2. How would you explain what Zenva is doing in the VR space to someone who has never heard of VR?
We are in the process of creating the world’s most comprehensive online course on VR game development in order to allow ANYONE to bring their VR ideas to reality. If you don’t know how to code that’s fine, we’ll cover that as well in an intro module that teaches the basics.
This will be THE one-stop tutorial for people to learn VR.
3. What has been your single greatest challenge?
The greatest challenge has also been one of the greatest joys about it, is that VR is uncharted territory. We are all learning as we go, and this requires me to spend a lot of time reading, watching videos and testing what works and what doesn’t with the different devices that I own.
Cross-platform compatibility issues is also a challenge. Not all devices have the same features. For instance, if you jump in real life in the HTC Vive, you also jump in the virtual world, but this doesn’t happen with the Gear VR or the Cardboard.
4. Tell us how you addressed it, and what you learned as a result.
Keeping an open mind and dedicating time each week to learn and update my skills.
Keeping things simple and accepting that we are not in a “write once, deploy everywhere” world yet with VR. Not everything has to work everywhere.
5. What is the most surprising thing you have learned observing people interacting with VR? Lessons learned?
How what works in normal 3D games doesn’t work in VR, for instance, the speed of a first person shooter in a normal 3D game is too fast for VR, and how easy it is for people to get motion sick. I’ve learned that VR experiences need to take these factors into account, avoid excessive movement, give the player points of reference and a sense of control.
I didn’t think that learning VR game programming would take me to learn about the human brain or ear system, but motion sickness is a real issue which we’ll cover in depth in the course.
6. How would you define success for your Virtual Reality Game Development Course, outside of exceeding your fundraising target? What is the ultimate goal?
The ultimate success for the course will be when I get to play beautiful, immersive VR experiences created by my students. This has happened before with my 2D game development courses (many students have published games to the App Store and the Google Play), and I look forward to seeing people go wild with VR game development.
7. Am I missing anything? Is there something you wish people would ask you?
I think what’s amazing about VR is that we are all on this together, figuring out what this is, what works and what doesn’t. There are no preconceptions and no “classics” to be compared to. It’s very personal and more immersive than normal games. In this new arena everyone has a fair chance to make something big, so if you are reading this and you have an idea, don’t wait any longer and start working on it!