BUILDING VIRTUAL WORLDS ROUND 2 : naive guest ROUND
Angry Chicken is a Virtual Reality experience built for the HTC Vive. This was built by a five person team in a period of two weeks. I was in charge of production, level design and programming.
The theme of the round was a naive guest round, so the success of our work depended on how intuitive and comfortable our game was to play for someone who had minimal to no experience in Virtual Reality games. Since our platform was the HTC Vive, we decided to make full use of the room-space playing area the device affords. But this was a tricky challenge because a naive guest may not recognize the freedom of movement, or any interaction for that matter.
Once the theme and setting were in place, we had identified the direction that we wanted to go with the project and we were wary of possible pitfalls that could pull us back. The core mechanism of the experience was the fun felt destroying world objects and the freedom to do so, and we picked up that as long as we did that right the quirkiness in the story and the world can be overlooked.
Since our world had a city setting for the chicken to rampage in, our art assets were all models of actual entities you were likely to find around a city: buildings, houses, cars, trucks, helicopters, street lamps, etc. To maximize the feeling of fun, we had to make the destruction of buildings realistic; i.e. only those parts/chunks of the building which have been hit by the wing should have its respective physics acting on it. This could not be achieved by having complete models of the edifice, so the artists made houses and buildings piece by piece which we put together on Unity. This put us in a good spot for the interim review by the instructors.
There were two main challenges that we faced in principle game design and this is how we solved them:
- Getting the guest to know where to go and if they’re doing the right thing
This was a major issue as in VR, players sometime tend to have no idea what to do, even when the solution is as simple as just looking behind you. In the intro of our game, we emphasized on the need for the chicken(guest) to find the eggs. If the guests misses it (and usually they do) they realize it when they start the game, in the first zone of the city. This zone contains limited amount of objects to destroy and it is impossible to miss destroying the house in front, which incidentally holds the first egg. The guest learns that on touching it they enter a new zone with a new egg, and so on. This serves as an indirect control as the guest starts looking for the eggs while also wreaking havoc
- Moving the guest around in a city-sized area
As large as we wanted the city to be, brimming with stuff to destroy, the area couldn’t possibly be accommodated in the Vive space. This would result in either the buildings being too small or the number of buildings be too less. As a temporary measure we used teleportation as a means to transport yourself through the city, but after interim we received not-so-positive feedback on that feature. Then we replaced it with the enlarging of the chicken itself, so after getting the egg of a zone, the chicken grows in size and gets access to an even wider area of the city which could only be seen and not touched previously. It could also be justified in the narrative since it was after all a chicken that survived a nuclear attack. Eventually, we were highly commended for implementing this idea.
Angry Chicken was deemed by peers, instructors and alumni as ETC Festival worthy, so we went about theming a room allotted to us in a way that shows the setting of the game. We went for a nuclear lab environment with the backdrop of buildings and skyscrapers, and used black light and glow paint to good effect. We also gave extra space around the edges of the Vive area to account for people wildly swinging around their controllers, but despite all there was plenty of spillage (and paint scrapes off walls) on the day of the festival.