Live Story: Week 7 – Meet Chris

Next up in our Live Story series is an introduction to one of our co-founders, Chris Borden. We were able to steal him away for a quick interview during a busy week to learn more about what he does here at Outhouse.

Outhouse Games: You have a lot of responsibilities around the office with being both a co-founder and business manager. Tell us what your normal day is like.

Chris Borden: My normal days are anything but normal. I handle everything pertaining to the business outside of the actual production pipeline. My job is to ensure that everything is taken care of so that production can focus on, well, producing. I make sure the office stays clean and fully stocked with snacks. I e-mail clients to update them on the status of their projects, balance the checkbook, and pay the bills. I also do most of the IT work around the office, so if someone’s computer is giving them issues, I will take care of that as well. I guess I am the resident jack of all trades.

OG: What does the desk of the resident jack of all trades look like?

CB: So, in terms of my desk and setup, I would say it is a little lackluster compared to some of the artists and developers. I use an HP Pavilion laptop for everything I do. I also have an extra display so that I can run 2 monitors. My favorite part of my setup is my Ducky Shine Mechanical Keyboard. Other than that, I have a nice set of open ear headphones I use while integrating audio.

 

Chris’s desk featuring his Ducky Shine Mechanical Keyboard

 

OG: Your job makes you juggle a lot of different tasks. How do you keep it all straight?

CB: I wish I was a little better at this part of my job, but I promise I am working hard on it. I use Google Calendar for all of my appointments, and Evernote to keep track of any notes I take down during meetings with the rest of the team or clients. My accountant and I use Quickbooks to keep track of our financial information. Finally, I use Atlassian for our production planning and scheduling.

OG: This week was especially busy considering you were involved in two events here in the Central Florida area. Can you tell us more about these events?

CB: This has been quite a busy week. On Monday, I was invited to sit on a panel at the Trends in Tech event at Full Sail University. I had the opportunity to discuss my company’s involvement in virtual reality and how we are using it in our business. We think this medium of entertainment is the future. It was an amazing opportunity to speak about a subject I am quite passionate about, and I had a great time.

The second event was Tuesday night at Canvs in downtown Orlando. The Orlando Tech Association threw a party to celebrate all of the great things happening with tech companies here in Orlando, and we were invited to bring out a couple of our VR headsets and allow people at the event to experience virtual reality, some for their first time. It was a fantastic event. I got to chat with some wonderful tech-minded business men and women. We also had the chance to watch people try out this new amazing medium for their first time, and it was just so moving. I noticed one gentleman start crying during the experience and had to leave the room. I had a wonderful time meeting the Mayor of Orlando and some very cool entrepreneurs.

OG: Seeing VR and technology having a direct impact on someone is pretty amazing. There is a lot of exciting and inspiring things going on in the industry. What inspires you?

CB: I have always been kind of an inventor. I really enjoy the process of making, building, and creating things. I love trying things no one else has ever done and making things work. Exceeding everyone’s expectations of what’s possible is a great feeling!

 

Chris testing out the Oculus technology

Chris testing out the Oculus technology


OG:
What made you want to get into VR gaming?

CB: I have been fascinated by the tech since I was younger and had the opportunity to try a Virtual Boy. I am a big gadget person anyways, so mixing new cool technology with video games is right up my alley.

OG: What has been the biggest challenge with starting a new game, especially it being in VR?

CB: I think it was deciding just what kind of game to design. When I look at this new medium of entertainment, all I see is possibilities.

OG: VR is really starting to take off. What is the most exciting thing about going into VR?

CB: Being here at the beginning. Helping to answer some of those really difficult questions that are inevitable with a new medium like this.

OG: Can you tell me something really cool or unique about the newest game we are developing?

CB: So every good roguelike needs really cool enemies and ours is full of unique monsters. We did a ton of research on Ancient Egyptian mythology for inspiration. We wanted to take what has been written about these creatures on the walls of tombs and in historical documents and bring them to life with a dark twist.

OG: What is your favorite piece of technology that you’ve gotten your hands on lately?

CB: I just got my Raspberry Pi 3 in the mail the other day. This is my first one, and I am very excited to see what I can do with it.

OG: What has your team done so far that has really impressed you?

CB: Everything my team does really impresses me. When my day gets really stressful ,I will just walk around the office and look over people’s shoulders to watch them work. It’s Awesome!

OG: Any words of advice for someone wanting to get started in the gaming industry or VR?

CB: Get Started. Build Something. This is hard work, so work hard!


Connect with Chris

Live Story: Week 6 – Meet Phil

Our Live Story series continues with another introduction to one of our invaluable team members. This week, Phil Bias chatted with us about his evolving role from co-founder, developer, and now producer on our newest VR title.

Outhouse Games: Can you tell us about your role in the development of our upcoming game?

Phil Bias: I’m in charge of the production, so a producer if you will.

OG: The title “producer” is used in all kinds of jobs. What does the day-to-day of a game producer look like, especially with a new game in development.

PB: I organize everyone’s talents so that they can best help build the game. I also keep the constant vision of what the game is currently and what it will be.

OG: What programs do you find yourself using everyday?

PB: In producer mode, I mainly use Jira, Confluence, with a bit of Photoshop. In developer mode I use Unity and Sublime Text all the way!

OG: As one of the co-founders, you can speak to the major shift from mobile gaming to VR. Why VR?

PB: I’ve been wanting to play VR games since I was a little kid and now that VR is finally here I can make those games myself!

OG: What part of VR is exciting to you? You have a lot of new equipment to work with and new technology. Tell us about what you are working with and why you enjoy it.

PB: Using VR with Oculus Touch or HTC Vive controllers is the most amazing experience. Being able to interact with the virtual world has a huge impact on the immersion in the game. It always amazes me how quickly I get lost in the game and story. It makes it so hard to play traditional console or computer games at this point; they all feel like they are missing something now.

Phil working on one of our previous projects

Phil working on one of our previous projects


OG:
With so much content soon to be coming onto the VR market, what makes what we at Outhouse create different than others?

PB: We are working really hard to create a game that lets the player solve problems in their own way. If the player wants to burn down a locked door in order to get through instead of finding the key, they should be able to. We are also spending a lot of time working on the music and sound effects to help aid the overall immersion of the game.

OG: What has been the best part of the experience moving into VR so far?

PB: There are a lot of questions that have no answers. You have to figure a lot of things out for yourself. It’s a lot of fun jumping in and start seeing what works and what doesn’t.

OG: Can you tell us anything really fun or unique about our upcoming title?

PB: In our game you can play it any way you like, you are not locked into a player class. If you want to be a melee character, pick up a sword and start swinging. If you want to play as a magic user, grab that wand and start throwing fireballs.

OG: How do you stay up to date with the industry? Do you read certain sites or articles, or use anything to keep you current on the VR tech and industry?

PB: I read a bunch of different VR related subreddits and blogs as well as play every game I get my hands on.

OG: As producer, you are basically the leader of your team. What have they done so far that has really impressed you?

PB: When everyone is working together to gray box an idea it’s incredible to see how quickly an idea or concept can be created and tweaked to find a fun game idea.

OG: Any words of advice for someone wanting to get started in the gaming industry or VR?

PB: Play everything. There hasn’t been a single game or experience I’ve played that hasn’t shown me something to think about or completely stay away from.

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!