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June Update

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TL;DR: We've decided to polish up and expand the zombie game we've been working on.

We've got a few interesting things we're going to do with it smile.png

VR Hackathon:
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 smile.png

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:


VC Funding?
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...

The end?

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:

Virtual Reality:

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!
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If you want to make some money of off it, you will need IMHO to make it more re-playable. As it is it sounds cool, but not the kind of game I'd play again once finished.


The big introduction/menu sounds really cool and would work very well in VR but personally, I'd used the dev time it'll require to include multiplayer instead.


Wish you luck.

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Good feedback, thanks :) I hadn't spent much time thinking about replayability. I'll have to keep that in the back of my mind with game design or game modes.


The multiplayer game play would be fun, but that would involve a lot more work -- We'd essentially be creating two games!

-Would need to find servers to host games
-Would need to balance spells to be fair
-Would need to figure out net code

I'd like to add multiplayer eventually, but it would have to wait for now. Maybe if the game succeeds, it'd be included in a big content update?

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Good luck with your investor meeting! I for one support whimsical decisions and have made more than a few in my time. (Wear shorts year round regardless of temperature. Never write a check in my life. etc.) Just make sure your decision to beard it up doesn't cost you the deal. As you say, lots of investors are "stuffy old farts who don't get it". For what its worth, it wouldn't cost you the deal with me. But then again, I don't have 300 million dollars laying around to throw at investments. :)


The in-game configuration sounds cool. 


And I agree Multiplayer sounds too complex at this stage in the game. 

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I found your story very conpelling up until the part where you start throwing fireballs at your wife.

Why would someone who is willing to do everything to save his dying wife just turn around and start killing her with fire? Even if she is an undead.

I think the story has more potential then to just end in a "throwing fireballs to kill zombies" scenario.

I realize that you have time/money constraints, so im not saying to intresse the scope, but I feel like the story and the game isnt connected as it is.

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I found your story very conpelling up until the part where you start throwing fireballs at your wife.

Why would someone who is willing to do everything to save his dying wife just turn around and start killing her with fire? Even if she is an undead.

I think the story has more potential then to just end in a "throwing fireballs to kill zombies" scenario.

I realize that you have time/money constraints, so im not saying to intresse the scope, but I feel like the story and the game isnt connected as it is.


Yeah, I kind of agree with you. The story is still being developed, this is more of a "first draft".


What I'm trying to do is create an interesting reason for the player to throw fireballs and other spells at "stuff". I'm also trying to create consistency between the "main menu" system and the rest of the game, so immersion and presence isn't broken.


Here's the process from where be began and what lead us to where we're at:

1) Okay, so you're a wizard in a graveyard at night time and zombies are rising from the graves and all you've got is fireballs.


Why the hell are zombies rising from the graves? Why do you only have a fireball spell? Why the hell are you in a haunted graveyard in the middle of the night?! What's going on here? What's the point of it all?


2) Uh. Okay. The zombies are coming from the graves to eat your brains! Because that's what zombies do.

Well, okay. Why are they coming out of the graves now? Have they always come from the graves? If you know they come from the graves at night, then why are you in a graveyard?


3) Well, no... they haven't always come from the graves, they just started coming from the graves because you're in the graveyard. You woke them up.

Really? Okay, how did I wake them up? Why?


4) You started the game in a wizard tower because its a good place for changing game settings and all wizards live in one of those things. I don't know why the wizard would place his wizard tower next to a graveyard, but that's just how it is. Personally, I'd place my wizard tower next to a nice tropical beach so I could go swimming every day. Just gotta watch the expiration time of the water breathing spell, right? Anyways, the reason the corpses are rising from the graves is because of you... you casted a big, evil, black spell which caused them all to wake up!


What on earth could compel me to cast something like that? That's crazy. In real life, I would never cast dark evil spells.


