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How a best-selling physics space simulator found their VR guru

, October 19, 2017

Learn how a successful indie developer used Unity Connect to hire a talented VR developer to build the sequel to the critically-acclaimed space simulator, Universe Sandbox.

As the creator of the best-selling physics space simulator, Universe Sandbox, the studio Giant Army didn’t start so giant. The title, which has sold over 800,000 copies to date, was the brainchild of creator Dan Dixon who has worked on both Legacy and Universe Sandbox ² for a combined total of 11 years with it’s initial release in 2008. Now with a team of 13 full time developers, artists, and scientists, Universe Sandbox² is being rebuilt with improved features and is being reimagined in VR.

Building out a VR version of their simulator is an immense undertaking, which is why Giant Army decided to turn to Unity Connect to hire a skilled VR developer to bring their experience to life.  

When Dan first heard about Unity Connect, it just made sense. As a remote team located across the U.S., Germany, and Denmark, finding the right talent was a struggle. The team had tried posting positions across various localized job boards with mixed results. With access to over 100,000 developers, Unity Connect provided instant access to a huge pool of programmers, designers, and artists. With the support of Dan Dixon and their producer David Rappo, operations lead Jared Meier posted their remote full-time VR developer position on Unity Connect in January 2017.

For Giant Army their ideal candidate not only had to have a strong background in Unity and VR development, but also needed a passion for physics. The project wasn’t simply a VR port, recreating the experience in VR meant rethinking every single feature within the context of an interactive virtual reality experience.

“We wanted to give VR the attention it deserves. We wanted someone who was passionate about VR and could think and process the different ways you can do things in virtual reality.”

– David Rappo, Producer at Giant Army

Within two weeks of putting up their job posting, the team had several interviews already lined up through Unity Connect. One developer’s application in particular stood out, Jacob Williams, a veteran developer based in Birmingham, Alabama. As a developer with a passion for indie game development, Jacob already over a hundred tech demos and prototypes under his belt.

After the team evaluated his portfolio and some code samples, they quickly scheduled an interview.. His impressive Unity experience and enthusiasm quickly won over the team and he landed the job.

“There are a lot of VR developers on Unity Connect, joining was a no brainer. We were looking for a talented Unity developer and it felt like we were going straight to the source.”

– David Rappo, Producer at Giant Army

As the team continues to improve core features in the desktop experience, Jacob is hard at work developing the VR version of Universe Sandbox². Over the course of the last few months he has already converted major features, fixes, and improvements from the desktop version to VR, implemented Oculus Rift and Touch support, completely rewrote the locomotion system for VR, and designed a new scalable HUD interface.

“Jacob has been fantastic! He is incredibly enthusiastic and is willing to work and iterate with us,” said David. “He is constantly working on solving difficult problems around optimizing the experience for VR.”

For Giant Army the global reach of Unity Connect was hugely beneficial to their hiring efforts. For a remote team prioritizing expertise and passion, it was an effective tool which helped them land an experienced Unity developer with the right mix of skills to tackle such a challenging project.

“This role and company are the perfect fit for me. I get to work remotely and love the work I’m doing in VR. It’s my dream job and I would never have found my position working Universe Sandbox ² at Giant Army without Unity Connect.”

– Jacob Williams, VR Developer at Giant Army

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