Uroš is a passionate game developer with five years of experience in game programming and game design. He's singlehandedly programmed two full games in Unity and has also led the development process in teams ranging from a few to over 10 people. His experience also includes, but is not limited to, coding competitions, numerous hackathons, and an internship at Google.
While building games professionally for close to a decade, Brendon has spent his entire career focused on mastering Unity to deploy robust, high-performance applications on nearly every platform. He has worked on products both fun and serious, visions large and small, teams young and experienced. Ultimately Brendon loves solving the real engineering problems that arise when building products that have a high bar for both quality and performance.
Jason has over a decade of experience in the video game, virtual reality, and augmented reality industry. He is an expert in the Unity Engine and can work with a wide variety of platforms (web, mobile, PC/Mac, game consoles). He prefers a multi-disciplinary approach—having a background in both game design and coding, as well as experience in audiovisual content creation pipelines.
A creative technology expert with 15+ years experience, Dennis has worked for over eight years for top ad agencies and production companies in London, UK. He makes high-end websites, digital installations and mobile apps, and he specializes in 3D, VR, and AR. He has worked for clients such as Nike, Ferrari, Fiat, Mini, EA, Disney, Unilever, and Intel, and he is the creator and lead developer of Rajawali, an open-source 3D framework for Android.
James is a results-driven, can-do, and entrepreneurial engineer with eight years of C-level experience (15+ years of professional engineering)—consistently delivering successful bleeding-edge products to support business goals. He's an architect in innovative tech initiatives that add to and accelerate business revenue streams. He's also the CTO and lead developer of Toon Goggles—an SVOD/AVOD kids' entertainment service with 8 million users.
Mark has many years of experience developing games and interactive visualizations (including virtual and augmented reality) in Unity3D for iOS, Android, Windows PC, and HTC Vive. He has worked on popular franchises such as Roald Dahl, as well as developing for one of the largest pharmaceutical company's in the world (GSK). He is a graduate of the University of Abertay Dundee and achieved Upper Second Class Honors in Computer Games Technology.
José is a passionate and proactive person who continuously searches for cutting-edge technologies when solving complex problems. He's extremely familiar with using Angular and Ruby on Rails as a powerful web pair, complementing them with other modules such as D3.js. José also has extensive experience leading and motivating teams, managing projects, communicating with clients, and being part of strategic discussions. He joined Toptal to find mind-blowing projects and work with talented people.
Virtual reality is going mainstream, resulting in a lot of demand for VR talent and even more hype. This leaves a veritable flood of VR developer resumes to wade through. How can you know which ones are right for your project?
We recently interviewed hiring executives from some of the most successful VR production houses and distilled their wisdom down into this handy hiring guide.
... allows corporations to quickly assemble teams that have the right skills for specific projects.
Despite accelerating demand for coders, Toptal prides itself on almost Ivy League-level vetting.
Building a cross-platform app to be used worldwide
Tripcents wouldn't exist without Toptal. Toptal Projects enabled us to rapidly develop our foundation with a product manager, lead developer, and senior designer. In just over 60 days we went from concept to Alpha. The speed, knowledge, expertise, and flexibility is second to none. The Toptal team were as part of tripcents as any in-house team member of tripcents. They contributed and took ownership of the development just like everyone else. We will continue to use Toptal. As a start up, they are our secret weapon.
Brantley Pace, CEO & Co-Founder
I am more than pleased with our experience with Toptal. The professional I got to work with was on the phone with me within a couple of hours. I knew after discussing my project with him that he was the candidate I wanted. I hired him immediately and he wasted no time in getting to my project, even going the extra mile by adding some great design elements that enhanced our overall look.
Paul Fenley, Director
K Dunn & Associates
The developers I was paired with were incredible -- smart, driven, and responsive. It used to be hard to find quality engineers and consultants. Now it isn't.
Ryan Rockefeller, CEO
Toptal understood our project needs immediately. We were matched with an exceptional freelancer from Argentina who, from Day 1, immersed himself in our industry, blended seamlessly with our team, understood our vision, and produced top-notch results. Toptal makes connecting with superior developers and programmers very easy.
