Oculus already has a dedicated in-house team that funds virtual reality projects, but it’s now launching a program to help developers who are just starting out in VR. Beginning today, it’s accepting applications for Oculus Start, an initiative that will offer technical support for small teams. Developers can apply for free (though the site isn’t live yet) through Oculus’s website, and the platform is planning to accept up to 2,000 participants.
Though developers won’t receive funding through Start, the program will give them access to free developer kits for Oculus headsets like the Rift, Go, and Santa Cruz, along with additional perks. Participants can get a royalty-free version of the Unreal Engine 4, and Oculus has partnered with Unity to offer Start developers a free one-year license to Unity Plus. The VR company isn’t promising exposure for the developers’ projects, but it’s considering the idea of offering Facebook ad credits along with advice on best practices.
“We’re super-excited to launch Oculus Start, which is the first time Oculus is presenting a program for developers aimed at helping them be more successful,” said Oculus’s head of developer ecosystem Kasey Galang in a phone call with GamesBeat. “We want to help them up-level the content that’s coming to the platform. Whether it’s already existing here on Oculus or other VR platforms, we want to help them make it more successful, and also give them the skills to continue building.”
Part of that success, Galang says, is giving developers access to technical expertise and know-how. Though Oculus Start is looking to offset some of the financial costs of developing VR titles as an indie team, the biggest thing it’s offering is the time and energy of veteran team members. Program participants can schedule one-on-one meetings with Oculus engineers to receive personalized support for their projects.
“What we’re looking for here with the Start program are the developers coming through who potentially don’t have either the skill set or the knowledge of the industry, or are creating something new and need a bit more of a veteran knowledge sharing to help unblock those things,” said Galang.
Galang says that she and her team came up with objective criteria for the Oculus Start application process, rather than judging applicants’ project ideas which could be inconsistent and uneven. For instance, there can only be a maximum of two technical members on a team. That is to say, there can be other artists, composers, or designers involved, but only two folks programming the project. Another criterion is that the team cannot have received more than $10,000 in funding. And applicants must have created at least one VR application before in order to qualify.
“Our side, the developer side, we want to ensure that developers understand what success can be,” said Galang. “And although it ranges and differs by the type of game or application that’s being built, we feel that because there aren’t two million applications, for instance, on the platform — it’s largely an equal playing field. You can come in as an indie developer and have a very successful first launch.”