MARK TAY L OR
Just over three-and-a-half years ago, Mark Taylor was working as an IT analyst, fixing and building servers for a large multinational company. Since then, he’s quit his day job, founded StellarVR, and is now spending his days putting the finishing touches to
Korix, his PSVR-based multiplayer tower defence and realtime strategy game.
You’ve had quite a journey. How did you became a PSVR developer?
It all started about six months before [Oculus Rift] DK2 came out. I was just thinking, ‘This is going to be a game-changer’. I was a gamer in my spare time, and my mind just exploded thinking about everything you could do with it. And then I just thought, ‘How hard can it be?’ [Laughs] I’d recently fixed the plumbing in my house because I was disappointed with the plumber, so I made a promise to myself at that moment that rather than play games, I was going to make them.
Did you have any coding experience?
I knew absolutely nothing at that point – the closest I’d ever got to code was doing a little batch script for a Windows server. So I started my one-year drought on playing games and instead of an hour or two each evening playing, I would open up a copy of Unity and started teaching myself C# and Unity game development. I got my DK2 and was messing around with lots of different concepts and ideas. One of the things I came up with was a project called Eradinus
Wars, which was a cockpit space shooter, but I quickly realised that to do something of this scale justice would require an awful lot of work, and more than just me with a little bit of help from one or two other people.
So how did Korix come about?
I was on this delayed flight playing Rymdkapsel and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome if someone made this in VR and made it multiplayer and realtime strategy?’ It just cascaded down from there. I messed around with the concept for a good three or four
months and released an alpha prototype on Oculus Share with four levels, and people seemed to like it.
Why did you make the switch to PSVR?
Sony has a website where you can say, ‘Hello, I’d like to develop for PlayStation’. I thought it would be cool if it was on PSVR, so I submitted a form and included a build of the prototype and a week or two later I got an email, which basically went along the lines of, ‘Hey, Mark, we’ve been playing this all afternoon and we love it – do you want to come in for a chat?’ I dropped my mouse, and a few expletives came out. I was taken aback that the guys down at Sony would be playing my game at all, let alone like it. Sony then provided devkits for the HMD and PS4, and I ported it over and sent them a few builds over a month or two. Then their strategic content team got in contact and asked me what it would take to make the game bigger. I said I’d need to quit my day job and focus on it properly, as at that point it was literally an hour or two in the evenings and, if I was lucky, some time at the weekends. And their response to that was, “OK, let’s talk”.
How did you find the porting process?
When I first got the equipment, I had it running in three or four days, which I’d say is pretty easy for someone who’s got little experience! You get access to a lot of great development tools, which I don’t think I can talk about, but they really do help. The only thing you’ve got to do is a lot of optimisation, and you’ve got to tailor your code to work a little bit better with the PlayStation platform.
How did you find the headset compared to Rift?
What I would say is that the optical clarity of the PSVR is very, very good, because they don’t use a fresnel lens. It’s crystal clear, and playtesters share that same feeling. Also, if you’re going to be wearing a headset for five hours a day doing development work, you want it to be really comfortable, and PSVR is the most comfortable, in my opinion.