Jason Kulik, Co-Founder
As a small company with limited resources we can't afford to make expensive mistakes. Toptal provided us with an experienced programmer who was able to hit the ground running and begin contributing immediately. It has been a great experience and one we'd repeat again in a heartbeat.
Stuart Pocknee , Principal
Site Specific Software Solutions
We used Toptal to hire a developer with extensive Amazon Web Services experience. We interviewed four candidates, one of which turned out to be a great fit for our requirements. The process was quick and effective.
Abner Guzmán Rivera, CTO and Chief Scientist
Sergio was an awesome developer to work with. Top notch, responsive, and got the work done efficiently.
Dennis Baldwin, Chief Technologist and Co-Founder
Working with Marcin is a joy. He is competent, professional, flexible, and extremely quick to understand what is required and how to implement it.
André Fischer, CTO
We needed a expert engineer who could start on our project immediately. Simanas exceeded our expectations with his work. Not having to interview and chase down an expert developer was an excellent time-saver and made everyone feel more comfortable with our choice to switch platforms to utilize a more robust language. Toptal made the process easy and convenient. Toptal is now the first place we look for expert-level help.
Derek Minor, Senior VP of Web Development
Networld Media Group
Toptal's developers and architects have been both very professional and easy to work with. The solution they produced was fairly priced and top quality, reducing our time to launch. Thanks again, Toptal.
Jeremy Wessels, CEO
We had a great experience with Toptal. They paired us with the perfect developer for our application and made the process very easy. It was also easy to extend beyond the initial time frame, and we were able to keep the same contractor throughout our project. We definitely recommend Toptal for finding high quality talent quickly and seamlessly.
Ryan Morrissey, CTO
Applied Business Technologies, LLC
I'm incredibly impressed with Toptal. Our developer communicates with me every day, and is a very powerful coder. He's a true professional and his work is just excellent. 5 stars for Toptal.
Pietro Casoar, CEO
Ronin Play Pty Ltd
Working with Toptal has been a great experience. Prior to using them, I had spent quite some time interviewing other freelancers and wasn't finding what I needed. After engaging with Toptal, they matched me up with the perfect developer in a matter of days. The developer I'm working with not only delivers quality code, but he also makes suggestions on things that I hadn't thought of. It's clear to me that Amaury knows what he is doing. Highly recommended!
George Cheng, CEO
As a Toptal qualified front-end developer, I also run my own consulting practice. When clients come to me for help filling key roles on their team, Toptal is the only place I feel comfortable recommending. Toptal's entire candidate pool is the best of the best. Toptal is the best value for money I've found in nearly half a decade of professional online work.
Ethan Brooks, CTO
Langlotz Patent & Trademark Works, Inc.
In Higgle's early days, we needed the best-in-class developers, at affordable rates, in a timely fashion. Toptal delivered!
Lara Aldag, CEO
Toptal makes finding a candidate extremely easy and gives you peace-of-mind that they have the skills to deliver. I would definitely recommend their services to anyone looking for highly-skilled developers.
Michael Gluckman, Data Manager
Toptal’s ability to rapidly match our project with the best developers was just superb. The developers have become part of our team, and I’m amazed at the level of professional commitment each of them has demonstrated. For those looking to work remotely with the best engineers, look no further than Toptal.
Laurent Alis, Founder
Toptal makes finding qualified engineers a breeze. We needed an experienced ASP.NET MVC architect to guide the development of our start-up app, and Toptal had three great candidates for us in less than a week. After making our selection, the engineer was online immediately and hit the ground running. It was so much faster and easier than having to discover and vet candidates ourselves.
Jeff Kelly, Co-Founder
We needed some short-term work in Scala, and Toptal found us a great developer within 24 hours. This simply would not have been possible via any other platform.
Franco Arda, Co-Founder
Toptal offers a no-compromise solution to businesses undergoing rapid development and scale. Every engineer we've contracted through Toptal has quickly integrated into our team and held their work to the highest standard of quality while maintaining blazing development speed.
