Trackside’s newest (temporary) worker has a lot more on his plate than organizing next week’s already successful Super Smash Bros. tournament.
Ryan Ketley, a Wilton native who’s been helping his father at Trackside while the organization looks to hire another worker, was recently named a finalist in one of the country’s largest virtual reality game design competitions.
The competition, called VR Jam, is run by Occulus Rift, a virtual reality headset company that recently released a tool for Android phones. It features a grand prize of $200,000, and other prizes running from $10,000 to $100,000.
“It’s a really cool technology,” Ketley said at Trackside on Monday. “The contest is for something called the Gear VR, which is Samsung’s virtual reality headset for their new Galaxy Note” cell phone.
Ketley, along with his design partner, John Hinton, entered a “Zelda-like” adventure game into the competition, which required entrants to design a game for the platform in under 30 days.
“We spent a lot of hours in front of the computer, and neither of us were getting much sleep during this contest,” he said. “As fun as it is to see your creations come to life, it’s definitely very time-consuming.”
Built on a software platform called Unity 3D, Ketley’s action/adventure game is called Ruins of Chronos. The player focuses on achieving certain goals and solving puzzles during the game.
“The player fights monsters and solves puzzles and the game features mechanics that work for the VR,” something more difficult than Ketley first imagined it would be.
“The key feature [to a successful virtual reality game] is the movement,” he said. “The big hurdle is getting around motion sickness. When 3D space is ‘moving,’ it’s sort of like seasickness. If the character is moving too fast or things are moving a certain way, you can actually start feeling a little ill.”
Ketley and his partner will find out how they fared in the competition on June 3, when the grand prize winner is announced. If they are awarded prize money in the competition, they plan to continue development of their entered game.
“We’re pretty focused on VR now,” Ketley said. “I definitely want to do something with virtual reality for PC because there’s no hardware limitation. The challenge of making mobile games is that you are limited to the hardware of the phone. That’s part of the big challenge of this contest.”
Ketley is in charge of the animation and illustration aspects of designing games with his partner. The pair previously released a fairly successful free-to-play game called Gravity Lab, which remains on the Apple and Android app stores and has been downloaded more than 20,000 times.