#9: Cymatic Bruce on VR evangelism, most memorable VR experiences from over 500 demos & things to avoid in VR development

Cymatic Bruce Wooden is a VR enthusiast who went from tracking the Oculus Rift project on the Meant to be Scene forums to backing it on Kickstarter on the first day to making a first impression video and other demo videos to starting a weekly livestream to co-founding the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality meetup to eventually landing a full-time VR position at Qualia3D.

cymatic-bruceHe talks about some of his most memorable VR experience, things to avoid in VR development, some of his current and future VR projects, and where he’s like to see VR go in the future.

Cymatic Bruce’s enthusiastic evangelism of virtual reality has inspired many people to get into VR game development. In fact, it was his Top 20 Oculus Rift VR experiences of 2013 that convinced me to jump into getting a Rift.

Congratulations to Cymatic Bruce for chasing your VR dream and landing a full-time VR gig, and may you continue to inspire many more future VR devs with your presence and energy.

Reddit discussion here.


  • 0:00 – Intro & how he first got into virtual reality, participating in Meant To Be Seen forums, supporting Oculus Kickstarter, doing first impression videos, reviewing demos, starting a weekly livestream to getting a full-time VR job.
  • 2:36 – Why did he started reviewing videos and becoming a VR enthusiast
  • 3:49 – Cymatic Bruce’s Top 20 Oculus Rift VR experiences of 2013 being an inspiration & Titans of Space being #4
  • 5:10 – What VR experiences have stuck out after doing 500 demos: Shadow Projection, Spectre, Minecrift Mod, & Crashland
  • 6:28 – Things to avoid when doing VR development & what to include more of
  • 7:53 – Intention behind Cymatic Bruce’s Hitbox livestream show & future plans
  • 9:21 – Some of Cymatic Bruce’s development projects
  • 10:13 – Getting a full-time VR position at Qualia3D
  • 11:09 – Vision for VR and what he’s like to see happen in the VR community & Ready Player One

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast.

[00:00:11.995] Cymatic Bruce: Hello, this is Cymatic Bruce Wooden. I am a VR enthusiast and all around VR dude. And it started for me looking at PlayStation 3 games in 3D. I was looking at what games are there and what are the qualities and got me to MTBS3D, the meant to be seen forums. and discovered that people were seriously and intelligently talking about virtual reality, which excited me greatly. So this was early on, this was 2012, beginning of that year, late 2011. So I was lurking on the forums a lot, and Palmer was, among other folks, Brent Liu and all those guys, they had all these projects, and I was like, wow, this is so amazing, and just going through Wikipedia and looking up things. And then, you know, all of a sudden John Carmack's on the forums, and then a unit is sent, and then a E3 craziness, and then a Kickstarter, I'm in there first day. And that's around that point, the excitement was building, I was like, I am going to make a project, this is the time. I've been fumbling around with game development for a while, and not really released anything, half done projects, that's over, this is gonna happen for me. So I started a little blog, and made a few video posts, There was a modest following, a few hundred developers like, oh man, it looks cool dude, alright. And then I got my DK1, made a few first impressions videos that really no one else was making at the time. Everyone made a video like when they put it on and said, that was cool, and I was in the video. And everyone was very frustrated. with that, especially developers, they're like, tell us more, come on! And so I made some videos, this was about, you know, 2013, April, then it just took off, there was like tens of thousands of developers and viewers like, hey, yes, this is great, and just, it went from there, and then it's spiraled into doing these videos, to people sending me their demos and things to test, and give feedback on, to meeting with Carl and Nana and starting SVVR, To moving my videos to actual live streams and doing the VR jam marathon, which was crazy And it's just spiraled into more and more just craziness I suppose and here I am today like at a dream at a conference that we put together and talked about and and networked hard for months, and now it's a reality, and I have a job in the VR space, and that's insane as well. So, two and a half years ago, I could never have imagined this, but that's kind of the road that was traveled.

[00:02:35.035] Kent Bye: Yeah. And so, tell me a bit about that process of going through all these demos and making the videos and the live stream, and what pushed you to start doing that?

