Imagine standing at the edge of a cliff. You look down and see the bottom impossibly far away. The reality of the sheer height hits you and vertigo sets in. You teeter forward, off the edge, and feel yourself begin to fall.
Only you don’t.
Instead you take off the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality (VR) simulator headset, and find yourself sitting in the safety of your bedroom.
Alumni James Steininger knows the feeling well, being on the forefront of the VR industry.
“Since seeing VR for the first time it’s become a huge passion of mine,” Steininger said.
Since graduation last year, Steininger moved to San Francisco and spent his time working on his own game development, Xing: The Land Beyond, which will be available for the PC, PS4, and the VR platform.
The project kick-started during his sophomore year for $30,000. Steininger and his team announced the game, which involves an interactive story set in the afterlife that includes puzzles, exploration, and games will be playable on the Oculus Rift –one of the first title available for this platform–, and more recently for the PlayStation 4, and the team has also hinted that another large announcement is to come.
Steininger sees VR as the “next wave of probably the entire entertainment industry.”
Steininger used his self-designed major, interactive media, to begin his game development career with Xing. His major incorporated different subjects, from computer science to game development, and prevented limitations with his education. He felt Chapman was a good place to develop his own major program, and that the process was easier than he thought.
“College is expensive so every moment should be spent doing what you believe in,” Steininger said.
One of Steininger’s professors, Adam Rote, who teaches digital arts, said that Steininger was able to make the most out of his time at Chapman due to his determination.
“James is the kind of student that comes very rarely,” said Rote, “He came in knowing nothing but he had this drive. He won’t let anything limit him.”
Steininger claims that part of the reason he can stay focused on the project is because he “loves what [he] does.”
“When is comes to virtual reality, on the best days, I’m there all day,” Steininger said.
For any given work day Steininger either fixes bugs or performs tests or even presents at a exposition.
This year, Steininger and his colleagues have attended more than a dozen trade shows to showcase their game, and Steininger has shared his enthusiasm for the industry in over 1000 VR demonstrations over the past two years.
“[VR] is exciting and never gets old. It’s very rewarding and educational to watch, as well as fascinating to see who is compatible playing.”
Both Steininger and Rote feel VR is going to be the next phase of technology and entertainment but some, such as student sophomore integrated educational studies major Dorcas Hoi, disagree.
“I think it’s great to some extent but I don’t know if it’ll be as big as Wii’s or Xbox’s,” Hoi said.
Whether or not VR will become popular is still to be determined, but until then Steininger is still working on the beginnings of the technology and all the obstacles that remain.
“The hardest part is endurance and staying positive, but at this point we’re not afraid of any engineering problems,” Steininger said.
Rote said that while Steininger is still only recently graduated and new to the industry, he “sees him going really far.”