Ty Burks | Director of VR

How long have you been at Pixel Farm?

I’ve been at Pixel Farm since November 2016, when I was brought on as a contract VR developer. I’ve worked in the games industry for about 10 years now, mostly in mobile and PC games. Most recently I was Producer and Designer at Owlchemy Labs in Austin, TX, where we created Job Simulator and Rick & Morty VR for the Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR.


What interested you in pursuing virtual reality (VR) as a career?

I had tried VR a couple times over the last few years and thought it was amazing even with an early Oculus headset and Razer Hydra controllers hanging from me. After years of trying to work on something together, my long-time Unity friends offered me an opportunity to come down to Texas and work on a launch game for the HTC Vive. I hadn’t tried the Vive until I got there, and I wasn’t disappointed! Over the next several months we created Job Simulator, which was a launch game bundled with the Vive – next to Fantastic Contraption and Tilt Brush.


Where do you predict VR will be in 5 years?

Personally, I see VR being a major entertainment contender as it becomes more and more mainstream and affordable. Augmented reality (AR) has so much potential to be a practical everyday use, while VR will continue to grow as a powerful medium for immersion and escapism to surreal experiences you could never have in real life. VR will eventually feel less like a bulky peripheral, and more like an extension of your body – almost completely removing you from your sense of current reality.


What has been your favorite project to work on? Why?

We’ve had a lot of fun with our crazy prototypes lately. Pushing interaction design and what is possible with Unity in VR. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about most of the projects we’re working on right now!


What advice would you give to young VR developers/creatives?

I think the most important thing you can do in VR development right now is to just “make stuff.” Try something weird. Fail. Learn. It is still so early, and there’s so much room for experimentation. Throw your traditional design tropes and constraints out the window and try something crazy. Play everything, learn from it. Design for the strengths of the medium, and don’t force your ideas into VR. Build from the ground up.


Tell us 3 facts about yourself that people may not know about you:

1. I skateboarded hard for 15 years (still try to!), and filmed two horrible skate videos. I flew head-first into a tree once after clearing a set of stairs. That sucked.

2. I have two psychotic little Papillon dogs. Cute, but insane.

3. I grew up outside of Chicago – possibly a secret White Sox fan.


What’s your favorite album?

Green Day – Insomniac (1995) My first CD I ever bought, and still super intense.


What’s your favorite movie?

Mallrats. Tried to track Kevin Smith down at Comic Con last year to tell him the story about how I tricked my mom into letting me rent Mallrats on VHS when I was in 6th grade. Can’t un-see that fortune teller.


Favorite Twin Cities restaurant/beer?

I can’t get enough of the Modist Brewing and Curious Goat truck combo. I love some Indeed though! So many awesome food trucks and taprooms in Minneapolis, it’s hard to decide where to go.