Greetings, VR Austin friends!
This year’s second-annual VR Austin Jam was a huge success, with a weekend full of immensely creative projects as well as a well-attended showcase jam-packed of enthusiastic attendees.
Over 75 jammers worked on VR projects, ranging from games about snakes and puzzles to narratives and web VR. The weekend started with VR Austin organizers arriving at 6 AM at the Vuka Austin event space to transform the venue into a workspace for VR creativity. With desktops, room-scale VR setups, and mobile dev spaces covering every inch of the beautiful Vuka, we were off!
The weekend’s jam lasted from 10AM to 10PM on Saturday and Sunday, November 12-13. We kept the hours limited as we wanted our jammers to not just create amazing works, but to also have time to bond with each other and enjoy all the tacos and BBQ Austin has to offer! And there were so many representatives of various VR communities! We saw jammers from both the indie and AAA development scene here in Austin, as well as guests all the way from California, Washington, Illinois, and even some international devs!
All of the creations from the weekend’s jam were on display at our showcase the night of Monday, November 14. Over 400 people from all across Central Texas attended, playing VR demos on the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, Google Daydream, Merge VR, Gear VR, and more! Thank you to everyone that attended to play, discuss, debate, inspire, and be-inspired. 2016 has been an incredible year for VR, and so much passion and creativity was on display.
Our Awesome Sponsors
Of course, all of this wouldn’t have been possible without our incredible sponsors and staff. The immense outpouring of support from sponsors and our community is what brought the vision of this event to life. We want to personally thank our sponsors for the 2016 VR Austin Jam: Qualcomm, MergeVR, SXSW, VREAL, Panic Button, NVIDIA, Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering (TAME), Alienware, CloudGate Studios, Ximmerse, Owlchemy Labs, Plantronics, Oculus, HTC Vive, Viacom, and Sony. Each of you absolutely left your mark on this event, and helped create this awesome environment where jammers could focus on making innovative and experimental VR experiences.
Something we’re proud of is the diversity of our community in Austin. Not only did our attendees represent a wide variety of professional backgrounds and gender identities, but the projects themselves showcased an insane amount of creativity and diversity of thought. We pride ourselves on our community and their unique approaches to the potential of VR, and the jam was a huge testament to the innovative mindset of VR Austin.
To enhance and promote the sense of safety and inclusion as we navigate these creative and curious environments, we created a new code of conduct. In an effort to share these resources with the wider VR community, we have released the VR Austin Code of Conduct under a creative commons license. We encourage you to read, use, riff on, and reshare as it suits the needs of your own communities!
Some Project Highlights
One of our favorite projects from the jam came from Fox Buchele and his international team of remote jammers: Snakes on an Extradimensional Plane. This VR-spin on the classic “Snake” game features mind-boggling graphics and sick beats as you attempt to keep your tiny astronauts away from the maws of the serpents while trying to collect delicious treats.
One team of owls from Owlchemy Labs put together Skeletus, a vividly-colored game where you guard a castle from oncoming skeletons. It’s reminiscent of early flash games and surprisingly addicting. Special environmental surprises await players who can toss a skeleton into the candy-colored volcano looming in the distance.
A team from Phaser Lock put together the space puzzler ‘Space Breather’, which tasks players with various puzzles and button-pushing in order to prevent the oxygen from leaving your space cabin. Doses of humor are plentiful in the game, with the final puzzle requiring you to open your cabin window to let out a pesky space bug.
Local indie shop Taco Illuminati also produced a beautiful low-poly hunting game: Hunt VR. It utilizes a unique method of locomotion that perfectly encapsulates the sense of stealth and strategy necessary for the hunt, while also remaining very comfortable and inducing no motion sickness.
You can view many of the weekend’s projects on the itch.io portal for VR Austin Jam 2016: https://itch.io/jam/vr-austin-jam-2016
Amongst the chaos, the VR Austin team even had an emergent sub-jam at the end of the weekend. Yes, the organizers and a few guests flexed their creative muscles in the best way they knew how— puns! Feast your eyes on the product of our VR Austin Chair Jam:
In all seriousness, we’re immensely proud of the productive weekend the jammers had, and the overall spirit of community that permeated throughout the jam and showcase. There was a noticeable air of curiosity and creativity present, with teams helping out one another or lending assets, and many trying their hand at a brand new role for the first time. The jam was an excellent chance to build new skills, but also an opportunity to build new friendships.
This jam was notably different from last year’s event, where the majority of jammers had little to no experience with VR. Now, a year later with several consumer headsets officially released, many jammers came in with their guns blazing, ready to create in virtual reality. We’re very pleased that the sense of wonder was still ever-present, even among the more ‘seasoned’ VR developers. It just goes to show that there is still a huge opportunity to innovate in the industry, and big projects can most definitely get their humble beginning anywhere. Here’s hoping we see many of the weekend’s projects grow into something more.
To view more photos of the event, check out our photos on Facebook or the #VRAustinJam hashtag on Twitter! Stay tuned for more awesome events from VR Austin in 2017! Be sure to sign up on our Meetup page to hear about upcoming events, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more VR Austin goodness.
Until next time!
— The VR Austin Organizers