So we didn’t make the finals. That was pretty clear since the release. Anyway, here is the story of our game:
After the announcement of the VR Jam for Oculus Rift, i immediatly started to assess ideas for Rift-games which were already piling up in my head. Most of them were out of the given time-scope, like a Dragonrider game (talk about interesting stuff!), a stealth game and what not, and we quickly decided to make a free-flying game, with clouds and everything.
The basic idea was to create a relaxing game where you fly through clouds, picking up delightful things, with nice sounds and preferably the controls would be mind-control via Emotiv while lying down. It was meant to simulate the experience of flying in dreams, which i often encounter (though it’s seldom peaceful and relaxing).
And as my long-term goal in life, to make games, was at some point altered to make moral/meaningful games – thought that would make a good niche, and besides there are enough good voilent games already – i went for a plot where you start in hell and have to fly up to heaven. This was iterated in the process into the choice of heaven or hell, mainly to please my colleagues, who are much more comfty with hell than with my happy-peppy attitude that all you need is love. I’m not religious though, but i still had to specifically renounce the slightest hint that our entry would in any way be ‘religious’ to make everybody happy. Even then it was not sooner than near the end, when the whole thing came together that they stopped complaining and started to love the bomb.
What went right:
– Had an idea pretty fast and knew it could be done.
– Convinced two friends to participate, another coder and a 3D-artist, though it included hour-long discussions to bring them on my side. I was the one with the Rift, and i wanted to make this specific experience, all right. It helped that they didn’t came up with an equally original idea (did it?).
– The control scheme i was aiming for was relatively easy to implement and worked from the beginning.
– Though we had no todo lists and version control the collaboration with another coder via Skype worked well in Unity, mainly we exchanged scripts and occasionally he got an update of the whole project (Which was around 200-600Mb, we had a slim version with no music for exchange). I had the todo list in my head and we would agree on the parts we would work on, either together or seperately on different parts.
– The cloud-scape, our main landscape worked after some change of plans. We considered and tried three cloud frameworks before it worked out and my colleague implemented not only this marvellous procedurally generated, infinite cloud-dome but also insisted on a sky-dome and sfx for the clouds (lightning etc.).
– Our 3D-artist managed to learn enough of Blender related animation to provide us with the definitive figures several days before the deadline, so i had enough time to implement them properly, and we also ran tests all the way down to ensure that it would work..
– The game needed a relatively small amount of props and it was easy to either make them ourselves or get them elsewhere.
– The music my wife chose/made fitted the theme beautifully and although the game features three full-length albums, it is still downloadable file-size wise (>100Mb). We are thinking of shrinking it to one third for a web-build?
– The game concept evolved during the whole developement and we were able to incorporate the changes which resulted in an asthetically and conceptually polished product.
– We realised almost the whole vision.
What went wrong:
– My idea of a ‘religiously’ themed game could never be of mainstream interest. If you so will i sacrificed an easy to swollow idea for our long term plan of establishing a ‘moral/spiritual’ niche of games.
– The control scheme is too complicated. It was not tested by many persons (including my colleagues), and i dismissed the eminent critique of my fourth colleague, my wife, in this matter, as well as the inability of other persons to control the game. Now i know it should have been be an ‘endless flyer’, without a starting island, without the infamous ‘nod’ to start moving. Start already in flight and just turn your head to control the direction, that’s it!
– Because we had no written and updated todo-list, the engagement and focus of our co-coder was dependant on the clarity and frequency of our communication, sometimes resulting in not suitable scripts that had to be re-written.
– The clouds do not work 100% in the Rift, they tilt sideways with the head movement, a known phenomenon, but it’s hardly noticable. Unity’s particle system is not flexible enough for such matters or we couldn’t find out how..
– the sky-dome was meant for double-radius but my machine (i5, GTX660 OC) for which specs we decided to develop, didn’t like it (flicker).
– We had no time for prettier 3D-models of the persons and the final version of them lacked all the props we already had in prior versions, such as hair and horns..
– We (I) had no time to properly beta-test the whole thing. I tweaked it once, and when at the end everybody was screaming for more action, i changed the values and made it even more unbalanced.
– Socondary goals could not be met, like platforms and speed-rings.
We’d like to continue the work on a game we really like. Especially to de-complicate the controls, make prettier figures and balance it properly.
All in all this is an example of us trying to make new game experiences with untested ideas and mechanics and we pay the price of not knowing if the particular idea is even translatable into something meaningful.