5) Not ever? Not under any situation? I bet I could think of a reason a good person would do bad things... That happens all the time in real life, right? The path to hell is paved with good intentions. All I have to think of is a reason from the heart, where the heart rules over reason. People would commit all sorts of atrocities to keep those who are near and dear to them, safe. You may say that you'd never kill anyone, but if a robber breaks into your house and imminently threatens your families safety and you have a gun you can use to protect them, you'd probably kill the robber, right? Well, same thing here. For some reason, someone close to you needs to be saved, and the only way to save them is to do something dark and awful -- hence, the black magic spell. Who would be someone that is close enough to our hearts that would compel us to put our moral beliefs temporarily on hold to save them? A wife? our children? A lover? A friend? Ourselves? An ideology? Who knows, but whatever it is, the player should be able to relate to it in some way, and say, "Ah, I can see why you'd do that. If I was in the same position, I'd probably do that too."

Okay... well, I'd never do that.

6) Then there'd be no conflict, and you would make for an uninteresting story. Anyways, let's say its your wife or something. She's died or something and you have to cast a resurrection spell to bring her back to the land of the living. You've perfectly preserved her body for all these years under a magic stasis spell, so the decomposition process natural to most corpses hasn't taken place. She should be grateful for that, right? She'll be a spring chicken once again! So, you cast the evil spell and... we have to explain why zombies from the whole graveyard are waking up... and the spell goes haywire. It works, but it works too well. The area of effect is for the whole region!

...okay, that works.... but why did the spell effect have that big of an area of effect? wouldn't a smart wizard be able to figure out what their spell is going to do before they cast it?

7) Sure, if the spell hasn't been tampered with. In this case, we have a big boss monster we want the player to fight. It'll be as big as a house and scary as hell. If we just drop him in without any explanation, the game makes no sense. So, this big boss monster is actually a demon. He was trying to cross into the mortal realm and to do that, he needed you to cast this spell. He knew you'd do it under the right conditions, so he is the one who caused your wife to get sick.. he is the reason she died. He is the reason that dark spell book was found... he is the whisper in your ear which told you it would be a good idea to cast this spell. See, all it takes for people to do evil things is for people to be put into a situation where it's easy, selfish, and somewhat reasonable.

Whatever. Why am I throwing fireballs at my wife???

8) Uh... because we have to train the player how to throw a fireball in a somewhat safe environment. We can't just drop them into a graveyard without any idea on how to defend themselves from zombies. Especially if we're doing gesture controlled spells. It takes a bit of practice to get good at it, and this is a good way to figure out if you want to use mouse and keyboard vs. gestures. Story wise, we can just say that the resurrection spell was tainted by evil and actually causes your wife to suffer, and by throwing fireballs at her, it's an act of mercy to put her out of her misery. Good enough for now, eh? The rest are just gaps to fill in.

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I'm glad to see your focus shifting, to me, a lot of organizations fail by refusing to adapt to changes in plans.

I perceive more and more your zombie game as a better-scoped project for your means all-the-while being an interesting means to an end for VR, which seems to be a long-term objective for your startup.

Not sure if profitability should be an aim at this point though, but I wish you the best with this project!

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I'm glad to see your focus shifting, to me, a lot of organizations fail by refusing to adapt to changes in plans.

I perceive more and more your zombie game as a better-scoped project for your means all-the-while being an interesting means to an end for VR, which seems to be a long-term objective for your startup.

Not sure if profitability should be an aim at this point though, but I wish you the best with this project!

Thanks :) I justify the focus as a "fail faster" approach and it's inspired by the Eric Ries book, "Lean Startup". I figure that VR is such a new area that nobody really knows what works and doesn't work yet, so the best approach to figuring that out is to put a product out there and get customer feedback as fast as possible. Collect data and pivot accordingly, right?

The zombie game is a lower risk project since its scope is smaller, so failure isn't as costly as the wizard game in case we get something horribly wrong or something just doesn't work.

For the zombie game, I do want to get at least *some* sales. Having an existing product out in the market place and getting a sales track record adds extreme amounts of credibility in the eyes of investors. Now we're not just a start up which just has an idea, we're a start up which had an idea, executed on it, shipped, got sales, and is ready to move on to the next, bigger idea and we're now a much safer investment bet for angels and VC's.

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