Hi, I'm Lisa, a game designer at my company Intropy Games. We make cute games that tug on heartstrings, and currently have games on Steam, Wii U, and iOS. I frequently attend game jams to hone my craft, specifically I attended the last Train Jam where a bunch of developers hopped an Amtrak Train from Chicago to San Francisco to get to the Game Developer's Conference and made a silly game.
I was happy to see the Oculus Bootcamp when it came up in my feed and I had to apply. The reasons I jumped into making games has been that I enjoy the story based games (remember Final Fantasy) and enjoyed exploring and being taken to new worlds. I started looking at the hits of the day and seeing more violence simulators and wasn't interested in playing them. Not that you can't enjoy them, they just aren't for me. Because of the lack of the more whimsical, non-violent types of games, I decided that it was time for me to jump into a lend my creative expression into the world of video games, and I hope you'll continue to have me! Here is my pitch I sent when applying:
I've always been a big fan of the idea of flying. It's something that most people have dreamed of as children and then forgotten as they became older and more jaded about the realities of gravity. However, I believe the feeling of wonderment is needed in VR. I want to bring to it an environment of fantastic views from the clouds, finding new and interesting things from above tree level and gaining another perspective from our everyday grounded life. On your adventures in the skies, you will meet other free-fliers, others who wish to ground you, and a journey you take to find what is important to you. Flying is indeed a metaphor for freedom and we all can relate to the challenges that tie us down and the times we can roam wherever our imagination takes us.
And as you know already, they picked me! After I learned I was going, I met up with a narrative designer right away to flush out the idea and get a handle on the story aspects right away. I coded up quickly (remember, I'm a game jam nut) a little prototype that had a character flying around and plants growing. I filled the world mythos with the ideas we came up with my narrative designer. I was all ready to go!
Here's our 2 sentence pitch: Revive the world - It's never too late to redeem yourself. Uncover the story of the ruin you caused through talking with those left behind. Take flight and watch nature bloom beneath you, reviving the landscape you helped destroy. Oh yeah, and you get to take pictures. The bootcamp was great, meeting other awesome people, and getting some major knowledge dropped on how to succeed on the VR Platform. As soon as I returned I was ready from a hardware and overview perspective to start making this experience fit right into the VR world.
Now I'm taking all of this knowledge, putting things down into "to dos" and getting ready for August. Frames per second, cameras, making sure the players aren't getting sick, narrative pacing, how to get them to go to the next piece of the story, text meshes in 3D! Basically, there's a lot to do, and over the next few weeks, I hope I will be solving them all.
This looks super fun! Flying in VR is almost like having a lucid flying dream.
Are you using a gamepad for movement control, or just touchpad? I tried hacking on the OVRplayercontroller in the Oculus SDK to allow flying, but it's built to prevent vertical flying.. Guess maybe they think it will make us sick to do that? 😛 But it's so fun! Glad to hear you're building a game with a true flying mechanic in VR.
That gif is how I imagined it (and is running on PC), but I've learned from others if the horizon moves it can make them dizzy. I think movement is still a work in progress but I think I'm going to make the player constantly moving forward.
This week has been interesting changing assumptions on technology and attempting to make it work.
Here is the map of the world I created, adding forests, swamps, deserts, mountains, lakes, rivers, floating islands, all kinds of nooks and crannies to explore.
And now to my assumptions...
First Assumption: This flying game shouldn't require a controller. Reality: I could not use the motion of a player's head to move. You get to look left right, nothing more. The touch pad on the headset seems enough like a d-pad that a player could use, but nope, they are swiping mechanisms, meaning, you don't actually "press" them. In fact, the only pressing you can do is the middle button and the back button. This makes moving left and right, top and down, almost impossible and definitely not natural. So, I had to hook up the controller to allow the player to move right/left, ascend/descend. I mapped the d-pad and the left stick to allow this, and it actually worked out well for me. I'm however comfortable with using a controller, so it will be interesting to see how other respond. This also allows me to use X A Y B buttons for fun interactions like.. taking pictures. More on that soon, you'll have to wait.
Second Assumption: Having the horizon moving in the background instead of staying 100% horizontal will make me sick. Reality: It didn't, in fact, it's kinda fun. I will of course need to test this out with many others, but I had thought this would make me motion sick immediately. I had been following "Eagle Flight" to see what they had done, and it turns out their camera is very similar to mine. The jury is still out, I'll have to test out a larger amount of players to see if they have any discomfort.
