Virtual reality has been a dream for many in the video game industry, and recent technological advancements have brought this dream closer to reality. Following up on a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Oculus Rift VR headset has gained traction among a handful of adventurous developers. Many have produced original titles and VR-enhanced versions of existing games, demonstrating the device's potential for immersive gaming.
Game Career Guide's latest Game Design Challenge tasked our readers with creating a game for the Oculus Rift. Here are our top picks.
Bernard John (B.J.) Badger, Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy alumnus, Covert (see page 2)
Nick Frushour, Designer at Poison Tip Games, Junker (see page 3)
John Bowen, Sound Designer, Out of Sight (see page 4)
Samuel Fiunte Matarredona, Localization Tester for Codemasters, The Bright Run (see page 5)
Joshua Dunn, President of the Video Game Development Club at the University of South Alabama, The Trance Dance (see page 6)
Bernard John (B.J.) Badger, Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy alumnus, Covert
In Covert, the player takes the role of Slim, a man with a special talent for finding out things that other people don't want him to know. In each stage of the game, Slim enters an environment full of clues which can be used to piece together facts and dig up the information Slim is after. There's just one catch: usually there's somebody else around at the same time, and if they catch Slim looking at the wrong things, it could go badly for him.
The head-tracking of the Oculus Rift is used to both control the player's view and determine what object Slim is looking at. Looking steadily at an important object for a few seconds will enter data about that object to Slim's knowledge bank, usually bringing him one step closer to his overall goal. However, the people around Slim will grow suspicious if he spends too much time looking at unusual things, or if he fails to look in their general direction when they're talking to him. The player can use dialog choices to alleviate their suspicions or distract them momentarily. This gives the player the opportunity to search for more useful clues, though they must also listen for conversation cues that indicate it's time to give eye contact again. The more information Slim has already gathered, the more choices he will have available to misdirect or manipulate those he interacts with. Each scene is a carefully constructed puzzle which unfolds as Slim gathers bits of important information and gains mastery over the situation.
Some examples of possible scenes:
Nick Frushour, Designer at Poison Tip Games, Junker
Players: 2-4 (local, couch co-op)
In Junker, each player gets to control a junkball. A junkball is a being that increases in strength as it absorbs junk, like a junk-golem. The stats and abilities of the junkball are directly related to the type of scrap that becomes fused to it. If it absorbs heavy metals, it gets higher defense; if it grafts on wings and some thrusters, it can fly; if it fuses with enough glass, it has active camouflage; and so on. Using modular character design, there are many different combinations of materials which produce varying levels of items, equipment, or abilities. The object of the game is to defeat the enemy junkballs and destroy their base(s).
When a player has the Oculus Rift headset on, that player will be able to move through the world, engage in action-filled combat, and harvest junk. Squads of friendly and enemy units will wander the battlefield, fighting each other. Different units will have different abilities and stats and, just like the player, it's all based on their junk configuration. Each configuration will have its strengths and weaknesses. When a unit is killed, it will drop some of its parts (usually the parts that it was configured with). The player can loot the parts and continue fighting.
Parts can also be harvested from scrap piles that are scattered across the battlefield. There is a lot to do with the headset on, but the player only has 5 minutes before his bot runs out of energy and teleports back to base. If the player makes it the entire 5 minutes without dying, the whole team gets bonus credits. When a player dies, or the 5 minute time limit is up, the team gets credits based on how well that player did, he/she takes the headset off and gives it to a teammate who then assumes the role of his/her own junkball. This rotation continues until the enemy is defeated, or the players are overtaken.
While one player has the headset on, the rest of the team connects to the game using their smartphones or tablets. While connected, they are able to perform many tasks that can change the course of the battle in their favor. Connected players can: build items and equipment using scrap (a recipe system); change the configuration of their junkball (stats and abilities/equipment); give orders to friendly squads on the battlefield; create new squad units with scrap; and buy items or units using credits. These activities give the teammates something to fiddle with and focus on while they are waiting for their turn with the headset. And the player with the headset gives the whole team bonus credits if he/she reaches the 5 minute time limit, which serves to keep the team engaged and cheering for their teammate (instead of just sitting apathetically until it's their turn).
John Bowen, Sound Designer, Out of Sight
"Hide and seek" played by giant, 70s monsters in large, destructible environments
My idea is shaped around game mechanics that directly utilize Oculus Rift features.
Being able to look around in 3D space. i.e. "seeking"
Having an altered perspective of yourself and your environment. i.e. "being a giant monster".
Having unique interactions with other players. i.e. "a multi-player game in VR"
The game would be played by groups of around 20 players online, each playing as a giant, godzilla-like monster of different shapes/colours/sizes (think Beastie boys -"Intergalatic" music video).
Players play "Hide and seek" in large locations ranging from built up cities (Manhattan/Tokyo/San Francisco-like) to natural landscapes (Mountains/Jungles/Deserts/oceans).
One person starts off as the "seeker", everyone else are "hiders". The "seeker" counts to 50 while the "hiders" rampage the area. Environments are destructible, so "hiders" can topple or stack buildings, dig pits, make piles of rubble, start wildfires, destroy damns or break a levee to submerge areas in water. Such activities can be used to make hiding places or be used tactically as a decoy to throw the "seeker" off track or onto the location of a fellow "hider".
Once the 50 count is done, the "seeker" seeks. When finding a hiding monster, that monster then also becomes a "seeker". At this stage, "hiders" can either move around, changing their location or stick it out where they are.