Greg Kimball, Co-Founder
How to Hire Virtual Reality Developers through Toptal
Talk to One of Our Industry Experts
A Toptal director of engineering will work with you to understand your goals, technical needs, and team dynamics.
Work With Hand-Selected Talent
Within days, we'll introduce you to the right virtual reality developer for your project. Average time to match is under 24 hours.
The Right Fit, Guaranteed
Work with your new virtual reality developer for a trial period (pay only if satisfied), ensuring they're the right fit before starting the engagement.
How are Toptal virtual reality developers different?
At Toptal, we thoroughly screen our virtual reality developers to ensure we only match you with talent of the highest caliber. Of the more than 200,000 people who apply to join the Toptal network each year, fewer than 3% make the cut. You'll work with engineering experts (never generalized recruiters or HR reps) to understand your goals, technical needs, and team dynamics. The end result: expert vetted talent from our network, custom matched to fit your business needs. Start now.
Can I hire virtual reality developers in less than 48 hours through Toptal?
Depending on availability and how fast you can progress, you could start working with a virtual reality developer within 48 hours of signing up. Start now.
What is the no-risk trial period for Toptal virtual reality developers?
We make sure that each engagement between you and your virtual reality developer begins with a trial period of up to two weeks. This means that you have time to confirm the engagement will be successful. If you're completely satisfied with the results, we'll bill you for the time and continue the engagement for as long as you'd like. If you're not completely satisfied, you won't be billed. From there, we can either part ways, or we can provide you with another expert who may be a better fit and with whom we will begin a second, no-risk trial. Start now.
How to Hire a Great Virtual Reality Developer
Hiring high-quality virtual reality (VR) developers are critical to the success of your project. Despite the variety of websites offering freelance VR services, there are still challenges that come with getting the right person to fill this role on your team.
You may be a hiring manager for the development team at a large corporation, or a small business looking for a passionate VR developer. In any case, your interview process is an important method for evaluating the talent you seek.
Both art and programming are critical to any immersive virtual reality project. Depending on the culture of your company, art and programming roles may be very tightly defined with little overlap, or very fluid with less distinction between them. This article specifically covers programmers, rather than positions such as 3D modelers, texture artists, and animators.
We took it upon ourselves to interview a few industry leaders to discuss the nuances of interviewing and hiring for virtual reality development. The developer that suits your project will be driven by what your VR company does, but there are common characteristics among all our sources for what they want from VR developers and how they choose to interview them.
Traditional VR engineering (whether game-related or not) is heavily influenced by the game development and app development communities. The roles within the team will often reflect this, but the culture of your company will ultimately decide how you delineate engineering roles within your team. In keeping with the language we encountered speaking to VR hiring managers, we’ve used terms such as “gameplay” and “game.” However, these roles are equally applicable to virtual reality applications that have nothing to do with gaming, such as interactive experiences, movies, and consumer spaces. VR engineering roles typically land in one of three categories:
1. Gameplay Engineers
A gameplay engineer is concerned with the ways in which a user interacts with a VR game and what they experience. They build the world of a game, but not the graphics. In other words, these engineers build the game itself rather than the technology the experience runs on.
Gameplay engineers would be responsible for things such as how the characters within a game experience behave, how the user interacts with the environment in the virtual reality app world, and the navigation of the user within the world.
An engine programmer is almost the exact opposite of a gameplay engineer. These programmers work on the low-level technology that the experience runs on, particularly the 3D technology that renders the experience.
They also focus on ensuring that performance is acceptable. This is especially important in VR, as low frame rates can cause nausea.
In modern VR, it’s rare that an engine programmer would be responsible for building the engine that the experience runs on in its entirety. It’s far more likely that they would be responsible for low-level interactions with the third-party engine used to develop the game, such as Unity, Unreal, or CryEngine.
3. High-Level Scripting Engineers
Scripting engineers have a similar role to gameplay engineers. They work at a very high level in languages such as Lua or UnrealScript. This is in contrast to gameplay engineers, who work in the same low-level language in which the game is written, usually C++.
Each of the roles described above have formal training. Unlike other software development and programming specializations, it’s rare nowadays that someone has these specific VR development skills without having gone to school for a programming or computer science degree.
