We last caught up with DigiPen (Singapore) graduate Sim Wei Jin while he was still working on Masquerada: Songs and Shadows at Witching Hour Studios as an intern. Since then, Wei Jin has secured a contract position as a VR developer at the renowned technology studio Garena through a referral from Chua Wan Yi, his teammate from Witching Hour Studios.
Garena’s VR department is relatively new, consisting of a supervisor, Wei Jin, and an intern. Wei Jin has been working on VR prototypes to test the technology’s viability for Garena’s popular social and game platform. For Wei Jin, being on a smaller team in a big corporation gives him more control over the production, in addition to the stability of being in an established company.
“I was in the tail end of production during my internship period with Masquerada. So there was a need to check in with people whenever you suggest something new. But at Garena, I have more control and I can get things to move quickly,” he said. “The only disadvantage is the early proof of concept stage in a large corporation, because it is hard to evangelize when people are not familiar with VR.”
Most of Wei Jin’s current duties feel familiar, he says. He is developing VR demos in the Unity engine, and he is using the game design theories he learned at DigiPen (Singapore) and Witching Hour Studios as he designs levels for the game prototypes.
During his first contracted role, Wei Jin was put in charge of creating a short VR demo using Garena’s MOBA title, Heroes of Newerth. The demo was exhibited at Garena Star League in Thailand, the largest weekend esports event Garena has ever organized with more than 200,000 attendees. The event showcased Garena’s published titles alongside the Heroes of Newerth world finals and other competitions.
“Heroes of Newerth is surprisingly popular with Thai players, so my team was tasked to use that IP to create a VR demo for the public,” he said. “We then turned it into an archery game using the Heroes of Newerth art assets. The premise is simple: The players have to shoot down the hordes before they get killed.”
Wei Jin mentioned that the final boss in the VR demo drops a treasure chest that contains a “lucky draw” of sorts. There is a chance for each treasure chest to contain perks for the Heroes of Newerth IP, like a special taunt animation or a hero skin players can use in the game. “The game was so popular during the event that there was a long line of people waiting to play the game. So we had to do some crowd control on the first day by diverting them towards HTC’s booths. On the next day we ended up having to use some of HTC’s booths to cater to the demand for our demo,” he said with a laugh.
In part thanks to the success of the event, Wei Jin was re-contracted for another VR project with the Heroes of Newerth IP.
“We brought Wei Jin on board to help out the HON VR project and we had a tight three-week deadline leading up to the event,” said Tian Xiao, Wei Jin’s supervisor and VR/AR lead at Garena. “His game design and Unity knowledge were put immediately to the test on day one. He was responsible for creating the realistic and immersive environment of the Kongor Pit and animating characters in Unity. With his help, we were able to create a polished final product for the event. It is evident working with Wei Jin that DigiPen consistently produces high-quality talent in the game industry.”
In the larger picture, Wei Jin is also quite happy about Garena’s involvement with the VR industry. He mentioned that they sponsored some gifts for the first VR longbow tournament at the Ignite VR arcade in Singapore, and Wei Jin is happy about working on VR programs in general.
One of the best things about developing VR games, Wei Jin says, is that the technology is so new that everyone is beginning at the same “starting line” — as opposed to other game platforms, where there are clear leaders in the industry with years of game development experience. “It makes it easier for anyone to make it big on the VR platform.”