October 15, 2018

Animation Student Creates VR Game for Oculus

By Phenia Hovsepyan


Brenda Chen, senior in the John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts, had a very busy summer: She created a new VR game, Chrysalis, which was commissioned by Oculus for its Rift headset. The game, which is now available online, was a winner of the Oculus Launch Pad competition. Every year, Oculus picks 100 creators from all over the world to participate in a two-day intensive boot camp at Oculus headquarters in San Francisco. They then have the opportunity to pitch the company. Chen’s game was one of 14 projects chosen this past year.

Chrysalis is a virtual reality exploration game where the player gets swallowed by a giant sea creature and goes on an adventure in its belly. Chen, who came up with the concept, developed the game with Sabrina Yam, Kaley Cho, Yimin Zhang, Adam Katz, Timothi Lim, Erika Gomi, David Deedwania, Nathan Lim, and David Zhu.

Professors Mike Patterson and Candace Reckinger of the John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts have been Chen’s mentors. They say her work on Chrysalis shows her “outstanding ability to build a team and collaborate across divisions.”

“She's shown great potential when creativity and teamwork come together at SCA,” says Patterson. “Brenda has produced an impressive array of work in her three short years as an undergrad in the animation program.”

Chen’s career as an animator has been rooted in game design and virtual reality. As a sophomore, she directed and produced Santiago, an immersive-interactive VR experience, which Patterson says “is equivalent to a high-level graduate thesis project in our program.” Santiago was showcased at the Getty Museum, and Tokyo University of the Arts. “My goal as an artist is to make immersive experiences, and all of the new technologies make that possible,” Chen says. “It adds another layer to my animation and makes it more accessible.”

Chrysalis is a visual stimulating and entertaining experience filled with puzzles, plot twists, and goofy characters along the way. “I want to transport people to fantastic places, and I thought going underwater would be an interesting way of doing that,” Chen says. She says her goal from the beginning was to create a magical game that people of all ages and skill levels would be able to play and enjoy. “It’s a fun experience that is accessible to everyone. I wanted to make something that did not require a lot of skill to complete, so people could just forget about reality for a while and enjoy the adventure.