Log entry 4: BVW Round 3

Lightning Round !!

The third round was the 'Lightning' round. A super quick round where we were allowed only one week to come up with a game idea and implement it. Having a one week cycle changed a lot of things. There was lesser time to deliberate on ideas and mechanics. Concepts had to be quick, dirty and flexible so that they could be changed or discarded at any point. Since I was a co-producer this round it was an interesting challenge as there were fewer meetings and discussions to be conducted. Feedback and testing became really important though. I was extremely lucky to have very capable team members who contributed and communicated well. Thus, whenever we did have meetings, they were very efficient and everyone was on the same page.

This round gave us access to several interesting new platforms. Apart from the Kinect and PS Move, we could also use Makey Makey, Jamodrum, Google Tango, Myo Armband and EyeGaze technologies. After some initial confusion, our team was assigned to work with the Google Tango. We immediately began to tinker with the tablet and figure out which feature we could put to best use.

We considered using augmented reality but it wasn't rich enough to design a fun experience in a week. Instead we found it's 3D motion tracking to be pretty responsive and it would track the guest accurately even when leaning, jumping or crouching. The idea of an adventure game started creeping into our minds and we decided to create an escape the room experience.

Running around is fun

Running around is fun!

Gameplay Asset#1: HUD Indicators

One of the elements that I created for the game were HUD indicators. These arrow indicators would depict which direction the attacking balls were approaching from. I hadn't created something like this before so it was an interesting challenge. There were a lot of conditions to be kept in mind while programming this feature:

  1. The indicators should activate whenever a ball was spawned
  2. The indicators should disappear when the ball was in focus (visible to guest)
  3. The indicators should not reappear once they shoot past a guest who has successfully dodged them
  4. Indicators should exist for both horizontal & vertical axes and they must also operate independently

These were achieved by finding out the relative position and direction of every ball relative to the player and applying the logic to those variables:

Vector3 relative_position = transform.InverseTransformPoint(ball.transform.position);
float relative_drection = Vector3.Dot (transform.forward.normalized, ball.transform.forward.normalized);

Gameplay Asset#2: Traps

I also created some other elements in the game like the shield mechanic and the traps placed on the ground. The traps were tricky to design because it was very hard to draw attention them.

  • Iteration #1

    We created traps that would activate every few seconds. The testers would never notice the traps as their attention was in the air and they had no idea what had damaged them.

  • Iteration #2

    We changed them to be more like 'pressure pads' that gave off a warning effect when you step on them and then activate a couple of seconds later. Even with this change, the testers were too engrossed in looking out for the balls and they would miss out on the warning cue. The interaction with the traps still felt very unfair.

  • Iteration #3

    The final version we ended up using was a static trap that was always activated. We made the spikes taller and the red particle ring still existed around the base to ensure that the guest saw them even if they were looking higher than the ground. They were also drawn in closer to the guest's starting position to emphasize their presence and increase their threat.

It's a trap

Overall, it was a pretty fun project and we really liked the core mechanic of the game. We think it makes good use of the Tango and could lead to interesting gameplay. We also learnt that the video recording / streaming app for the tablet weren't that great and the best way to convey your world was to make guests play it.

One great bit of feedback we received was this:
We had statues shooting balls from all four walls. If we removed a statue from the wall to which the guest's back was facing at the start, it led to a lot less confusion both in terms of orientation and the indicators. This suggestion proved how even the simplest of changes can make a big impact on the experience of a game!