Plan. Make. Play.

Hi! I’m Shaun Norton, from Melbourne, Australia. I’m a marketer/developer, and I want to be your product/project manager. Reality devices and experiences will transform society through a million layers of entertainment, education and interaction. This site is a collection of my thoughts, a portfolio and a library of inspiration. Let’s make the future of play; hire me.


Source: Populous


My thoughts on virtual/augmented reality technology, game development, arcades, and esports.

VR Potion Bubble Bending

Sketching VR: Dragon Dentist and Epic Monsters

I loaded up Google Blocks to sketch out a Dragon Dentist game, and brainstorm ideas for epic-sized enemies.

Aetherball: Easter Sprint

This Easter I've been working on my VR project, Aetherball. I decided to approach it as a kind of solo sprint, to produce something playable.

I separated my time into the following:

  • Concept
  • Core
  • Level
  • Art
  • Sound

Saturday: Concept

I found the easiest way to settle on a concept was using tonnes of images and short sentences, which is why I put it all into a Powerpoint presentation. The presentation is 30 minutes long, and it's not truly a pitch - it's more of a motivational piece, verbalising and visualising concepts that I've been connecting mentally. It's a snapshot of what I'm most excited about in the VR/AR space.

Sunday: Level design

I took on level design with a simple aim: to lay out groups of targets with timers. If the player can trigger all the targets in a group, then the group disappears. The purpose of this level is to establish the expectations of the core mechanic. So in a sense, this is a kind of test and training ground.

Monday: Core development

I have implemented a first version of the flow mechanic; the player can wave their hands around, and the balls or "elements" will smoothly follow that path. I plugged in the teleselection mode I developed the week before, and put together the above video.

Tuesday: Work :(

Wednesday: Art

I had work in the afternoon, but I managed to learn and apply some noisy toon rim shaders to my balls, which is good enough for now...

Thursday: Sound

I was relying on an overnight download (Sonniss, see previous post) to give me sound effects, and on Thursday discovered that it didn't have what I want. Instead, I decided to make this a "career" day and post some updates. This was inspired by a recent video showing off the office of a large Melbourne game studio.

Cosmic Weedkiller: The Game

Source: shaunnortonAU on Vimeo

I took a day off on my birthday this year to delve into my new Vive and Unity. I had an idea a few days ago where the player would "grab" incoming balls and rapidly release them in a line to eliminate enemies. I wanted it to feel like a smooth, constantly moving sequence of actions in which the player doesn't need to click or hold any trigger.

The morning started with a quick brainstorm on theme. I settled on an idea of a "Cosmic Weedkiller" in the vein of Bard from League of Legends - a character who has the job of maintaining balance. I wrote a short design doc outlining the core loop and identifying entities and actions or "verbs":

Core Loop
- Player picks up 2 lanterns
- A flower is vulnerable for a time, then grows the plant further
- Balls are fired from beacons on the map
- Player grabs 2 balls, activating a link between lanterns
- Player releases the link and it moves in a direction
- The link can destroy multiple flowers
- Link can ignite shrines to activate a checkpoint
- When the plants are all cleared, a boss emerges

- World
- Plant
- Flower
- Beacon
- Ball
- Player
- Lanterns (type of Prism)
- Link
- Shrine

I took some detours through the day to explore shaders and hinge physics. By the end of the day, I had something that could be called a "game" - see the video above. It is interesting, challenging, and it has a win state. I will need to fine-tune the alignment of the lanterns (the beam is difficult to aim because it is off-center relative to the hand). The next step is to make the level more interesting. I recently watched a talk by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild developers, which has opened my eyes to the exponential options a player is given when the game is designed with several basic actions that interact; another talk by the developers of Journey made me think about how to approach game design with player emotion at the core; finally, a talk by the writers of Portal 2 reminded me that prototypes and old ideas can be recycled later.

video game art print based on concept art for video game journey for playstation

I've almost finished reading Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson. The magic systems in his books are very logical and provide plenty of action. When I was first getting into Unity 2 weeks ago, I felt like I was both designing a magic system, and feeling what it's like to use it. I've now designed energy balls, shields, swords that fire slices, and swords that fire homing missiles. I think I may keep going, and build a library of cool interactions and effects. I briefly considered whether I should come up with a "studio" name, and .Do(magic) popped into my mind.

