Devlog: The Annoying Apple, Week #1

Welcome back to the second episode of my devlog, where I’m telling you the journey I and Max are doing in developing a little VR game in our free time. If you lost the first episode, well, you can read it here.

We arrived to a point where we wanted to make a game of melée fight, with a color variant: color was the main mechanic of the game. So you were basically in a fight where you had to beat stuff, but taking care of the color of the enemies. First experiments were promising.

So I tried to go further with this experiment and created various types of enemies. Some of them had also deceptive messages, trying to trick my brain about their effective color, using a tactic well-known in brain-training games (using a writing with a color and the text with the name of another color).

virtual reality game devlog
Here I’m trying to beat a red cube with a “Red” writing on it

So, here I am, beating red and yellow columns using something that resembles a big suppository. I tried tuning different aspects of the game. For example, what to do when I beat a red cube with the yellow suppository: had I to die, to lose some health points, to see my weapons lose power or what?? Tried of all of them, but I was never satisfied.

I also tried changing the game again into a shooter one, but with no luck.

virtual reality game devlog
Trying to use guns was satisfying, but the game was less emotional

The harsh truth is that I found this game not-bad, but there was no way of making it nice. The real problem is that we were trying to mix two completely different mechanics: the action one of a fighting game, suggested by Max; and the brain training one of the color-picking game, suggested by me. But these are not reconcilable. I called Max and he agreed with me. He was doing his tests and came to the same exact conclusions.

The funny part is that Max currently has only a Gear VR headset. So you may be asking yourself… how could he test my Oculus+Touch gameplay? Well, he has his ultra-advanced simulation scenario, that I want to share with you all…

virtual reality game design devlog
My game designer is able to test a virtual reality game using dices and boxes… what about yours??
Dices are enemies and the central box is the player… with the yellow sign showing its field of view. I’m really fascinated by this setup

Max said that we had to choose one of the two mechanics: either the color, or the fighting. A mix of the two was doomed to fail. Since we’re in democracy, my idea won :D.

So we started thinking about possible game mechanics involving only the use of colors. But again, something that had sense in VR, that didn’t seem a color-game app that had just been ported to VR. Max started talking about Black Mesa (the porting of Half Life 1 to the Half Life 2 engine) and so I had the idea: why don’t we make something like the Trash Compactor scene of Half Life?

I mean, having a wall trying to squeeze you is something very motivating and in VR is surely able to create some emotional pressure. So Max started to create a bazillion ideas on this theme (Max has a huge fantasy… sometimes I think I have to shoot him to make him stop creating ideas…) and now we’ve selected the 3 most promising ideas on this concept.

Today I’ve finished prototyping in a quick and dirty way the first idea: you are in this super dark trash compactor and you have only a spot-light and two guns. You have to find on each wall that comes towards you the spot with a color slightly different from the other parts of the wall. The game becomes incrementally harder, with the wall moving faster and the color-spot becoming smaller at each iteration. Look how cool is it! (I’ve made the following VR GIF using Oculus Mirror, if you’re curious)

My first feedbacks are good: the compactor idea is good because it makes you feel claustrophobia, a sensation that is hard to feel outside VR. Objective of next week is fast-prototyping the other 2 ideas and pick the best, that will be our game. Max will be able to test them in VR using Gear VR watching my videos that I recorded using Oculus Mirror, as I’ve explained in my last article.

Takeaways from this week:

  • Prototype as fast as you can: as you can see from the GIF, the new game features two guns, but not because it is a shooting game, but because I’ve already made logic for them in a previous prototype. Recycle as much as you can… you’ve just to test if an idea is good, to go on with trial and error. You don’t need a polished game;
  • Trash things that don’t work. I know it’s hard to trash hours of work, but it’s surely worse to develop an awful product. Prototypes’ purpose is to fail fast. Remember this: prototyping is for failing. Because if you already knew what was the right thing, you’d have already done it. So, make experiments and be honest with yourself. Don’t stick with your original idea, often it is wrong. If you have your guts telling that you’re not on the right track, then surely you are on the wrong one and you have to change. Iterate until things work;
  • Exploit your medium: if you’re using VR, do something that has sense in VR… the compactor idea in an smartphone app would have been little sense, but in VR makes the game amazing. If you make a VR game, make a game that arouses emotions into your users.

That’s it… next week, I’ll show you the results of our 3 prototypes… we’ll have our amazing gaming idea! What are your feedbacks?

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AR/VR developer, startupper, zombie killer. Sometimes I pretend I can blog, but actually I’ve no idea what I’m doing.

I tried to change the world with my startup Immotionar, offering super-awesome full body virtual reality, but now the dream is over. But I’ve still not waken up…