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.

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!

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