I got a Vive, never felt so alive!

I got a Vive, and that more or less explains my lack of updates. I've been digging in to Unity game design. I am experimenting with projectiles, swords, shields and lasers. I feel really proud of my progress thus far in Unity, and cannot wait to share it with you. Game engines have come a long way from where they were last time I looked, back in 2008.

A little hickup in getting the Vive was that I discovered my desktop's HDMI ports don't work at all, and I can't figure out why. So I've switched computers with my boyfriend, and that transition has left me feeling a bit in the lurch. While I've got Unity and SteamVR here, everything else like Office, Photoshop, my documents, are still on my own PC, which is more powerful if it weren't broken.

I applied unsuccessfully for a job at a Virtual Reality place. I continue to work in my sport marketing placement, where I mostly do internal quality assurance and data entry with very little exposure to client work, though I hope to get involved in qualitative feedback soon, and anything esports-related. My job plan is to keep on the look-out for a "perfect" job in the first half of the year, and in the second half I'll widen the net.

I have my last summer exam for Statistics tomorrow. This year (2018) at university will consist of 7 marketing units and 1 final business unit. I switched from Event Management to Marketing as a result of better understanding of the Events role, and realised I wanted to do something slightly different. I am considering product management and/or community management - some kind of role between consumer and engineer - around games and/or experiential marketing. I see potential avenues being in analytics or social media management.

I'll share my Virtual Reality game with you soon - I promise!

p.s. The service at Harvey Norman Maribyrnong was atrocious.

Learning Unity & Blender

I'm learning Unity and Blender in my spare time, so I can make some of my ideas come to life. In the long-term, game development will not be my field, but it will help to understand the tools and work flows. My goal is to produce a virtual reality multiplayer strategic ball game; I'm calling it Sourceball.

My Unity learning plan

I've broken down the elements of the game to discrete building blocks. As I approach each element, I will draw from various tutorials such as shooter games, physics-based ball games, and so on. The first few items on my list are:

  • First-person POV, movement and actions
  • Sprint
  • Basic user interface
  • Basic level design
  • Throw ball
  • Throw ball harder
  • Throw and explode ball
  • Detect ball collision
  • Walled off play area
  • Bounce ball off walls
  • Trail effect on ball
  • Block ball
  • UI for hit/miss feedback
  • Block high and low
  • Ball node
  • Node claim zone

This is a very exciting time to be getting into the 3D interactive space, as I believe VR/AR is the next leap beyond the web browser.

My previous 3D experience

While I fumbled around the Blender interface, I was reflecting on my past in 3D art. I've included two pictures below. I modelled the wand in 3DS Max about 2007. The Team Fortress 2 pose used the Source Filmmaker application with existing assets.

The two tutorials I have used are: Roll a Ball and Blender Beginner Tutorial

I hit the “on” button

I soon turn 31 years old, and I’d like to reflect on the past year.

At the beginning of 2017, I was working full-time in my own retail business, and also part-time in office administration. The business had stabilised into a steady downward trend, and I thought there was nothing I could do to fix it, because I had already given it 100%. I tried to be creative in marketing and provide a unique customer experience, but at the end of they day, I was limited by the location of the store, and the products I could stock. I didn’t know what the future would hold for the business, but it wasn’t looking good.

In the week before my 30th birthday, I was playing around with the idea of converting the shop into an escape room. I wanted to design an experience. I had had enough of selling physical objects, designed by someone else, manufactured in a third-world country, and delivered in bubble wrap. I needed to have more power over the offering. My escape room idea was essentially a zombie-horse-outbreak scenario, to capitalise on Halloween and my location in Flemington, during the Spring Races. Virtual reality seemed like a far-off thing, so I didn’t look into it much.

