We've got a few interesting things we're going to do with it
Last weekend, Dan and I went to the Seattle VR Hackathon and met a bunch of awesome people. Seattle is going to be the capitol for all things virtual reality. We are lucky enough to have BOTH the VR leads from Unity and Unreal Engine 4 working locally, and they both came and gave 20-30 minute talks on the state of VR and the industry best practices they've found so far. It's so new for everyone that there isn't really any "industry standards" for how to make VR games. We're finding them as we go
I'd never been to a hackathon before, so I didn't really know what to expect. Dan and I brought our desktop workstations there and setup on a table. We teamed up with a guy named Yuri, who works at Microsoft as a game concept artist, and Karl, who has spent over a decade doing project management for software teams. We had some trouble figuring out what we wanted to build and didn't actually figure it out until about half way through Saturday. The gist of our VR experience was that you were in a therapists chair recounting a bunch of events in your life, and you'd explore these memories as a way to figure out what happened. It was supposed to be sort of a narrative story, but I realized it was going to be WAY too much work for a weekend, so we just picked the most compelling experience and built it. That happened to be a top secret underground science lab which was conducting mysterious scientific experiments. My intent was to figure out some way to use the Leap Motion device to interact with virtual switches, toggles, handles, etc. so that we could incorporate those items into our zombie game. It turns out that integrating the Leap was going to take more time and effort than we had, so I abandoned that (and the project suffered slightly for lack of usability). But... out of the ten teams which participated, we won the coveted award for "Best VR Scene of Show"! Here are a few screenshots of the final VR game:
There was a venture capitalist who came and gave a 30 minute talk on how they've got a $300 million dollar fund and they want to invest in VR. I've been trying to find investment for months without any luck, mostly because my pitches suck and the investors are a bunch of old farts who don't recognize the state of the industry and what a big deal VR is going to be. These guys got it, so they might be a good partner. I've scheduled a meeting with them a month from now, so we'll see if we're a good fit for each other. The backup plan is to just polish the hell out of this zombie game, put in some narrative and scripted sequences, and push it out to Steam Greenlight and pray to the gods that we get accepted. Maybe a chicken sacrifice would help our odds?!
Anyways, going to the VR hackathon was a really good idea. Dan was really inspired and motivated by the event and we both got a fresh burst of creative energy from the event. The following Monday, we sat down and had a long meeting about where we want to take our zombie game. So, here's the quick and dirty laydown: We're going to put a lot more focus and effort into making this a good and fun game to play. The other magic game we'd been working on is on hold until the zombie game is completed. Hopefully, it'll be enough financially successful that we can actually build this magic game the way it needs to be built and not worry so much about money and making ends meet. The zombie game is achievable with the resources we've got, so I feel much better about it.
Zombie Game narrative and gameplay:
Let's talk about some of the big decisions we made:
We're going to have a bit more narrative and back story for the game. The game *begins* in the main menu screen. Actually, it's not even a "menu" screen in the contemporary sense. You immediately start the game as a wizard in a magical tower and you can configure your game settings by interacting with various things within the tower. Not exactly sure how this will work yet, but the goal is to start the game play narrative right when the game starts. If you're wearing a VR headset, this will work *perfectly*. You're immersed in the world right away. A part of this beginning experience is also for players to familiarize themselves with the controls, learn how to use the VR headset, learn how to use their own hands in the virtual world, and begin narrative story telling right away.
So, you wake up in your bed. The screen fades in from black. You get up and look around your messy magical chamber. There are glowing potion bottles, herbs, books, what looks like either spilled red wine or blood, and a hastily scrabbled note you wrote to yourself. If you look into the mirror, you can see yourself staring back at you. When you move your hands, the mirror image does as well. When you look left and right, so does it. You can wander around the room and change game settings here. When you're ready, you can travel downstairs to the bottom floor of the magical tower and get a sense for the atmospherics and tone. If you look outside, you see that it is a bright sunny day. The birds are happily chirping their songs to each other, you hear faint melodic music in the background, warm beams of sunshine illuminate your room, and lush green trees wave softly in the summer breeze. In the center of the chamber, you find a six foot book of magic incantations which look dark and ominous. If you look around the room, you see portraits of yourself and a beautiful woman at your side, who can only be your lovely wife. You can look around and you'll find a hand written note from her wishing her love to you, despite her illness. There is a big, heavy wooden door which has been barred from the inside and it currently can't be opened. On the other side of the chamber is a dank tunnel which descends into inky darkness, and you see faint glimmers of purplish light reflecting off the glistening walls.
At this point, you venture down into the tunnels and find a large hollowed out chamber. At the center, you find a beautiful woman, who can only be your wife, suspended in stasis by magic. Her body is surrounded by black candles and a massive pentagram chalked into the earth. A single ray of sunlight beams down on her. On the opposite end of the chamber, you see a large pedastle with an old book and what looks to be the incantation spell for some very dark and evil magic. All that remains of the incantation is to place your hands on the spellbook. At this point, the player uses their leap hands to place them on the spell book, and suddenly magical sparks begin to crackle. The hands begin to glow with an angry blackish purple and the air crackles with energy. Before you can do anything more, the whole chamber explodes. Your wife begins to stir, and with her, so does the sky. What was just a beautiful day has turned into darkness, with angry swirling storm clouds raining down lightning. Your wife wails in despair and with unearthly power, bolts from the chamber, runs up the dark tunnel, smashes through the front door, and runs far out into the night.
You follow her. The day has turned to the blackest night. The forest has turned wicked, ominous red eyes peer at you from the mists, and black crows caw at you from the withered branches. You see the glowing outline of your wife in the distance and go after her. Soon, you realize that she wasn't brought back to life, but brought back to undeath. What a horrible fate! You must put her spirit to rest by throwing fireballs at her. As you do, her body is cleansed by the fire and her spirit essence is released. As you gather it up, a large metal grated gate slowly begins to creak open. Then you hear it... soft moans and growls emerging from the graves within the graveyard. An arm bursts from the earth, and out comes an undead corpse! It sees you and immediately begins clawing its way towards you. You do what you know to do, and throw a fireball at it. Another spirit essence!
You soon realize that the spell of resurrection you casted didn't just return your wife from the dead, but every single corpse in the graveyard! And they all want to devour your living flesh. You throw fireball after fireball, trying to return the dead from whenst they came, but it's too much. You've been collecting their spirit essences though, so you take them to the shrine of purification in the center of the graveyard. As soon as you place your hands on the runes, the spirits flow into the shrine and a single, massive burst of light shoots high up into the sky. Oddly, the sky relents a bit and the lightning ceases. A new spell rune presents itself to you! Now you're not just limited to piddly fireballs, but you've got ... some other spell I haven't come up with yet but will be awesome!
This awakens more undead from the graves, and they're stronger and faster!
You put them all to rest and continue powering up the shrine and getting more spells.
Finally, a super massive beast roars off in the distance and crashes through the trees. It smashes down the iron gates as if it were paper. He's HUNGRY. He doesn't care who or what he eats, so he finds the nearest zombie, grabs him in his huge fist, and bites his head off and throws the remains away. If he runs out of zombies to eat, he'll turn his hungry gaze upon you. He's as big as a house and very, very scary! Somehow, you know that you have to defeat this brute before peace can be restored...
Here is some early game play footage of the zombie game, with both the standard game play, Virtual Reality game play, and both using the Leap Motion hardware device:
PS. I decided on a whim that I'm not going to cut my beard until we launch. It's getting long, luxurious, and bushy!