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Chris Morris ’19 dives into virtual reality as a 3D artist with MajorMega

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Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

The kickoff to Chris Morris’ career was thanks to attending a guest speaker program on campus.

The longevity of his career has been thanks to his embrace of all aspects of 3D design and willingness to jump wholeheartedly into a learning curve.

And now, one of the most recent results of that work is taking virtual reality users on a Bikini Bottom adventure with SpongeBob and Patrick.

But first: a few details.

Morris ’19, Digital Media, is a 3D artist for MajorMega, a firm that specializes in combining virtual reality, or VR, with motion and environmental effects. The immersive end result is a sensory powerhouse of VR innovation. “Ninety-nine percent of what I do,” Morris says, “is basically creative problem solving: weird ideas that can make an experience better.” His entry into the field is thanks to a combination of networking, building his own connections, and the College’s practice of bringing industry leaders to campus.

Working in a café during the summer between his junior and senior years, Morris recognized one of the customers from a guest speaker talk. When Morris introduced himself and talked about PCA&D and his studies, the customer recommended he check out MajorMega. That, in turn, led to an internship, to a bit of work during his senior year, and to a job after his 2019 graduation.

“I first started as a 3D artist and that still is the main thing I do,” Morris says, “modeling characters and environments: the rigging, animation, texturing for those.” PCA&D, he says, gave him great experience for working at a small indie studio “where I get to handle all parts of the pipeline. Having all those types of classes at PCA&D gave me a taste. It’s really a generalist mindset and the ability to jump in and understand any of it.” The mentorships he was able to develop, he says, “were very helpful.”

 

two vr players competing in majormega's spongebob game

Two players compete in SpongeBob SquarePants VR: Dynamic Duo.” Photo courtesy MajorMega and Creative Works.

Morris says he also was encouraged to find his own creative solutions: a skill he constantly uses on the job now.

For example: “In VR, you have to come up with creative solutions to how players know what character they’re playing … with virtual reality, and how new the medium is,” he says, artists and developers get to design many of those creative solutions on their own.

The first large-scale project Morris worked on for MajorMega was Dreamsavers, a four-player VR experience for the Hyperdeck in which players save a kid’s dreams from the Nightmare King. Morris served as lead 3D Artist for the game.

 

image from Dreamsavers VR game

Chris Morris’ first large-scale project for MajorMega was serving as lead 3D Artist for “Dreamsavers.” Image courtesy MajorMega.

The fact that the field still is growing and evolving, Morris adds, also makes it an exciting place to be.

“It’s becoming more mainstream,” Morris says of virtual reality, with uses that are both practical and entertaining. His most recent project with MajorMega, he says, has been especially rewarding: creating SpongeBob SquarePants VR: Dynamic Duo, a virtual reality game featuring the Dynamic Duo of SpongeBob and his not-always-the-brightest-starfish-in-the-sea, sidekick, Patrick. Patrick is in the driver’s seat in this arcade VR experience, and the player must use their body to steer the boatmobile. The SpongeBob player, meanwhile, is up in the vehicle’s “launcher,” delivering Krabby Patties, catching jellyfish, and pursuing other adventures in the city of Bikini Bottom.

“Dissecting the elements of the show and getting the characters perfect” was a special challenge while developing this arcade experience, Morris says, adding that “it’s been so rewarding in the sense that I grew up with the show.”

5 quick facts about Chris Morris

Other interests: table top games and getting outside the virtual space a bit via hiking and traveling.

His alternative creative outlet: music.

Dream project: as a big Nintendo fan, creating a VR Mario Kart experience.

Admires in the industry: Janice Chu, a senior concept artist at Bungie who has contributed work to Overwatch.

PCA&D mentor: Natasha Warshawsky, now Chair of Animation & Game Art. “Her connections to SIGGRAPH and her approach to teaching built the foundation of my 3-D knowledge.”

 

Video: Courtesy MajorMega and Creative Works. 

Top image: Two players compete as SpongeBob and Patrick in MajorMega’s “SpongeBob SquarePants VR: Dynamic Duo” virtual reality experience. Image courtesy Major Mega. 

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