[00:02:46.050] Cymatic Bruce: Absolutely. I think a lot of it was the, my enthusiasm was apparently contagious and people would tell me so. People were like, wow, that was, I totally understand what you're saying. And I'm now ordering an Oculus Rift. I got multiple emails from people saying, I've watched some of your videos and that was the reason I'm developing for VR right now. And I think there's no higher praise than that, that through my explanations and my energy and my presence that even over a video camera, and sharing that I was able to inspire someone else and through that I might inspire the next genius to make the VR experience and that's something that's just so valuable and I sacrificed some time and sacrificed my own project for it but I think it's totally worth it. I think VR had to happen from the grassroots. It's been in military and industry for so long and that's a total different world with totally different requirements and specifics and it's not the immersive science fiction-y type of VR universe we want and that's really what it's all about. People are just coming out of the woodwork with all of their ideas and excitement and it's a glorious thing.

[00:03:50.415] Kent Bye: Yeah, I gotta say the video that you did of the top 20 VR experiences of 2013 was really inspiring to me to actually make the leap into getting Oculus Rift because I saw right there at number four was Titans of Space, which me not being necessarily a gamer, I saw the potential for the educational applications and compelling use of immersive experiences like that. So just to see that so high on the list, being voted by the Reddit community, that was really surprising to me.

[00:04:17.762] Cymatic Bruce: Yeah, I think that's really some of the power of VR that was discovered so quickly. There was a lot of ideas thrown about, but as soon as people started to get riffs, it totally changed. Everyone had this idea, Call of Duty, Battlefield 4, Mirror's Edge, it's going to be amazing. And then after trying that, and really just like, well, let's dial that back a bit and start from the bottom. and find out where we're going to go and I mean things like the whole diorama genre that sprung up where just I'm just gonna make the set of this bridge or this TV show to let's explore the solar system. Yeah, really powerful. And then it also relates to our ability to learn associated with location. It taps right into that. That sense of presence, like you were there and you did it. And that is 100,000 times more engaging than listening to a lecture. So yeah, the potential for that is just astounding. And I'm very excited about that.

[00:05:11.385] Kent Bye: And so after doing well over 500 demos, VR experiences, I'm curious about ones that really kind of stuck out for you.

[00:05:18.332] Cymatic Bruce: Yeah, I think the ones that really stick out are the ones that have very unique gameplay mechanics that only work in VR. One of them was Shadow projection, yes, the app you did, which was fascinating to watch me get 100% right and everyone in the chat get those shapes wrong. And it was really fascinating, I really enjoyed that. Really enjoyed the multiplayer stuff so far, Spectre Seekers, which is now just Spectre. Really, really amazing to see that input and people walking around and you can see what they're looking at and also the Minecraft mod, Minecraft. Those are just like really powerful experiences. Really, really good. Yeah, I mean there's... There's so many others, I'm sure I'm, you know, forgetting all of them, but yeah, I mean, it's, it's just really, Crashland is another one. Oh man, like having your hands and, you know, that moment when you cross your arms and then shoot behind your shoulder and like, and get surprised by a monster and totally just blast and it becomes second nature. Wow, what a feeling. That is just, yeah, I can't wait for more of that.

[00:06:28.284] Kent Bye: And are there things that people are doing in VR experiences that you'd say are kind of worst practices or things to really avoid?

[00:06:35.651] Cymatic Bruce: Absolutely. I've said this multiple times but I'm not a fan of the transition when the head tracking just freezes. I think that's a big thing and fade in, fade out transition is a necessity. Like don't just have your person press the start button on the main menu and then their game freezes for a second, even half a second. I think that's just so jarring and it's a pet peeve of mine I think in demos. And, you know, it's everyone I know and most of what I play is tech demos and alpha, so it doesn't have that kind of polish, but I think it's one of those kind of user care things that we have to do. And I would say also more options. We don't see much of that right now. Everyone's kind of designing experiences about around what they play and what they're experiencing as a developer. So, when a person has a look target and it's like, okay, look at this to select it, it's the center of your vision because you're using B lenses. People that are using C lenses and A lenses, it's not the center of their vision. So now it becomes a frustrating process to find out where I have to look to activate this thing. So the keyhole is too small. Little things like that, turning head bob on and off, adjusting your walk speed, little things like that which are more effort. And granted, this is a lot of alphas, tech demos, ideas being born. So you're not going to see a lot of that, but I would hope to see more in the future.

[00:07:55.261] Kent Bye: And so tell me a bit more about your live stream and what you aim to do with that.

