Fraser and Julia Ashworth had what, for many, was an idyllic life.
For 12 years, they lived in Spain with their three children and managed a vacation rental villa they owned, while Fraser developed mobile games by himself.
He started small with a pinball bowling game, followed by a platformer, like Super Mario Bros., called “Bob Orange”.
Then, in 2015, he made the switch to VR.
In 2016, Fraser released “Galaxy VR” on Android for Google Cardboard, a VR system for smartphones. The game was featured on two “best of” lists, one being in BBC Science Focus.
As a one-man show, some opportunities afforded to larger companies were unavailable and certain aspects of Spain, like delays for new hardware, made VR development difficult.
They also wanted their children to attend English-speaking schools.
So, they decided to incorporate the business and move.
Where? They didn’t know.
Until Julia stumbled across a website, www.gameplan.ca.
It detailed incentives and initiatives for new game studios in P.E.I. and emphasized the available talent from courses at UPEI and Holland College focused on game development, said Julia.
“The provincial government, I think, has plans to turn this into Silicon Island.”
Fraser, Julia and their children arrived on Jan. 23, 2019 and their company, Silicon Droid Inc., have already released a new hybrid VR game, “MechZ,” on Android, the Oculus store (an online storefront for VR games), Google Cardboard and Daydream (Google’s follow-up to Cardboard).
The game places you in the cockpit of a large mech, complete with screens of data, crosshairs and a torso for your character which includes the character operating the mech with whichever controller you’re using as the game supports several.
Players can compete against other players online or fight their way through 60 missions with 16 unlockable weapons.
Fraser also hopes to release on the App Store, Steam (an online storefront for PC games) and possibly PlayStation VR.
Silicon Droid is already contributing to the local game development community by hiring a first-year Holland College student, Cameron Munn, for a 16-week summer position through SkillsPEI.
After a day talking with all of the first- and second-year Video Game Art and Animation students and Fraser said Munn’s passion for making games set him apart.
“It’s deeply in his soul, as it were.”
Beyond the business, the Ashworth family is ecstatic with the move.
The couple doesn’t like big cities, so Charlottetown has been perfect, said Fraser.
“The place sold itself to me ‘cause it’s just really nice. You’ve got everything. Everything but mountains, I guess.”
Julia echoed the sentiment.
“I want to stay here forever if I can. It’s the nicest place I’ve ever lived, that’s for sure.”
She does miss one thing, though.
“The tea culture.”