Rounds end when all "hiders" have been found or when time expires. Points are given to each player based on both how many monsters they've found, and how long they've remained hidden. Whoever has the most points after x number of rounds wins.
Art Style / Look:
Visually the game would look somewhere between a 1970s Japanese monster movie and the kind of grainy, washed out colours you get from lomography photos.
The music would be made up of 60s garage band and surf music.
This would be the main theme song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sW_svOOPEcE)
Different modes / variations:
Players could play different versions of hide and seek.
A) Sardines - (One hider, seekers who find them then hide with them until one seeker is left)
B) Bases - (hiders aim to travel to a safe zone without being found)
C) Marco polo - (seekers roar and hiders roar back, revealing rough proximity)
D) Variations of level map sizes / monster sizes / countdown length, each altering the rounds duration / difficulty.
Players could design and customize the look of their own monsters (similar to Little Big Planet).
They could also assign a limited number abilities (flying, breathing fire, camouflage, climbing, sticking to surfaces, freezing other players, blinding the seeker temporarily etc.) and characteristics (size, speed, flexibility to fit in different spaces, strength to lift objects, power to destroy their environment etc.). Varying these would allow players to adapt and utilize different tactics.
Samuel Fiunte Matarredona, Localization Tester for Codemasters, The Bright Run
The Bright Run is an oculus rift race/puzzle experience.
In the future all transportations methods are computer controlled by onboard programs that get their information from the cloud and obey the central transport IA. That way the government control every single one of its citizen movements.
The player will be a part of an illegal underground culture of drivers that bond with their uncontrolled cars. You are not a chosen one but just one of the few remaining real drivers and that's why you've been chosen to be the getaway driver in a series of heists.
The driving gameplay and control mapping are similar to the one of the actual racers (LT accelerate, RT brake, one front button for manual brake etc) but set up in a futuristic environment (visually influenced by the one seen in THX 1138) that gives its name to the game, and with the hook of it being played in Oculus rift (and compatible also with racing wheels and seats), with the camera set to the cockpit view where the player can see everything that goes around him to pick the best way to follow on their getaway run.
Italian poster for THX 1138 sets the mood and visual style for the game.
At the press of a button the player will change to an overseeing drone controlled with an "eye-in-the-sky" POV. It gives him the chance to take control of the transport system (with it you can divert traffic to cause jams, accidents, open/close bridges/tunnels and more actions to be unlocked as the game goes on...) to stop your chasers. That adds a "puzzle" layer to the overall driving experience as the player will have to check the city traffic/grid and the data displayed by the drone to choose where to do some modifications. The aerial image would be divided in 4 sectors, every one of those attached to one of the front buttons, once the sector is selected the player will use the stick to select the area he wants to hack in and will enter the hacking options with a press of the trigger button. While the player is in the drone mode an AI driver will take over the actual car trying to maintain the players driving style, but obviously not performing as well, so the puzzle solving is time sensitive. Two players can play co op (the game AI will step up the difficulty). If played off-Oculus the drone could use a second screen (tablet, mobile) so the player will be able to manage both things at once. And a multiplayer option where several players compete to go from A to B selecting their personal route and changing the traffic to stop the rest.
Example of the drone view (notice the button colours that bind every quadrant to a button). It shows how the blue runaway car will evade the red chasers by making the traffic flow (in yellow) block the main road.
The in game metropolis is a made up one but it will be composed of actual cities. Getting the aerial images from the likes of Google maps and creating different traffic conditions from the information of Waze to conform the games visual and changing traffic conditions.
Intelligent Transport Systems: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/05/13/business/business-traveller-transportation-futurecast
Joshua Dunn, President of the Video Game Development Club at the University of South Alabama, The Trance Dance
The year is 2040, and the economy is at an all-time low. The crime rate is up, resources have become scarce, and people have lost sight of the moral compass that once guided their lives along the path of the righteous. Pike, a coal miner of rich Cherokee ancestry, has felt these struggles first hand. His bills are piling up and not much is known about his family. Just when everything seemed like it couldn't get any worse, it does. A loud boom is heard through the nearby towns, Pike's coal mine had collapsed. Initial reports indicated zero casualties and everyone were counted for. However, as the days progressed, there was still one soul that hadn't returned home, Pike.
After the collapse, the mine has been altered and there doesn't seem to be an easy way out. Pike is trapped in the mine with severe head trauma, and is suffering from short term memory loss. The Trance Dance will play as two games in one. The first part takes place in the physical world where Pike is struggling to survive as he stumbles through the dark cave. The second part will take place in the spiritual trances that generate from the sensory deprivation caused by the dark mine. The trances themselves will slowly progress through the recent years of Pike's life, but in an altered form. Pike will have to fight off the spiritual enemies that have haunted his past, and will come face to face with new enemies that he never knew existed. While in the spiritual trances, Pike will pick up clues that will translate back to helping him escape the mine in the physical world. He will slowly start to piece together an escape route, while telling the player his gruesome history one level at a time. The enemies will go stronger and smarter after each level because they will adapt to how the player plays.
§ Once Pike's mental energy has reached critical levels, he will collapse and abruptly exit his trance.
§ As Pike's mental energy is depleted, his enemies become stronger.
o Can be used for:
§ Combat tactics
The Trance Dance bridges the gap of the spiritual and physical realms in an experience that very few games have provided. Its unique combat style and character growth will continue to keep the game fresh.