We checked in with former Learn VR in 8 Weeks student Patrick Donoghue to see what he’s been up to since the last time we spoke. Not only has he started his own design company, he’s also been working on some really awesome games.
1. Tell us about your career journey so far. What kind of work do you do? Tell us about yourself before you took the course.
About three years ago, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to return to my roots as a filmmaker, coder, designer and animator. These were all things I had done before (with very different tools), but had gotten away from as my career changed. I had a wonderful career delivering award-winning work for the telecom industry and overseeing large teams of talented individuals, but I missed the hands-on connection to the work.
2. What Playcrafting course(s) did you take? How did the Playcrafting course(s) you took fit into your journey? Why’d you take the course?
I love learning and growing so I took Building VR Games & 3D Asset Creation. I have always been the type of person who enjoys designing and building things using a variety of tools. I also love using technology to create new types of art and expression. Thankfully, my career and the people who supported me afforded me such incredible opportunities, but I never had the chance to develop a game. I started teaching myself Unity and decided that there was too much to learn on my own. I needed the support of good teachers and colleagues to expand my skills and take the plunge into true game development.
3. What was your experience in the course(s)? What were your favorite parts? What did you make? What did you learn?
The class was amazing and exactly what I was looking for. Our teacher was engaging and knowledgeable and it felt good to come together two nights a week with a bunch of like-minded dreamers. The class ignited my imagination as I realized the power of Unity, and the structured schedule and assignments were critical in keeping me focused and always moving forward in my development. During Building VR Games, I produced a very cool VR version of the maze in The Shining, a visualization of the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem “Ozymandias” and a beautiful game where you explore a darkened environment by shooting balls of light which I called “Lyte.”
4. Have you been an active member in the Playcrafting community since? Come to events? Show at events? Still work with or communicate with your instructors or fellow students? Tell us all about it!
Playcrafting is a fantastic community that supports and enriches anyone who participates. I go to the game expos and playtest nights regularly to see what everyone is working on and connect with the positive energy that everyone shares. Our instructor Andrew Garrahan and I are still in touch. He and I have talked about doing some projects together and some of my classmates have become a great resource, too. I keep track of what everyone is working on and lend a hand wherever I can. That’s a big part of what the Playcrafting network is. We support each other.
5. What have you been working on since the course(s) finished? We want to know all about what you’ve been making since!
My latest project is a fully immersive VR production of the classic science fiction story “Life Hutch” by Harlan Ellison. “Life Hutch” is a very personal story about one man’s struggle to survive war with an alien race. I chose it because I wanted to put players in the head of the protagonist where they can experience the challenges of space battles, harsh environments and rogue robots. VR has the unique ability to put us in the middle of a world or situation like no other technology and my goal was to use this to draw the users deeper into the story so that they can experience it in a visceral and intimate way.
My knowledge of Unity and 3D modeling gave me the tools to quickly start prototyping. I was able to easily build something, put on the Oculus Rift and Boom! I was inside the life hutch in a way that I had only imagined. From there, my creative director and I produced concept designs and the script, which ultimately became the game doc and requirements. I expanded the team by adding some wonderful artists, including game designers and visual designers, all working together to flesh out the look of the worlds, the characters, and establish the gameplay. This two-pronged approach of creating wonderful storyboards and illustrations in parallel with building the foundational codebase required for the different scenes such as flying, walking, controlling a robot, etc.
My ultimate goal was to create a highly cinematic and immersive drama that would allow people to experience something unique and compelling. The visual style, art direction, lighting and sound have all been guided by this vision. Wonderful voice actors have provided rich performances and a custom soundtrack by the talented Winifred Phillips perfectly enhances and compliments every moment of the story.
Creating Life Hutch VR has been a true labor of love. Working every day with creative and talented people has been tremendous. What we are making does not follow the norms of video gameplay or traditional narrative structure, which is challenging. In many ways, we are trying to create a new medium that blends the best of both worlds, where we can take the users on an emotional journey while allowing them to explore and experience it in their own unique way. The entire team is excited to innovate and create something fresh that we can all be proud of.
Start your journey with a Playcrafting course just like the one Patrick took. See all upcoming classes here.