This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the fifteen student startups who are participating in our Terp Startup summer accelerator at the College Park WeWork. Participating student entrepreneurs received a stipend up to $5,000 that would enable them to work exclusively on their startups over eight weeks in the summer.
Founder & CEO: Galen Stetsyuk ’20, Computer Science major
DC: Tell us about your startup. What problem are you solving and for whom?
Stetsyuk: The Virtual Reality Industry has disappointed many so far with content offerings that are below the standards set by the games industry. Content for VR games lacks the quality and depth players are used to in console and PC video games. VR is also a more difficult platform to develop high quality graphics, so there are also very few games with the same visual quality players are used to. Finally, VR has the issue of causing varying levels of discomfort in more intense experiences. Given that VR has the potential to revolutionize the entire entertainment industry, MPLEX is focused on solving these problems and unleashing that potential.
DC: How did you first come up with your idea?
Stetsyuk: We tried developing many different experiences at hackathons during our freshman year at UMD. Most were terrible. We experimented with a tank combat simulator we made at Bitcamp, and given the overwhelmingly positive feedback, we decided to make it a long term project over the following Summer. This effort would become what is today our primary focus on product development, four years later.
DC: What are some major milestones you’ve achieved so far?
Stetsyuk: We have established a networking infrastructure with our game to handle matchmaking multiplayer, vehicular mechanics for both hovering and wheeled vehicles, an advanced firing and damage system, and several fully customizable vehicles of both types. We have basic customization options in the menu for changing vehicle skins, selection and mounting of weapons, and six different weapon types to choose from.
DC: What drives you to keep going?
Stetsyuk: We are frustrated by what we see as players every day, with the potential that VR has and how much it is being wasted. Unfortunately, the startup model for products is creating a stigma with the industry as a whole, with many unfinished games reaching the storefronts and experiences that are severely limited. Video game products are different from most other products in that the polish of the experience plays a large role in customers’ first impression. If you deliver an incomplete experience or a minimal viable product to players, they will know it and be turned off from it. The games industry as a whole is too competitive to bring customers to a new platform with MVPs and outright unfinished products on it. We have the opportunity, and the technology, to solve the challenges unique to the platform in a way that is extremely effective and does not compromise the experience, and the vision of creating an experience that is worth getting a VR headset for.
DC: How do you feel about working in a cohort with fellow student entrepreneurs?
Stetsyuk: I believe mutual benefit can be gained by my peers and I in the cohort. I am excited to help my fellow peers with the experiences I have had with product development, team management, pitching and legal/financial knowledge. Student entrepreneurs are unusual and sometimes are very relatable.
DC: What are you hoping to achieve during Terp Startup this summer?
Stetsyuk: We plan to have many more features implemented and polished by the end of the Summer. Our game has working networked multiplayer and the complete gameplay loop already, but some aspects of the loop are not well optimized yet and there are bugs with the customization. The menu system is being redone, and we don’t have any maps complete, either. So the technical team is working on those tasks, while the art team and I are preparing our application for the Unreal Engine Dev grant with the gameplay demo and a video trailer.