Oculus Launch Pad Week 2: Down in VR Trenches

This has truly eventful week within the world of VR for me. Along with creating my first scene for Museum Multiverse, I’ve done my first public talk about VR at Game Devs of Color in New York City. I have been working with Ernest Walker another of the Oculus Launch Padders in order to create a very polished rendition of the project here is what we have learned.

There are about nine clear scenes I see in this launch pad demo, so I started with creating the most straight forward scene I saw from my storyboards. Within this scene the player has switched perspectives from 3rd person into first person. This was the first task getting the Oculus plugin from the Oculus website in order to have the first person perspective.

My next task was to create a convincing scene for the player. To paint the picture of what is going on in this scene, the player is currently being chased by a monster in the museum. The player finds a couple of lockers in the employee’s section of the museum and hides within one of the open lockers in order to hide from his pursuer.

Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 2.02.51 AM.pngTo make this convincing, but also to cut back for Gear VR I created the scene around only what the player will see. Luckily, this was great for me because the player’s sight is limited due to hiding within a locker in the scene. Afterwards Ernest created really high quality models for the interior of the locker. This added a level of immersion I could not do without him. His knowledge of 3D environmental modeling is very impressive and I am very excited to be working with him.

This is the working prototype of the scene with everything together.

test with cubes:

https://giphy.com/embed/84WYOjcY9hbfG

test with a monster:

https://giphy.com/embed/Qxus3quJ2EQyQ

final product:

https://giphy.com/embed/QERyLfe2h10ly

There is still a lot of work to do but we are making progress and it feels good.

https://giphy.com/embed/xT5LMSbSGcJ8tPHloA

On another note, I did a talk about VR in Games and Beyond for Game Devs of Color. This was a micro talk designed to educate people on what is VR, tips on VR development, lessons from the trenches and advice for starting their project in VR. If you’re interested in seeing my talk I am at 2 hours and 36 minutes in the livestream.

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My First Week as a Oculus Launch Padder

I have learned and grown so much during the weekend.

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My plan for the Oculus Launch Pad scholarship consideration is to create a three minute demo with in the 3rd person platforming experience. This is a genre that is seldom utilized and is yet to be perfected in VR. I would like to take part in expanding this genre by creating a game as a mixture of 3rd person with the immersion of a first person platforming experience. The first obstacle I am facing with creating this demo is obtaining a better understanding of what makes a game worth playing in VR. There are plenty of 3rd person platformers out there. What makes experiences like Adventure Time’s Magic Man’s Head Games and Lucky’s Tail unique in VR. I will be continue to study these to projects in order to understand what makes them special as I craft my experience. I will report my findings and my implementations for my 3rd person platformer in my next blog post.

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The Project I am currently working on is called Museum Multiverse.

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Museum Multiverse is a virtual reality puzzle platformer. This project is set in 3rd person within VR. The game starts off with a child waking up in an abandon museum where she must travel into the worlds of the art pieces in order to find a way out of this cursed museum. This project is best described as a mix between Playdead’s Inside and Turbo Button’s Adventure Time: Magic Man’s Head Games, but with a greater focus on trilling gameplay mechanics and rich immersive VR worlds. The great part of this experience is along with having a trilling VR experience the player will primarily be visiting world’s influenced by underrepresented minority artist throughout history like Horace Pippin, Kara Walker and Frida Kahlo.

I will continue to update you all on my process on this project. Stay tune same bat-station, same bat-channel.

Releasing My First Video Game Don’t Look Away VR

On January 25 2017 My friends and I released a VR experience called Don’t Look Away for the Gear VR.

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We have been working on this project for a accumulation of 7 months and for many of us on the team it was our first video game we have ever released. It was a long and difficult journey. We learned, so much and had so much fun, but it was time to set our little VR baby out in the wild for others to enjoy the fruits of our labor. We released our project only expecting to get maybe 500 downloads of our experience. However we were pleasantly freaked out to see that our downloads for Don’t Look Away were over 67,000 after the first two weeks. Soon after showing Don’t Look Away at PAX East our downloads reached 100,000+.

Our pet project was now unprecedented success and we had no idea why we were more successful than our mentor’s project Swing Star VR. In hind sight I think we did couple of things right that set us up for success. I’d like to share these tips in the hopes it can help future indie game devs looking to make their dreams come true as well.

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  • Tip 1: Reaching out to Youtubers before the game release.

Before our game’s release we contacted a ton of Youtuber’s who specialized in reviewing or doing commentary on VR games. We offered them a free copy of the game before release to review our project and told them them they cannot release the video until a day or two before the game came out on the Oculus store. It is important to give the access early to Youtuber’s in order to entice them into creating a video for your game. The Youtuber that releases a video first on a new game gets the most views, so it is a race to finish their work and getting the video ready for the embargo date. This helps them with getting viewers excited to see a new game before its release which bumps up their subscribers and it help you as the creator to get your game in front of as many people as you can within your release window. This way potential buyers can see your game through a Youtube lets play and pick the same game up when its released later that week. How did we get the contacts of all those Youtuber’s you might ask? It was just a process of going on Youtube and finding reviews we liked then contacting them through their contact page on Youtube.

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  • Tip 2: Going to PAX East

Going to events like PAX, E3 or Play NYC is an awesome way to get hundreds of people playing your game within a small amount of time. Going to these events are great because you get to see real people trying out your game. You can see the low and high points of your game. It is also just rewarding to see people react to your work. Seeing the excitement and fear on a player’s face for a feature or level you’ve worked on for months is a necessary cathartic exercise in making interactive art. Along with this benefit, if you are unable to regularly play test your game in a smaller venues like Playcrafting’s Expos or NYU’s Playtest Thursdays on the East coast,  going to these event are necessary in order to finding and fixing level and design problems within a game. Usually we as developers are so focused on making our project that we create things in vacuums. Showing your project gives you the real world player feedback you’d need to improve the experience and the gratification that your work matters.

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  • Tip 3: Lean on your support groups in your area

We in NYC have an organization called Playcrafting NYC and the community in this group was very important in not only getting Don’t Look Away ready for release, but actually forming the group to start the project! Everyone on the team of Don’t Look Away I either met or heard about through Playcrafting. The Playcrafting community was made to empower game developers to make and finish games. Organizations or meetup groups like this are rooting for your success because it’s a win-win scenario for all parties involved. If a hit game is released within the community that drives more buzz around that group and if you’re making a game you can lean on the community for getting the word out, getting help on hard problems or just finding talented committed people to join your team. If you do not have a community group like this around you, I’d say make one. I guarantee you someone within your area either wants to make a game or app and does not know where to start or is making a project siloed and could use a community of even just one for support. Groups like this start with just a few people and grow, so if you’re making a game find or make a group to support your process on finishing your experience.

Currently, Don’t Look Away is near is a couple thousand shy of 200,000 downloads and players of the experience have collectively spent over 930 days within our work. Honestly, it is easy to put a my face to this project as the lead creator of it, but projects like Don’t Look Away almost always has a team that makes it happen and that is why I’d like to take this time out to thank everyone who has worked on this project and stuck with it to the end. Andy LohmannBobby (Robert Canciello), Jose Zambrano, Andrew Struck-Marcell,  Sean Hyland and everyone that help in their small way. Don’t Look Away would not have been without you all.

We are getting ready for our next project so stay tuned to our progress on Twitter and Facebook

Try out Don’t Look Away (here).