TexasVR Locals Series: Make or Break Games

For our first installment of featured studios, we have Mike Leach, the founder of Make or Break Games (MorB), a game studio located here in Dallas, Texas. I met Mike while working on a research project at school, he is a great guy and a code ninja. He has been programming since he was 12 years old and an expert at designing and developing games in Unity. Read our interview to learn more about MorB's work and also Mike's thoughts about the emerging VR industry:

Q: What projects has MorB been working on recently?

Mike: Like most studios, we have a number of unannounced prototypes that we're working on at any given time. Currently we're working on finalizing the pre-production for an election-themed strategy game that will hopefully be fully unveiled in the coming weeks. We also are very interested in the opportunities of the emerging VR space and are developing some internal prototypes focused on these platforms that will hopefully emerge as more public projects later this year.

Q:  What is your focus as a game studio ? Create indie games or freelance work or creating plugins for the unity asset store?

Mike: All of the above! We love making games, but it's a difficult path when 8 of 10 projects are completely financially unsuccessful, 1 of 10 breaks even, and 1 of 10 is a financial success. These statistics may even be somewhat optimistic when counting all the ultra-indie hobby/homebrew games available these days. Therefore, as a business, it's essential to drive income in other ways until you can find your 1/10 financially successful game to fund other games. Our last game (Jetpack Cat - 2014) was fortunately not one of the complete failures, but it did only roughly break even. Since its release, we have also published four Unity Asset Store plugins (two of which are VR-related) and provided our technical expertise to several organizations.

Q: Describe the team and their skills.

Mike: Currently our full time staff consists of myself (Studio Director & Programmer), Robert Nally (Visual Artist), and Adam Strick (Junior Programmer). Design tasks are tackled by everyone, and any extra work we have is filled in by outside contractors. For example, sometimes we need animation work or have extra tasks for the art side which will be completed for us by one of our freelance friends.

Q: Have you worked on any VR projects, if so could you please describe them?

Mike: Internally we have done a lot of experimentation with VR since the first Oculus Developer Kit 1 was released several years ago. It really is an entirely new medium in many respects, and it's not a simple process to shift your thinking from traditional game development into working in VR. We're hoping to announce some of our ideas and prototypes in the coming months if everything works out, but until then I can't say anything more! However, this internal development has allowed us to publish two VR-related Unity Asset Store plugins: World Space Crosshair and World Space Cursor.

Q: Can you please describe your World Space Cursor asset and why you created it?

Mike: World Space Cursor was originally conceived as a solution to a problem that is unique to VR: how do you use a 2D planar mouse in a fully immersive 3D environment? This is pretty important to translating traditional "flat-screen" UI into VR without the need for any proprietary hardware like the Vive's motion controllers or the planned Oculus Touch (both of which seem really cool but require a unique and specific UX). Unity has a world space canvas object for creating UI objects that are in the 3D world space instead of screen-based but doesn't give any tool for interacting with those UI elements other than the standard screen-based system cursor. Obviously this won't work in VR, so we created World Space Cursor to fill this gap. It's a plugin that creates a cursor that exists in world space with the rest of your UI instead of being locked into screen space. We have had a lot of good feedback on this plugin, so even if one day the use of motion controllers eclipses mouse usage in VR, it has been very helpful to a lot of developers right now - and it will likely remain useful for including mouse compatibility with a Unity-based VR project.

Q: Your thoughts about the future of the VR/AR industry. Do you think the industry is growing too fast to be sustainable or is it here to stay?

Mike: New tech sectors always grow and change very quickly. As an example, look at how quickly the smartphone or tablet markets took off. Of course, those had more obvious general utility (and an already-carved spot in consumer's lives due to the ubiquity of cell phones and laptops in years prior), but that just means VR's current challenge is to find one "killer app" to drive global adoption. There's a lot of rumors about a "metaverse" providing this impetus, but despite the brilliant efforts of folks at JanusVR and AltspaceVR, I haven't seen any implementations that are ready for the mainstream yet, and it could be many years before the software environment stabilizes enough for a metaverse to become successful.

On the other hand, I think many people, including some high-profile VR leaders like Palmer Lucky, believe that the challenge for the current iteration of the industry is to not fall prey to the same problems that plagued the last iteration in the 90s. Fortunately, I think the technical problems are solved, and with a lot of big players like Sony, Facebook, and Valve/HTC getting involved, the business investment will hopefully be enough to keep it from becoming a fad this time around. VR is here to stay, I believe, but my biggest concern currently is the price of hardware that keeps it niche. Hopefully the Playstation VR will improve the situation, but there will still be many people who are interested in the tech - just not at the current cost. If things continue at their current rate of improvement, however, that situation will resolve itself in the coming years after the second generation of hardware is released and first generation used tech is more ubiquitous.