Live Story: Week 4 – Feeling The Environment

Last week, we talked about using the HTC Vive touch control system to explore our new VR environment. In this installment of our Live Story, we are going to talk about how we will use those touch controls to give our players the hands on experience they are looking for.

When designing for a VR game, focusing on how the player will control the game is extremely important. VR controls are completely different from any other standard gaming controller. Even though there is a lot to learn about the technology, it makes it an exciting time in our studio because we can create unique gameplay that a player may not have experienced before simply because it didn’t exist until now.

Our team has had to give a lot a thought into simple functions we do as humans in order to make the environment more immersive and realistic. Talking to Phil Bias, our co-founder and jack of all trades, he is finding the development process new and interesting. He’s reporting that during testing, the team is finding that showing an actual representation of a player’s hand versus showing a model of the controllers help the player feel more physically part of the game. Because of this, the team built a virtual hand to mimic how hands grip objects in the real world in order to make the controller functions look and feel natural.

With the virtual hands in place, we needed to think about how the hands would interact not only with the environment, but with the controls. The controllers provide a touchpad, grip button, and trigger that can be programmed to make the player feel like they are actually manipulating objects and moving through the virtual world. “In the real world when you grab a light weight object your finger tips are the most important contact point”, says Phil, “your fingers wrap around the object until your finger tips come in contact with the object. At which point you squeeze your fingers together until you can pick up the object.”  Just like the object you would be holding in the game, the player is able to wrap their hand around the touch controls and squeeze the trigger button in order to get the feel of actually picking up an object. Imagine seeing a sword and being able to reach down, pick it up by squeezing the controller and seeing a virtual hand doing exactly what you are doing. “It has been a lot of fun trying to understand how grabbing something with your hands actually works, its something I’ve done my entire life but never really gave much thought.”

Pam Werrell, our developer, is enjoying all the freedom the touch controls give the team while designing how a player interacts with the environment. “The hardest part is deciding what action to assign to which aspect of the controller. Currently, we are using the touchpad for teleportation, the trigger for interacting and grabbing objects, and the grip button to open and close the inventory screen.” Pam also explained more about the vibration feature and how we would be using it within our game. The vibration is going to be used to help the player feel the weight of an object or help the player feel the interaction with the object in a different way. An example of this would be how the player will experience using a weapon, such as a bow.  Pam explains that by using vibration, we can try to get the player to sense that the bow string is actually being pulled back.

There is still a lot to do when it comes to finishing the touch control setup within the environment, but our team continues to test and innovate new and creative ways to make the player truly feel part of the game. Join us next week as we continue to share our development process as our newest game comes together.

 

 

 

 

Live Story: Week 3 – We Get Our Hands On Touch Controls

Moving into VR games requires us to experience and try out new technology, which is something we love to do. This week during development, we focused on touch controls. These types of controls replace your standard game controllers you may use for your Xbox or PlayStation. So instead of having a classic controller in your hand, you would actually have a headset along with a controller for each hand. The purpose of this set up is to allow the player to have a more immersive experience in the VR environment. Instead of a joystick on a controller to turn their view from left to right, the player would simply move their head from left to right. Instead of hitting a button on a controller to interact with an object, the player can actually reach out with each arm independently and interact with the object in a more realistic fashion.

For our particular game, we are experimenting with the HTC Vive Touch Controller System. Along with the headset, the controllers for each hand allow for a large amount of customization. Our developer, Pam Werrell, found them refreshingly nice to configure. “The controllers provide a touchpad, grip button, and trigger that can be programmed to make the user feel like they are actually manipulating objects and moving through the virtual world.” During the testing, it didn’t take long for the controllers to feel natural as you moved around within the environment. One of the cooler features is that the hand controls vibrate. Even though vibrating controls are a standard feature for most console controllers, it allows for some innovative uses within a VR environment. “The vibration feature on the controllers can be used to add a feeling of weight to an object or that the user is truly using the virtual item” says Pam, “we hope each person will feel more apart of the world we are creating.”

Overall, the team was pleased with the Vive controls. The hand controllers are high quality and feel natural in your hands. However, the buttons and touchpads are already showing wear from testing. When it comes to the tracking, the Vive is fantastic. The system is very reactive and accurate. We are excited to implement all the customizations this system has to offer within our VR environment.

Stay tuned until next week where we will talk about how we are going to use this technology and all it has to offer in our newest game.

Live Story: Week 2 – Our First VR Test

Our team got hands on inside of the VR environment we made for our first upcoming VR game.

 

Live Story: Week 1 – Let’s Talk About Scale

Welcome to Live Story: Week 1! We are excited to kick off our very own article series that documents our design and development process as we create our first VR game. Each week we will talk about what is happening here in the studio. We want to share this hands on experience with you while getting a close up look at the behind the scenes process.

For our first task of diving into our rouge-like VR game, we focused on scale. During our first test we really focused on how the scale of the environment, characters, and objects all worked together to create a natural and realistic feel for the player.

Environment
When designing the game, we really needed to make sure that the room size felt right. We don’t want the player to feel like they were confined to a small space and feel claustrophobic or in a vast area of nothing to engage them.

Characters
Not only did we have to put a lot of thought into the actual environment, characters themselves fit into that environment. Making sure the character wasn’t too big or too small for the room is very important. You can have a character looking great in a room, but too big to fit through a door. This balance was a large focus of our testing.

Objects
With the environment and characters appropriately sized, we wanted to see how objects fit into the mix. We had to take time to make sure each item felt right as far as size, but also felt right in comparison to the environments and the characters that would be interacting with them.

What was great about our first round of testing was that the entire team was involved in the process. Our artists created the rooms and objects that the characters would interact with inside of the environment. With those assets, our development team was able to to take those objects and used Unity to put them together in an actual scene that we all could experience. From there, we all were able to explore the test world we created using our headsets.

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Even though it was a test environment that was primarily just basic white and gray, our animator and 3D artist, Matt Graham, thought the experience was way more immersive than expected. “We had plain white characters that we kind of frankensteined together and don’t look like much in the editor, but when you put the headset on and you stand next to them they do feel like they are right there.”

After everyone had time in the environment, we brainstormed on what needed to be done next, what we could do better, and what we needed to change. Overall, it was an extremely successful test in scale and most of all, it was fun. We are excited to see where our next steps take us in development.

 

Stay tuned next week when we bring you Live Story: Week 2!

 

Exciting News From Outhouse Games

2016 has been a big year so far for us here at Outhouse Games. Our team has grown, we have released new apps, and completed some really awesome projects. To continue the trend of making this year even bigger for our company, we are excited to announce our move into virtual reality gaming.

One of the most important things to us is keeping our fans and community involved in everything we do here in the studio. As we embark on this new adventure, we want you to join us from the very beginning. We will be switching over to story mode and sharing new content we are calling ‘Outhouse Games: Live Story’. We want you, our community, to take an active role in our story as we develop our first VR game. Through our ‘Live Story’ you will see what we are doing right now as we develop our newest title. ‘Live Story’ will give you a behind the scenes look at what our animators are working on, how we are tackling spatial sound in a VR setting, and how we use Unity to build our first VR game. Get up close and personal with our team as we share this hands on experience with you.

We will be sharing more information about our upcoming game, our process, and our team in the following weeks. We hope you will join us and take part in our newest chapter here at Outhouse Games.