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Art & Engineering for VR

Virtual Reality games and simulations are built using two fundamental components - art and engineering. If there's no art, your app is colorless and dull. If there's no engineering, your app doesn't function. But when the two come together just right, it's magical.

I've worked on both VR games and VR training simulations, and both require a sort of harmony between art and engineering to look good and function well.

As an artist, I never want to compromise on art, especially when it comes to VR. I've worked on projects that drastically cut back on the art of an app, and it shows - it literally shows. There are very few shortcuts when it comes to good 3D art in VR. Anything you can walk around, pick-up, and generally interact with in VR is ten times bigger than on a TV or monitor, not to mention it's 3D. Mistakes in VR are BIG mistakes.

Typically, VR projects are run by engineers, people who know how to program. It's not that artists can't head up a project, it's usually because the software engineer knows how it all functions that they're in charge. Also, the natural development of a realtime app, such as a VR app, is to code first and add art later. So it makes sense that art typically comes second; without code, it doesn't function.

The irony of it all, however, is that the first person to put on a headset and walk around in a VR app, will immediately see, interact, and ultimately judge the app by the way it looks - much to the chagrin of the engineer who compromised on their art.

So what is the secret sauce of VR development? What's the perfect balance between art and engineering? How much art do we need in direct proportion to code? What's the ratio?

There isn't one.


We can find that harmony together. The best VR apps are made by people who work together to find the balance between art and engineering. It isn't easy, but it is possible. Communication is key. Good time estimations really help. A project manager who knows at least a bit of both worlds.

Artists, get really good at estimating your time on things. This will make it much easier for the left brained folks that code to wrap their heads around what is actually possible, and what is possible. It's all about time.

Engineers, anything is possible with art, it just takes time. Just like beautiful, super-efficient code takes longer to right, it's the same with art. Don't compromise on the art, you'll be judged by it.

From the biased perspective of a VR artist who thoroughly enjoys working with programmers.


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