VR at SMU Guildhall

SMU Guildhall student team signs with Gearbox Software

May 09, 2017

Sixteen graduates hired to develop unannounced Virtual Reality video game

PLANO (SMU) — A team of 16 students from SMU Guildhall, the #1 grad school for game development, have been picked up by Gearbox Software to participate in the research and development of a new avant-garde Virtual Reality game title immediately after they graduate in May.

“The quality of the education and experience the Guildhall students have earned has motivated Gearbox Software Senior Producer, Brian Burleson, and myself to custom-build a new team around the 16 graduating Guildhall artists, programmers, designers and producers that will be joining a key Virtual Reality project this month at our headquarters in Frisco, Texas,” said Randy Pitchford, President, CEO and Co-Founder of Gearbox Software.

This levels up a longstanding relationship between SMU Guildhall and Gearbox Software. Gearbox assisted with the initial curriculum development for SMU Guildhall in 2003, and in the years since, the game company has hired many Guildhall alumni and supported the program in several ways. Alumni working at Gearbox often come back to participate in thesis reading committees, portfolio reviews, and on-site mock interviews to prepare students for their future careers.

“Since SMU Guildhall was founded 15 years ago, I have been a key supporter and ‘Guildmaster’ of the nation’s very first Master’s Degree program in Interactive Technology,” Pitchford said. “In this year’s graduating cohort, I am very excited that such an amazing group of talent has emerged from the program prepared to hit the ground running with research and development in Virtual Reality.”

The team includes artists Devanshu Bishnoi, Nina Davis, Taylor Gallagher, Taylor McCart, and Mace Mulleady; designers Michael Feffer, Alexandre Foures, Steve Kocher, Jacob Lavender, and Sam Pate; producer Mario Rodriguez; and programmers Taylor Bishop, Nicholas Dorbin, Benjamin D. Gibson, Clay Howell, and K. Komal Shashank.

VR Development at SMU Guildhall

VR at SMU Guildhall

Each student is coming into the Gearbox project with experience in the development of 2D, 3D and VR games, including SMU Guildhall VR game, Mouse Playhouse, as well as personal projects. Mouse Playhouse was created over five months under Game Lab, the publishing arm of SMU Guildhall, and was greenlit and released for download as a Free to Play game on the Steam Store in March 2017. The game also won 2nd place for Best Gameplay at the 2017 Intel University Games Showcase.

“SMU Guildhall students, under the mentorship of our world class faculty, work in interdisciplinary teams in the style and pace of the game industry throughout their tenure with us,” said Gary Brubaker, Director of SMU Guildhall. “This intentional interaction allows artists, programmers, designers, and producers to flow through 3+ team game projects and make a seamless transition into the gaming industry, as is showcased by this phenomenal partnership with Gearbox Software.”

It’s predicted that Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality will be a $108 billion market by 2021. As this market grows, so does the VR technology space at SMU Guildhall. As the technologist leader in the educational community, SMU Guildhall was the recipient of a cadre of VR equipment from industry partners and through their involvement with specialized programs including their charter membership in the Unreal Engine Educational Development Grant Program.

In addition to the HTC Vive pre-developer kits gifted to SMU Guildhall through that program, the school also received developer kits for the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear, Microsoft Hololens, Google Cardboard, Dynamixyz Markerless Facial Motion Capture, and the Tobii Eye Experience EyeX eye tracking device. Students utilize this equipment throughout various team game projects, including the development of Mouse Playhouse, directed focus studies, and master’s thesis projects.


Pathway to Career Development

SMU Guildhall’s Cohort 25 will graduate on May 20th, and while securing a job prior to graduation is often considered quite an accomplishment in much of the higher education landscape, over half of the cohort have already accepted or are in progress to accept positions at game studios and interactive technology companies across the United States. This is thanks in part to the Career Services preparation provided by SMU Guildhall and its annual Career Fair, which was held in March.

“Our professional development is as deeply informed by industry standards as every other aspect of the program,” commented SMU Guildhall’s Career Counselor, Adam Radford. “These hires represent the heart of Guildhall’s mission, namely to steep students in the very principles of success that they will come to define as tomorrow’s game-changers.”



About SMU Guildhall

SMU Guildhall is the #1 Graduate Program for Game Design in the world. Many of the school’s founders are industry icons, and classes are taught by industry veterans. Since 2003, the program has graduated over 700 students, who now work at more than 250 video game studios around the world. SMU Guildhall offers both a Master of Interactive Technology in Digital Game Development degree and a Professional Certificate of Interactive Technology in Digital Game Development, with specializations in Art, Design, Production, and Programming. For more information, visit

Game Lab, the publishing arm of SMU Guildhall, pushes creativity and quality game development through teamwork and purposeful iteration. Game Lab publishes SMU Guildhall student games, supports team research development, promotes community outreach through evangelism of our craft, sponsors eSports and speaker series events, and provides scholarships.


About Gearbox Software

Gearbox Software is an award-winning, independent developer of interactive entertainment based in Frisco, Texas. It was founded in 1999 by game industry veterans, and its first release was Half-Life: Opposing Force. Since then, the company has become widely known for successful game franchises including Brothers in Arms, Borderlands, and Battleborn, as well as acquired properties Duke Nukem and Homeworld. For more information, visit