For Duck's Sake - HTC Vive (Virtual Reality)
Production and Game Design
Building Virtual Worlds - Round 1
Development Duration: 2 Weeks
Developed in Unity for HTC Vive
Artists: Bryan Kim, Euna Park
Sound: Joshua Danzig
Producer: Euna Park
- Communication tools: Trello, Facebook Messenger
- Daily update meetings: 15 minutes at 5PM
- Longer meetings scheduled separately on an as-needed basis
This was my first experience as a producer of a creative team. I focused primarily on providing enough structure and a solid communication channel for the good of our team's project. After an initial 'getting to know you' dinner, we met for our first concept meeting after having a night to brainstorm on our own.
BRAINSTORMING AND RESEARCH
We decided to attempt a more unique experience by having our experience's guest be virtually chest deep in water, with two distinct environments above (bathroom) and below (ocean) the water. The most entertaining idea to us was that crouching and looking under the water would be an essential part of the gameplay. The goal would be to save rubber ducks in the bathroom being eaten by sharks in the ocean environment by spraying them with a showerhead.
Once we had decided on a concept, we worked on defining the tasks that were necessary for each role in order to achieve this environment. I had prepared a template before the concept meeting, with the intention of communicating the larger picture of the project to everyone on the team:
This was a very efficient way of starting everyone on the same path, toward the same goal. We were lucky to have a pretty conducive team chemistry right from the beginning of the project. We held team discussions every single afternoon for fifteen minutes, in which everyone had three minutes each to share the following:
- What they had worked on that day
- What they were planning to do for the evening
- What problems were being faced, and the resources/time necessary to address it
As expected, we ran into technical issues pretty quickly with the challenge facing our programmers of creating two different environments within the same scene. Due to this, we spent a large portion of our week getting game mechanics correct versus the look of the world. While the mechanic was being handled by our programmers, Bryan and I continued to store art assets and conceptualize the world's planned aesthetic in collusion with the rest of the team. The story evolved to a toy duck attempting to escape the shark in the water and make it to the other end of the tub where its family was safely waiting in a toy boat.
This was the result after one week of work, for our interim presentation:
The feedback we received was not quite unexpected. According to our instructors and our peers, the biggest issues with the current model we had were that the interactive elements needed to be more simple and intuitive. The experience as a whole was confusing which diminished guest engagement, so while this was a fun concept, it needed lots of clarification. The showerhead interactions with the duck and shark were unclear, the setting of the world (bathroom) needed to be clarified, and story clarification was absolutely necessary.
We had a long meeting to discuss our feedback and revisited the way our game's design from two primary perspectives: gameplay clarity, and guest engagement. Our immediate decisions were as follows:
- We needed to plan an introduction and ending to the experience, now that we had a functional core experience
- We scrapped a second planned interaction with the shark to make the showerhead interaction more fun
- We needed to develop clearer interactions for above versus below the water
One of the most challenging ones from a design perspective was getting the guest to understand that movement between the two environments (bathtub to ocean) was necessary. Our solution was to begin the player with the title screen underneath the water, on the ocean floor, and raise them to the bathtub environment when the game started.
From there, we mapped out the planned interest progression of our guest's experience and defined the specific programming, art, and sound tasks necessary for making this into a reality.
As work progressed during the week, we tweaked the UI and gameplay to match the new plan and address the previous development concerns. While time constraints kept us from reaching that goal, we hit many goals to make the experience more enjoyable:
- We added a red button to the showerhead to make the spray mechanic more intuitive.
- We removed the duck's feet and wings to make its movement completely depending on the player
- We adjusted the showerhead interactions with the duck (spray) and shark (bop/punch)
- We built out and lit the bathroom environment and ocean environments in different styles
- We progressively added more sharks to enhance the gameplay experience
- We named the world, "For Duck's Sake"
Many of the decisions we made served to clarify the experience and make it much more enjoyable for our guests. One problem we discovered the night before the delivery date, however, was there was a bug which pushed the pacing of the game into hyperspeed and jumpstarted an empty fail state. It was an avoidable bug if the game was played a certain way, but unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to fix the actual problem before the deadline and we had to submit.
During our final presentation, we made the decision to demonstrate the game around the bug before allowing our instructors to play so that the full world could be presented. This ended up being a good idea, as our instructor ran straight into the bug and triggered the empty fail state. The resulting feedback we received was not unexpected and overall pleasant.
- The title was a good choice in clarifying the intention of the world.
- Clunking the sharks and being chest deep in water in VR were both interesting moments.
- Good audience reaction because the world was kind of crazy.
- The tone of the world was everywhere, with the cartoon-y bathroom and the realistic/terrifying sharks and the chaotic pacing.
- The interest curve went everywhere, too many things happened too quickly. The guests and audience were a little lost as the game went on because of this.
If we had more time to develop this further, one of the first things to do would be to find the bug and kill it. We would also work more on visual cues and overall timing, not to make the world any less crazy, but to make it less confusing.