Devlog: The Annoying Apple, Week #2

Welcome to the third episode of my devlog, where I talk about my adventure in developing a little zero-budget VR game in my free time, with game designer Max Ariani (if you missed last episode, you can find it here).

Last time we understood we wanted to make a game having color as the main mechanic. We also decided that it had to make sense in VR, so it had to have an emotional component and we thought it could be a nice idea to set the game inside a trash compactor. We had three possible game ideas, so we decided to make three little prototypes to decide which one was better. We have made them and I’m going to report here the results.

First prototype was the one I’ve described in my last post. You are in a trash compactor and a wall comes against you. The wall has a single flat color, but a little part of it has a slightly different color. So, for instance all the wall is blue while a little square inside it is of a slighter blue. You have to spot this different color and shoot it before the wall is going to transform you into a hamburger. After the first wall is destroyed, a second wall comes, faster and with the magic spot harder to be found (littler and with the color more similar to the overall wall color). In the end the walls are so fast that you become a hamburger anyway.

This idea was proposed by Max and I thought that it was so simple that it had no chance of being funny. Instead I found it nice… trying to find this magic spot while the wall comes next to me created in me a sense of urgency that was amazing. The problem of this gameplay is that I couldn’t a proper way to make it evolve in a game lasting more than 2 minutes.

Second prototype was the implementation of my idea of creating a game similar to my app The Annoying Clicking. So, a wall comes next to you and you have to fire it with the right or left gun, depending on some rules. For instance, if the wall is blue, you have to shoot it with the left gun; if it is yellow, you have to use the right gun. The game gets more complicated over time, because walls becomes faster and new color-rules are added. Furthermore some deceiving writings are presented (so, for instance, a “Blue” writing written in yellow colour try to confuse the brain about the actual color to consider). If you’re following this serie, you have surely noticed that this is the mechanic that I’m pushing down Max’s throat since the beginning.

From the video, it seems a cool game, but the hard truth is that it was super boring. I mean, I was in VR, with this two guns in my hand and the only thing I had to do was deciding if pushing a button with the left or the right hand. Virtual reality is all about immersion and movement, this was just a static game and make people play a super-static game with Oculus+Touch is just a terrible idea.

Third prototype was again from an idea of Max’s: you have a gun and you have to compose the adequate bullet color to shoot the walls. So, somehow you have the three primary colors and you have to compose with them the color of current bullet. Then with this coloured bullet, you shoot the wall: if that part of the wall has the same color of the bullet, then it gets destroyed, otherwise nothing happens. The more you go on, the more the wall is composed by different colors… and in the end, yes, there are so many that surely you become a hamburger (a predictable ending, I know).

As you can see from the video, in my left hand I’ve three spheres… touching all colors with the gun, I can compose the white color and hence destroy the white wall. This prototype showed promising, because:

  • It made me use my brain to remember all the colour combinations (so, it is a little a brain training game, as we were trying to do);
  • It let me use both hands and each hand had a different role and this is better for bimanual interactions;
  • Mixing colors was cool!

It was promising, but also had problems… for instance the left hand holding the colors had to stay in a position causing fatigue.

I talked with Max and we discussed about our results. We agreed that third prototype was absolutely the best one: so now we have the main mechanic of our game: mixing colors. Wow, at last we know what we want to do. But what to do with these colors? The idea of the trash compactor is nice, but not optimal. The game, in whatever flavour, is too static and so is not ideal for virtual reality. Me and Max had a long talk in which anyone of us just took out ideas, any kind of ideas, even the most stupid ones, until talking by talking we found something very promising into which use our color-mixing mechanic. We’ll have to make a prototype to test it.

virtual reality devlog annoying apple
Mixing colors is so much fun!

What am I talking about? Well… can’t say it now… just be patient and wait for the next episodes!

Takeaways from this week:

  • Prototype, prototype, prototype: I’ll never stress it enough. Especially when you use a new technology like virtual reality, you have to experiment a lot and go on with trial and errors. Virtual reality has no standards and it also is something that has to be lived to be understood completely. So, if you have an idea, just make a quick prototype and test it. You’ll get if it is a promising idea or not;
  • Be honest with yourself: when testing the prototypes, trust your guts. Since VR is all about istinct, listen to it. I’ve pushed my idea of an AnnoyingClicking-like game since the beginning, but in the end I realized it was a fool’s idea, since I was trying to implement a smartphone-app-mechanic into virtual reality. Really bad. In the end I had to admit that my idea was wrong and that Max’s ones were really better;
  • Be a team: I was wrong, but that’s ok… failing is part of the process of prototyping. I’m very happy that Max has instead proposed very interesting game ideas. We talked a lot and the final brainstorming process has lead to a promising idea thanks to the contribution of both of us. When you’re in a team, you have to talk, you have to argue, but in the end you must come to a satisfying agreement. And especially, you have to feel like you’re an unique entity and not separate people.

And that’s it! See you next week!

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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...