I was able to add the universal menu to the game when you hold the back button. It will pop up the menu and in the configuration options, you can take a screen capture or video record. Unfortunately you can't record game sounds as of yet, and images are 1024x1024. Here's a little snippet of what I have so far. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shwmF0Bf3h0)
Third Assumption: Getting 60 FPS will be hard Reality: Yes it is, I'm attempting to fix as much as I can, but I want the full horizontal seen, as well as an epic level of distance. This is pulling down the frames per second a lot. I have attempted to bake in lighting, remove excess meshes, stop any extra draw calls, but I'm still way under where I know I will need to be. I have a lot of time to fix this, so I'm going to continue to have this in the back of my mind as I continue to go forward in the gameplay.
For getting the frame rate up, maybe reduce number of polygons? Or, try stargate-like portals between several smaller maps, so there are less polygons per map?
I'm resorting to splitting stuff up into smaller levels, and so far just using materials (no textures). Averaging 24 draw calls per scene, but they're super simple scenes... How many draw calls are you averaging, for the scene in your footage?
Just stumbled on this game, and gave it a try. It's free for GearVR... Reminded me a bit of your concept. The forward motion of the player flying action is on rails, which is interesting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQTOnPGOssQ
Dream Flight was really cool! I also went and played some other games that fit in with the projects I was doing. Life is Strange actually fit very well this project, so I will give some ideas that came out of my experience. In Life is Strange, you have a darker narrative, which I want to give a more mature narrative myself with this game trying to find an audience from teenage girls to women to any one else interested. That means, more adult language or tone, but I still have a cuter style. I'm not sure how to darken the art style other than having the world be gray to begin with and you restore the color as you progress. I will have to think of some stylistic changes perhaps since I don't want people to think this game is for a 10 year old.
UI in the World-space This was stressed at the Bootcamp, and honestly, if you are using the Unity UI library, it doesn't even work any other way in your Gear VR. So I've used the Fungus engine in games before, and I enjoy it because it allows the story to be put into an interactive flow with tools that you can see the progression. One problem, it's showing up as an overlay (like a HUD would be in a video game), so it is not working in VR. I spent a bit thinking of how a 2D textbox might look in 3D, but once I got over that, I ended up with using Fungus just fine in my cutscene. Location was however, very important, as I realized you don't want to read text so low in on the screen, or too high. Text will also blur when at those angles, so the best advice is to keep your text right in front of your player without blocking out the other important things to the scene.
Speaking of Story I realized how important this story was as I am going through these technical challenges. I went back to the reason you are flying around the world and taking pictures. The theme of the game is that it is never too late to redeem yourself. Our lady main character just saved her younger brother over the world, and in that decision, destroyed it. You know have a broken world that you need to revive. You are able to fly around and bring back the color and nature you destroyed. You notice in the video as you fly around you color back the world and trees and flowers grow back. I wanted to make this world come alive as you explored. You can also interact with other characters you find, and they don't seem so happy with you. The other piece is that you can take pictures of the world and it will let you know what things you restored in that picture (flowers, trees, a bridge). Taking pictures will be apart of redeeming yourself with the not-so-happy-with-you locals.
This week has been a lot of getting main mechanics done, stubbing in things to make sure they work, and thinking very hard about how this experience would resonate with it's player. I hope to get some feedback from a diverse set of players to either validate my assumptions on who this is for and change things accordingly. It's all about iteration!
I was wondering if I could ask your advice on mixing realities, and mixing moving a player forward on rails with free motion? I'm a novice with Unity but have a written script that can be approached a few different ways. It plays with confinement and liberation, both physically and visually, including in the color space of the scenes. While the story idea is pretty clear to me, my practical knowledge is vague, and I'm wondering what my options are. I can approach it so many ways. Love what you're doing, thanks for sharing your process, it's very educational 🙂
This last week I had a few players attempting to play and the perpetual motion actually didn't work out so well for them. I think I personally have to revisit that since part of play is taking pictures and bumping into other characters to talk with them. I found this a problem as players struggled to do these tasks. I still like the moving forward on rails approach, and one of my favorite test games that I show people if they've never seen VR is a on rails adventure, but I'm thinking about having a button that moves you forward for more control now.
Erica, I liked that dream flight game video. I am going to go try it in gear vr. My next project is a flyover kind of thing. In the game Everest VR you sort of fly into the himalyas to set the scene for the climb. I can not remember it exactly how it works, but I found it absolutely terrifying to fly into the himalyas without something beneath me. But I understand how inside something like a ship could make you sick, but in the game EVE Valkarie you ride around in a ship. This has been a topic of conversation around "here" too, why can't you go up and down?