Beyond formal training, there are several traits you should hope to see in your candidates as you interview virtual reality developers. If you choose to give your candidate a technical interview, we suggest taking three to four hours.
Any virtual reality experience has a complex real-time system behind it with many moving parts. The developer who thinks collaboratively will be considerate of other team members and be conscious of the workflow and pipeline.
Communication is critical, whether you are working in a small company or a large distributed team. Collaborative team members work well independently but are also not afraid to ask relevant questions and share insights that move development along efficiently.
There are several ways to asses problem-solving acumen. As with other technical interviews, posing technical problems during the interview process is a good means to evaluate problem-solving skills. They’re a good tool for drawing out the interviewee’s thoughts on the subject matter. Help when necessary. Ask them to elaborate to glean more details about their thought process.
Some technical problems are universal, applying to any programming role. Others might be more specific to virtual worlds such as camera calculations, rendering problems, and character AI techniques. Additionally, you as an interviewer should evaluate how they think about performance as well as the correctness of the solution to the problem.
3D Math Skills
Some level of 3D math is needed for anyone involved in building a VR experience. That said, the exact level will depend on their role within your team.
Core engine programmers will require in-depth, sophisticated knowledge of all aspects of 3D math. This includes vector and matrix mathematics, and the mathematics of rendering, physics, and shaders.
On the other hand, gameplay and scripting engineers only require basic knowledge of how to use 3D vectors and transformations.
This section of your interview should be tailored to challenge their 3D math skills to a level suitable for the role to which they are applying. The questions should attempt to reveal their underlying knowledge of the principles involved, rather than expecting rote knowledge of 3D operations.
One example might be that they should be able to tell the difference between a cross product and a dot product and how to use them, but not necessarily know the exact sequence of operations to perform a cross product.
Remember, each frame of your virtual reality experience must run in 16.6 milliseconds, or nausea can result.
Virtual reality, like so much of our experience today, is dependent upon efficiency: Does the code run fast?
In addition to solving problems in 3D space using applied 3D math, the solutions must be graceful. Being mathematically correct is not good enough if the solution is inefficient.
For example, a brute-force solution to a mathematical search problem is unlikely to be practical, even though it’s mathematically correct. If you are presented with a solution like this in an interview, try to prompt the interviewee to build on the baseline brute-force solution and turn it into a more efficient and elegant solution.
Optimization is the key to a pleasant user experience. Remember, each frame of your virtual reality experience must run in 16.6 milliseconds, or nausea can result. This requires all members of your team to understand performance and optimization.
There are two aspects of this. There is theoretical Big-O notation—which any computer science graduate should understand—whereby you can express the theoretical time and space complexity of an algorithm. But there is also more practical, experiential knowledge that relates code to real-world performance.
The former can be assessed while posing the technical problems discussed in the previous “problem solving” section. Does the interviewee understand the complexity of the solution they present, and how that will impact its theoretical performance?
The latter is particularly important for low-level engine programmers and can be assessed by asking about the low-level performance repercussions of the code they write. Do they understand the performance ramifications of various levels of caching, for example, or the performance characteristics of a CPU versus a GPU?
A person who is desirous of a position in the field will have examples of passion projects. As an interviewer, take the time to look at the quality of the source code they have posted on open source repositories like GitHub or work samples they have provided to you. Are these projects easily compiled and run?
Desire is often illustrated by enthusiasm and the candidate’s willingness to intrinsically sharpen their skills. Ask questions about their passion projects and the code they have written for them in a way that lets them reveal their desire for working in the field of virtual reality.
A demo reel is not necessarily expected from a programmer, but it’s appreciated. If you are presented with a demo reel, ask questions about the technical details of implementing what is shown in the demo reel.
As mentioned above, depending on the culture of your company, you may have less delineation between VR programming and artistic roles. For any roles with artistic components to them, a demo reel is crucial, so expect to have to do an in-depth evaluation of them for your interview process.
Aside from technical skills and passion, there are some other important aspects to consider in assessing a candidate’s likely overall value to your team.
