Novedge: Tell us a little bit about Borrowed Light and what you do. Mac Cauley: Borrowed Light Studios is a virtual reality focused game development company that strives to create visually engaging worlds with gameplay that’s fun and engaging for all ages. We believe VR has the potential to create completely new immersive experiences that can inspire a sense of mystery and discovery, while also allowing for stories to unfold as you make your own unique path through the environment.
Novedge: How did you come up with the name?
Mac Cauley: Borrowed Light comes from the idea of everything being interdependent — that we all borrow ideas and inspiration from others the way the moon borrows light from the sun.
Novedge: What is the journey that brought you to Virtual Reality?
Mac Cauley: When I was around 12 I got to try VR for the first time. It was an earlier version of the technology, when the headsets were massive and the graphics processors were extremely limited compared to what we have today even in our smartphones. This small taste of the technology was enough to set my mind going and I have been drawn to the medium since then. It wasn’t until 2 years ago when I saw the early development kits coming out of Oculus that I realized I could actually develop experiences for VR. As soon as I got it, I took some of my animated characters from other game projects and dropped them into a new scene with a VR camera so I could see them in first person. Once I put on the headset and walked around with them, even though the scene was nearly empty except for these characters, I was blown away by how present I felt with them. The way VR tracks your movements makes it feel very immersive, and the scale of the characters standing before me made them feel real. At that point I knew I wanted to develop for the medium and see where I could go with it.
Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on?
Mac Cauley: I recently finished a project called The Night Café. It is an experience that allows you to step inside of a Vincent Van Gogh painting and walk around. When I was trying to think of experiences that would be interesting in VR, I realized it would be amazing to step into a Van Gogh painting, with all the swirling brushstrokes and strange sense of perspective. I had actually considered a similar project before this but as an animated film rather than an interactive experience. As I began to see the potential of allowing the viewer to walk through the space on their own, I knew I had to make it for VR. The Night Café consists of a small café in France, directly inspired by the Van Gogh painting of the same name. I wanted to expand upon the interior depicted in the painting because it seemed a bit too small and limited for an interactive experience, so I added a separate section off the back that is not directly taken from a painting but rather inspired by several of his other famous works such as the sunflowers, his self portraits, and his Starry Night. Now that this experience is finished and available on the Gear VR headset for free, I am focusing on projects with Borrowed Light Studios that include more interactivity and gameplay. Our new project will be announced in early 2016. Novedge: Who is your customer?
Mac Cauley: We’re very interested in appealing to a broad audience because right now the market is fairly limited, so it is important to create experiences and games that can be enjoyed by anybody. In addition to that, we also believe in creating gameplay and stories that don’t rely only on violence or destruction as a gameplay mechanic. There are a lot of great games out there that have mature themes but we want to see more games that inspire us with gameplay that is just as enjoyable.
Novedge: VR is a completely new medium for creators and explorers, what are some of your favorite Virtual Reality applications?
Mac Cauley: There are several games and applications that have stood out to me so far. The most mind blowing would have to be Toy Box from Oculus which uses their Touch controllers for a fun, very social experience that has you hitting ping pong balls back and forth, firing shrink rays at each other, lighting off bottle rockets, amongst many other wacky activities. That one impressed me the most because it used the hand tracking flawlessly and really showed the full potential of what social experiences can be like in VR. I also enjoyed Lucky’s Tale, the 3rd person, platformer game for Oculus Rift. I was impressed with how much fun it can be in VR even if you’re not seeing the world as the character’s viewpoint but instead watching a little miniature set surrounding you and controlling these puppet sized characters. I should also mention Dead Secret as a great experience on Gear VR — it’s a murder mystery in first person that has you looking for various clues while moving around the environment. VR is great for observing things around you so I thought this one worked really well.
Novedge: What software do you use?
Mac Cauley: I primarily use Maya as my modeling and animation software. I’ll generally model a base mesh there, unwrap the UVs and then bring it into zBrush for detailed sculpting and texture painting. Occasionally I’ll use Mudbox instead of zBrush if I want to paint directly to a bitmap rather than polypainting which can be a hassle with low poly models. From there I bring it back into Maya for rigging and animation. I highly recommend Rapid Rig Advanced, a very affordable auto rigging tool for characters in Maya. It’s saved me many hours! We use Unity as our game engine. It has a very fast learning curve to get up and running and from there the possibilities are endless. Having a large community built around it really helps because you can find pretty much anything you need to know on their forums.
Novedge: How did you discover Novedge?
Mac Cauley: I was in the market for a zBrush license and I was considering going with more affordable software until I found Novedge had some great prices. My experience was fantastic and I was able to get the software much quicker than I anticipated.
Novedge: What would you like to see for VR in 10 years?
Mac Cauley: 10 years is a long time in the technology world but storytelling and game design has been around for much longer so I think we will see many familiar techniques used in VR but modified for the medium. I would love to see huge social experiences, something like a “metaverse” that connects people and allows them to really explore together. I think the way it allows people to connect will be one of the biggest advantages of the medium.
To connect with Borrowed Light Studios and explore their visually engaging worlds check out their website .