I had somewhat of a crisis that week, cleaning out the storeroom of the shop. I was preparing for my birthday party with close family, and considered playing some old cassettes that had followed me through the ages. These cassettes have recordings of 1990’s radio (yes, the commercials are hilarious) interspersed with me singing nursery rhymes and “Aga-doo, doo doo, push pineapple shake the tree” - a song banned from the BBC in 1984 for being shit. The crisis occurred to me while thinking back to myself as a 7-year-old, how many crazy hopes and ideas I’ve had since then, and how little I’ve done. Twenty-three years of random activities amounting to not much at all - it wouldn’t have meant anything to that naive kid, but it meant something to me as I approached 30.

I did what any rational person would do: enrol in university the next day.

From the first day back at university, until now in late Summer 2018, I’ve completed 10 units: 9 core and 1 events. I’ve taken the lead in all my team projects, I’ve engaged with teachers, barely missed a class. I got credit for 6 prior units, and completed 2 summer units - which means I finish my degree in 2 years, not 3. I got a tonne of High Distinctions. Why the hell did I drop out all those other times?


I guess I woke up and hit the “on” button. And now I don’t want to stop.

This year I’m taking an extra unit so I can continue my work placement at Gemba. I’m joining a dodgeball team so I can get fit and ponder a dodgeball-like virtual esport. I constantly keep 5+ books checked out of the library. I’ve spoken with a virtual reality creator from Japan, and considered being a sales representative. I’ve attended a Google Tiltbrush tournament. I’ve attended esports business networking events. I’ve tried out a VR zombie experience, and applied to work for them. I’ve started a blog. I walked in a gay marriage march down the city streets.

What’s in store for 2018…

This year will be all about Marketing. I am taking all second and third year marketing units in a single year, and continuing placement at Gemba until April. I’m looking for part-time work in VR or experiential marketing. I plan to graduate in 2018, get married in January 2019, and travel to Tokyo in 2020.

Review: Zombie Outbreak at Zero Latency

This week I visited Zero Latency in Melbourne to play their Zombie Outbreak virtual reality game. I learned of Zero Latency while listening to a panel discussion on the business of VR Arcades; the panel included a consultant for the Melbourne-based firm, who made some great points about customer experience. I looked up the company and their facility was only a few minutes from my home!

Read more

Digital purchases to support Overwatch teams

The home screen of Overwatch was today updated to show playable heroes wearing the brand & colours of Overwatch League teams San Francisco Shock, Los Angeles Valiant, Shanghai Dragons, Dallas Fuel, Seoul Dynasty and Los Angeles Gladiators.

Rather than get stuck into a session of Overwatch, I thought this is an easy start to my new blog. Although there are scores of topics I’d like to write about, to be honest this is my first blog in a long time, and I’m going to start with easy topics.

As part of the Overwatch League franchise model, ordinary players can purchase character “skins” to use while they play the game. Some of the revenue from skin purchases goes directly to the teams. This is essentially the equivalent of supporting a sporting team by purchasing a jersey, and builds awareness of the team brand by letting the player wear it during their own gameplay.

Skins will be integral to the AR economy

I believe that cosmetic purchases will be a vital part of the business model for the future of physical games. Furthermore, I am reminded of a prediction by Brian Sullivan, creator of Age of Empires, currently working on an AR game at Monsarrat: in AR, we will buy “skins” to make our home look like a medieval castle. This helps reinforce the idea that games of the future will be played literally anywhere, which I’ll write about another time.

In a sport/game application, the playing environment could be changed to look like a jungle, desert or urban dystopia. Players could purchase not only skins for their personal appearance - they could skin their ability effects, their territory. Skins could even be focused on audio, in collaboration with musical artists, as with the DJ Sona skin in League of Legends. The coffers will reap the benefits of subscription fees.

Physical gaming will unlock revenue for both digital and physical merchandise.