While you are looking for new team members, you can keep this tidbit in mind: During our interviews, the most common role hired for was a game engineer. The most difficult role to fill was that of a core engine programmer. As you interview talent, it’s important to know their value within the wider technology ecosystem. This will affect the number of competing offers they are likely to receive.
However, regardless of the likelihood of competing offers, you should endeavor to make your interview process as swift as possible. Be efficient about expressing the results to both successful and unsuccessful interviewees.
Existing Skills and Learning Quickly
It might seem obvious that the most attractive candidate is one who has a combination of skills to fill gaps where needed. However, as an interviewer, it might also be helpful to think through whether or not your candidate is teachable. A willingness and demonstrated ability to learn on the job is as important as showing a mastered versatile skillset. Your needs and budget will guide you in this way about the best talent to hire.
Long-Term and Short-Term Approaches
Every team has a budget and schedule including long- and short-term goals. A core engine programmer can be very valuable to your team because they possess a versatile skill set. During the interview process, consider the long- and short-term goals your hire will be able to help shape and sustain.
Some engineers may be excellent at fighting fires, but not necessarily good at re-architecting your technology to meet your long-term goals.
One aim of your interview process should be to establish how the interviewee fits both within your team and schedule. Sometimes your long- and short-term goals may require different hiring decisions. Some engineers may be excellent at fighting fires—i.e., solving immediate problems and bugs that are stopping your virtual reality project from shipping—but not necessarily good at re-architecting your technology to meet your long-term goals.
Likewise, an engineer with a vision for the architecture of your virtual reality technology may not be best suited to jumping in and fixing the high-priority JIRA item that’s currently hindering the completion of a project. Your interviews should aim at distinguishing between these two roles within your project.
Not all developers are going to fit neatly into either category. In fact, some may be able to carry out both roles well. As an interviewer, you should be aware of which of these roles you are trying to fill.
To identify engineers who are good at fighting fires and solving immediate problems talk to them about cases like this in their work history. Drill down into the technical details of difficult problems they have solved in previous jobs. What was the timeline in which those problems were solved? How did they approach solving the problem, and what were their specific contributions to the solution?
For a more visionary, architect role, ask questions to get a feel for their vision for the system as a whole. During prior projects, did they lead the process of producing the system architecture? Are they excited to contribute to the wider design of the software? And finally, are they able to clearly communicate their insights with those working alongside them?
“Creativity” in VR engineering can be defined in two ways with regards to the interview hiring process. One can be visually creative, e.g., with effects; there is also the marrying of math and art. Someone else can be design-wise creative, enhancing gameplay, tuning character movement timing, making jumping mechanics have the correct feel…the list goes on!
To gain insight into your interviewee’s creative ability, you will need to combine the specific areas we covered earlier: Problem solving, 3D math skills, and desire. Do the answers given reflect a creative outlook in the interviewee, or a more linear way of thinking?
Pushing the Envelope
Virtual reality is a cutting-edge media where the rules are still being written, unlike media such as film where many conventions have been established for nearly a century. A creative engineer in the VR field must be prepared to write the rules and conventions that future VR creators will follow.
During your interview, inquire about the engineer’s thoughts toward more accessible virtual reality experiences. Ask about their ideas about the sustainability of the field. Their answers should help you gauge how innovative you can expect them to be.
Leveling Up Your Team in the VR Era
Interviewing full-time or part-time VR developers (and AR developers) can be challenging, but with the right lens, you can find the talent you need to compliment your team and realize your vision. In order for the field of virtual reality to grow and thrive, we need to create accessible, high-quality experiences that work with affordable VR technology hardware and VR headsets like the Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard, or Oculus Rift.
Hunt for like-minded talent with a thirst for innovation, a heart for teamwork, and the ability to produce with minimal management oversight—there’s no other way to stay on the bleeding edge of the VR applications revolution!
We would like to thank Dave Alpert, CEO at Geopogo; Glen Egan, President and CEO of Sanzaru Games; and Alton Glass, Director and Owner of Glassrock Entertainment for their insights as we put together this article.