[00:07:59.524] Cymatic Bruce: Yeah, so the live stream has just been fantastic. It's one of those things where it's a way for me just to directly engage with the community. And I can showcase demos of developers in the community, talk to them directly about that demo, give them instant feedback. I try my best to not play the experience before it's on stream. I just verify that it works, but that's it. so that I can get a raw first impression to that developer if they're watching, so that they can say, oh, okay, that's interesting. And that's, I think, very valuable when a person sees a first-time playthrough of a gamer and they're like, oh man, I didn't think of that at all. So that could be very valuable. And yeah, it's a way to reach out to the community and engage them, and it's also a lot of fun. So as far as where it goes in the future, I would love to, maybe at some point expand it into, you know, this is kind of pie in the sky, I'd never have the energy and time to do this most likely, but, you know, I posted on Reddit gauging interest for like a 24-7 VR news or VR content stream, just like constant information, cool VR stuff, and you just kind of tune in. It's kind of going backwards to TV model, but I think if it's all cool stuff, it might not matter. So we shall see but it'd be nice to have like kind of a sports center format where you get the news highlights of the week or the day and repeat it and you can kind of keep up with all the crazy things happening in the VR community. I think a lot of people have trouble keeping up so.

[00:09:22.837] Kent Bye: And have you been able to do any development?

[00:09:25.470] Cymatic Bruce: Not much. Most of it has been, you know, I started with UDK, made a half of a holodeck and looked around, whoa, and then that kind of got left. I did a little bit of work in Torque 3D, which was really fun and messing around with. Then I jumped ship to Unreal 4. I've been playing around with that since I'm designing a 3D video game course for kids for summer. So playing around but nothing yet. It's just a matter of time and energy. I think at this point Yeah, I'd love to you know, I keep scaling down and first it was like I'm going to recreate berserk and now it's like I want to make an amusement park ride where you go up and down and that's it so and Yeah, so I'll try to get something out there. I'd like to have a VR jam, too I don't know if indicate is interested in doing another one. So maybe I'll get it started. That would be awesome. So

[00:10:13.983] Kent Bye: And so what can you say about your new position as a developer relations at Qualia 3D?

[00:10:19.947] Cymatic Bruce: Yeah, so there'll be lots of information coming about that soon, but essentially I'm just looking for VR-interested engineers, network, streaming, backend, web technologies, front-end, backend, that would like to make a living and make a career out of VR, we're ready. We're ready to hire, so that would be kind of the main message at this point, but The offer came in a few months back, and yeah, I'm balancing two jobs right now, but it was just so important to take advantage of this opportunity, so I'm feeling so partially lucky, partially thankful. All this stuff I've been doing, for the most part, has been for free. I haven't been getting paid to do the streams and the videos and articles and all these things. It's been just out of my own pocket and out of my own time, and the hope that an opportunity like this would come, and it has, so I'm thrilled.

[00:11:10.498] Kent Bye: Yeah, I really sense the kind of enthusiasm and passion that's here in this community. It's really exciting to be a part of it. And I guess to kind of wrap things up here, I'm just really curious about the vision that you have for virtual reality and what keeps you motivated for participating in this community and what you'd like to see come of it.

[00:11:26.958] Cymatic Bruce: Absolutely. Wow, that's just, it's so huge. I think when I go back and reread parts of Ready Player One, for example, I think that's entirely inspiring because I realize how incredibly close we are to something like that, where you have all these technologies out there I've read about, about the haptics, about the smell production, about fooling vision about the binaural sound, all of these technologies out there in some form that just need to be packaged and brought together. And I'm just like so excited for that to happen. I'd have a situation where, you know, you have that presence, you're totally fooled, you're immersed, and you have accurate body representation. You know, having your hands in the game, I think that totally changes things at a very, very base lizard brain level when you have that visual feedback. And it's just a terribly exciting prospect to be like, wow, now I can do this, I can Sky's the limit. Create what you want. Be where you want to be and who you want to be and that's just incredibly, incredibly empowering for so many fields from gaming to industry.

[00:12:35.489] Kent Bye: Great, well thank you.

[00:12:36.310] Cymatic Bruce: Alright, thank you very much for having me and thanks for coming out to SVVR. I appreciate it Ken.

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