iMore Q&A with Alvios, Inc.'s Jonathan Schenker, creator of QuiVr!

Watching the birth of an industry is very exciting. Especially an industry where you, as a user, can be transported into a new world. Or have objects inserted into your own environment. We're talking about the nascent industry of virtual and augmented reality.

With any new industry comes pioneers. People who dive into the fold and risk time and money (and possibly sanity) trying to push the forefront whilst becoming leaders in unknown territory.

Jonathan Schenker is one such pioneer. He's the creator of a highly popular and well-rated VR game on Steam VR called QuiVr. And it's coming to macOS!

QuiVr is a single or multiplayer virtual reality game where you virtually take up a bow and defend your keep from an invading army of baddies. The sense of presence while you're battling both ground and aerial attackers is truly astonishing. A must buy game on Steam VR if you're a VR aficionado.

We reached out to Jonathan to ask him some questions about his take on the state of VR in general and VR on macOS.

Jonathan, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself, and what your position is at Alvios, Inc.?

I'm the President and founder of Alvios, Inc.; my background is in Computer Science (fgraduated in May of 2016 from Vanderbilt University).

How and where did you get your start in game development and software development in general?

I started working on game development while in college, which was also my start in software development. The curriculum at Vanderbilt was more generic CS; however, with some careful course selection and special permission from a number of professors, I was able to do a number of "self-study" projects in Computer Science that were more game development focused.

Prior to this Q&A, you mentioned that you started out with OSX/macOS as your primary platform. What sort of projects did you work on?

I've had an Apple computer since before I could talk. I come from a family of Mac enthusiasts, so all my development until recently was done on a Mac simply because that was the platform I knew (and Terminal is way better than Command Prompt). I've also done a few iOS projects, which helped me get familiar with Unity and the game design/development tools.

I got my first real taste of VR at GDC in March of 2016 using an HTC Vive. The first time I put on the headset I knew it was the way of the future. I pre-ordered a Vive the day I got back from the conference and started working immediately on QuiVr (as I thought a bow and arrow would be the perfect type of game for VR).

How do you see VR on macOS?

I see VR on macOS similarly to how I see VR on Windows: as a stepping stone to incredible VR on mobile. I think that VR on macOS will hopefully bring a lot of the incredible talent currently working on iOS apps to experiment with VR (as well as with ARKit) in a medium that doesn't have nearly as many technical restrictions so that developers and enthusiasts alike can see what is in store for everyone in a few years time. I think high-end desktop VR (either macOS or Windows) is where developers can push the envelope and learn the lessons and get some perspective while we wait for mobile VR to catch up.

Is bringing VR games to Mac any different than bringing VR games to Windows?

I have to give massive props to Unity; they make mult-iplatform development as easy as I think is physically possible. Building QuiVr for macOS is as simple as changing the build platform setting, waiting for Unity to change asset formatting, and then hitting build. It's completely automated, so there's no real difference other than waiting for Unity to do its thing and then keeping track of the different builds.

Do Apple or Valve offer any support in porting your game to macOS? If so, how?

To be honest, because the process is so straightforward, there is little need to try to jump through the hoops to get in contact with the right people at Apple or Valve. Everything just works, so the only thing I'd really do is tell them good job!

Apple will be releasing iMacs with upgraded AMD Radeon GPUs based on the Vega architecture. How do you think Macs will perform in VR with these updates?

I have no reason to believe that Macs will perform any better or worse than their windows counterparts with the new hardware. I build and test QuiVr on a PC with an i7 6700k and GTX 980, and my Mac that I test with is a 2017 MBP with 16 gigs of RAM and an AMD RX 580 external GPU (The Sonnet external GPU from Apple). Everything runs fine on them, so I can't imagine a huge difference in performance on the new Macs. This is Apple we're talking about, they're pretty good at giving developers equivalent hardware to work with to what consumers will have for a similar experience.

Do you think this will encourage more Steam VR developers to port there wares to macOS?

I hope more developers will bring stuff to macOS. I don't think you'll get all the indie devs that jumped into VR development as their first foray into game development. They bring a lot of new ideas to the table, but moving into the Apple ecosystem isn't cheap. I think we'll get a lot of the iOS and macOS native developers trying it out; hopefully we'll also get some great UI breakthroughs for VR as well. I think it's a serious missed opportunity for any studio that is building their game in Unity not to port to macOS, it's so easy to do if you're not using specific DirectX features.

What would you like to see in the future for VR on macOS?

I hope Valve continues supporting it with future updates to SteamVR, and I really hope that Oculus reconsiders their stance. I think that anyone who's serious about VR realizes that the future isn't just games — it's social and business. I think it would be hard to make a huge breakthrough in how people interface with technology without involving Apple, and that's what's required. Hopefully Valve and Facebook know that, and will continue to work to support the Apple ecosystem. And if any developers out there are dismissing macOS now because most of the current VR content is games, then I think they're being shortsighted.

Your comments or questions?

There you have it! I've been waiting for some Steam VR games since the High Sierra beta and it's finally happening. I'm stoked! Do you have any comments or questions for Jonathan or about VR on macOS in general? Drop a comment below!

Anthony Casella