Hi! And welcome to the postmortem of “Hero, RUN!”. This project is a 8-week long school project, and I’d like to give a big shout out to Ian Chang and Marvin Yang: without them this project would never be possible.
To begin with, we started out with nothing but one requirement: make a VR / AR game. For us, there wasn’t really a debate on whether we should go with VR or AR; we were lucky to have TWO HTC Vives, so it really wasn’t some sort of a hard decision.
Given the fact that we had two Vives, our first decision was big – really big. Originally we had planned to make a competitive VR game, where two players play as wizards. Our first image was this:
Then we had a few couple more ideas, so we created a mood board (learned this trick from my friends in CMU), looked something like this:
In general, we felt really comfortable with the image of “magic”, “ancient” and “Nordic” taste.
This was basically our brainstorming phase. As we enter the evaluating phase, we agreed that the completion of our game would be greatly hindered by the following:
- Networking: Sounds pretty dumb, but none of us have ever touched Unity’s multiplayer over network. Maybe it’s easy, but we just couldn’t know exactly how much time it would take us to learn it.
- VFX: Making a satisfying magic effect requires some knowledge on particle systems as well as shaders and lighting. Although the three of us have experience with particle systems, Ian and Marvin have totally no experience with shaders; as for me, I only know some basics of shaders and I happen to own ShaderForge (great tool, saved my day). Unless we buy pre-made assets from the store, building a magic from scratch can easily be a pain in the ass.
- Targeting: To be specific, “where to aim” is the critical concern. We imagined that players will be placed on towers, and they will have to teleport between towers to move and seek their opponent; however they need to cast spells and both players need to SEE their targets. How to visualize targets, especially realistically, is a big problem. Since VR gameplay differs greatly from normal PC gameplay, we can’t just attach a ragdoll’s head to the camera – it’d simply feel surreal.
- Space and Rig: If we are to run the game on two computers, then we must have two computers that can run the game without any hiccups. In addition, we need two large spaces for the players to be in.
There was also a big concern in terms of gameplay: it’s just not fun. Imagine the interaction of a player holding his/her controller high up in the air, but actually doing nothing — not even moving. It would look cool if you add VFX and sound effects, but the physical feedback wasn’t as pleasure as it looked.
Anyways, these were just a few of the big list we had prior to developing phase. We didn’t really go through then much because then came the Dragon Boat Festival, which meant holidays for everyone.
As a college senior I expect to spend my final days as relaxed as possible. So I decided to take a big long break and leave everything behind. This, eventually, led to the total meltdown of our brilliant plan, but also introduced us some new thoughts and inspirations……
It’s funny to remember that we had a tight, organized schedule planned out after our first meeting. That perfect schedule was never put to use – we didn’t even meet the requirements for our first deadline.
Before we really stepped into the developing phase we did some basic research, such as VR orientation, networking and some shader knowledge. On the contrary, Marvin contributed a lot – he created models for the towers and found lots of wand models.
If you’re cooperating with someone on a game, NEVER tell them that you know modeling. Once they know about it……you’re stuck with it forever.~Marvin Yang
But his contribution to the project could not compensate for the time lost. On our last meeting before we really started working on the project, we realized that making a VR-VR game was impossible; but we really liked the idea of competitive gameplay, and that’s when we found the idea of Asymmetric VR.
Basically, asymmetric gaming is when two players play the same game, share the same level through different types of devices. In Battlefield 4 players can either choose to play on PC as a soldier and on an iPad as a commander. That’s an example of asymmetric gameplay.
Asymmetric VR is basically the same thing except one or more of the players have to be in VR. A classic example of this would be Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. Our twist in this genre is that we make our game competitive instead of co-op.
It would be pretty unfair to put a PC player and a VR player together in a cage – the former would then have a big advantage over the latter since VR players can do so little with only two batons; instead of making the players fight to their deaths, we changed directions and made this game into a tower-defense game. Basically this is how it works:
- PC Player: The PC player has to run through an obstacle track. He needs to keep an eye out for attacks coming from the VR player.
- VR Player: The VR player will be able to teleport between different towers in the scene, and his/her primary goal is to deter the opponent from reaching the goal as much as he/she can.
- Win/Lose: After one run, players will switch sides and repeat again. Whoever reaches the goal using less time wins the match.
After we finalized the rules, we went straight for implementation. The whole programming / testing process to me was like a hackathon – we had only three nights to come up with a playable demo from scratch.
We were extremely lucky to have a space for our development that’s not just private, but also accessible 24 hours.
(Behind schedule so much to the point we didn’t have time to make a ppt)
We were also lucky enough to have an extra desktop PC at our aid. With two powerful workstations we were able to work in parallel and double our progress.
Fortunate enough, we were able to come up with a 70% done & playable build before deadline. Here’s a brief gameplay footage (sound might not work due to copyright issues):
Moreover, we were given the honor to present our project at our course’s final showcase, and our project won the best art design award.
Felt pretty weird to end this postmortem with such a sudden stop – it’s been more than two months after the end of the semester. My teammates, Marvin and Ian continued their studies and I believe they are making great progress. Ian is especially interested in VR technology, and has participated in another game fair.
On the other hand, I graduated from college and was required to do a 4-month conscription training, which is the sole reason why this post came up so late. All my other projects were forced to put on hold.
Even so, I never stopped thinking about new ideas, and I can’t wait to get back to start a new journey.
I wrote this on the “credits” page of our game:
“A Hero Never Stops Running.”
We were met with lots of setbacks and difficulties along the road, but eventually we overcame all of them and improved our skills. To me, that includes not only the skills as a game developer, but also the skills as a team leader.
There is no final destination for game development. That’s why we never stopped running – as the heroes of our game, we never stopped improving ourselves, sharpening our skills; we never stopped running, and we never will.