W.A.R.P. VRJam - Final Thoughts

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What a long month! It's finally over!

This was my first game jam, and my first attempt at a real game. Win or lose, I learned from this.

I learned preparation time is valuable. I came up with the idea of my game shortly before the submissions opened/the start of the jam, and while I thought about it for the next week, I didn't really start work on it. So for the next 4 weeks were all I had to turn my vague incomplete idea into something that resembled a game.

Week 1 was mostly spent getting my idea for the main mechanic working as I envisioned. I thought it was going to be easier then it was, but once I started I found some huge issues I didn't foresee, and needed to solve. This week I also was struggling to work at all. I just got back from taking a break from everything VR, and I was having a hard time diving into the project like I'm used to. I really didn't spend enough time on it. The rest of the time I did spend that week was used on making the vague idea I had for the game less vague. I guess in this time the game went from being about alternate realities where despite the player only ever occupying one, all were more or less used equally. The other realities were to be just the same room, with some deviations. But instead the other realities became a huge deviation. In my prototyping I had 2 alternate reality types, red and blue. Red obviously was hot, and became the Mars like world. Blue was to be cold. The original idea was to progress into having multiple windows going to different realities in the same room. But I felt I had to scrap that idea at least for the jam because the overhead each window costs. I reduced that overhead significantly over the jam, but as I'm developing this for such a limited platform that I can't even test on, I didn't want to risk backing myself into a corner in my planning only to have 2+ windows be to much.

Week 2, well, started off bad as I caught a cold that sapped a lot of the energy that I was already struggling to find for the project. But somehow I pushed on and this is where the game took shape. The red reality became a Mars like world. I reapplied my prototyping level into more final normal world rooms after feeling I couldn't wait on the unity store credit any longer. I had to to make a decision and move forward (the code came the next day...). I created models like the window, the battery, the battery slot and the door. I made general scripts for grabbing objects, and triggered events. I believe I even completed the first 2 puzzle rooms.

Week 3, my cold was still there sapping my energy, but less so. I got 2 more rooms done. And made a pass over most scripts and sequences to remove bugs and polish how they worked.

Week 4, I had what I felt could work as a final build, and put it out there for testing. I hoped to get the test results quick, fix any issues, then try and come up with 2 more puzzle rooms. Things didn't go that way however. I looked and begged for days for someone to test it, and by the time someone finally did, it was to late to work on such demanding things. Something that's just not a good idea is to make huge changes, or even sometimes minor changes, while your waiting for testing. In the little time I had left I just added a easteregg, and further refined what I could.

That all said, back to the topic of preparation specifically. If I had just another week to plan, I could have come up with a couple more puzzles. If I had the 2 extra months like others did, I could have planned on what assets I could use to make things go smoother. I could maybe have tested different variations of some of the mechanics and possibly found options that were better then what I used. I could have had a little bit of story. I could have designed some REAL puzzles, instead of basic introductions to mechanics.

What else did I learn? Well, I just plain wasn't as ready to develop a game as I thought. I look around at the other games in the jam, and see people working on menus, title screens, music, etc. All typical game things, but things my game lacks. My game is bare bones. I was struggling just to get what I had done in time. Spending time on such things seemed crazy!

I learned I really need a budget for the asset store to live up to my potential. Sure, it's nice knowing I can create assets myself. But looking at my game, I doubt anyone's going to give me points for it. All people see is the models and textures, and think "this game looks good" when they see a game using assets from the store. They don't see what I see, and think "99% of what I'm seeing in this screenshot/video isn't created by this games developer(s)". They see my game, where 99% of what they see is create by me, and probably think "meh" or "this game is ugly/bland". They don't see the code work I put in at all, where 99-100% of it is all written by me. In the end, if someone was even to think about the scripts, they probably just assume I used playmaker or some asset pack. Really, to average people they probably see a game using such asset packs no differently then my own. Either both were painstakingly hand written by the dev, or both were just downloaded assets. And that's just not the case. I'm basically wasting my time writing scripts, when others can just drag, drop, change a couple settings, and move on. I'm not saying there's no value in being able to do things myself, but I see I can stand to learn about when doing so is best or not.

I learned that I may not be as adept at general game design as I'd like to be. I can code, I can model, I can create some basic textures, I can throw some PD/CC0 sound clips through Audacity, etc. But what I really want to do well is coming up with stories, locations, premises, layouts, puzzles, etc. That's something I struggled with here when I was on a clock. I'm not happy with my game in that regard. My rooms layouts are bland. It's story is undefined. Puzzles are laughable, and more just introductions to mechanics that I've failed to come up with anymore ideas to use them with. I wanted to add humor to the dialog boxes, but just wasn't inspired. Somewhere along the way it went from being about windows to other realities, to what? Is that another planet? Another universe? Honestly, I don't know.

I learned that I don't really want to develop for GearVR. At the least, not if I don't own one that I can work with. I only deved for GearVR because of this jam. I didn't want to be left out after waiting so long for another jam I thought would happen last year. I might have still sat out if it wasn't for the 1m dollar prize pool. I wanted to take a shot at it, as I'm guaranteed to not win any of it if I don't even try. Beyond that, Oculus has failed to convince me on mobile. They convinced me on things like "60hz is not enough!" and "Positional tracking is a must!", so when the GearVR was announced which went against both of those, it felt like little more then their obligation as part of a deal to get screens for the REAL VR hmds for PC's. Sure, mobile is good for demoing VR to people who haven't tried it. Good for devs who can't afford to lug around PCs everywhere. But for average users? I'm not convinced any game/app besides Cinemas will be worthwhile on mobile. I see few places where you would want to use the mobility of it, and in those places I don't see people wanting to isolate themselves from the people around them, putting themselves/possessions at risk. I don't see people getting as immersed in a VR experience in a public place, being unconcerned about moving around, making noise, etc. I always see it being 2 steps behind the quality of a PC experience, and one thing most know about VR, quality matters. We want things to look/work at good as possible, more then ever. The cost seems absurd too, unless you have a phone as part of a plan. Otherwise, you could spend the same amount on PC stuff, and get a better experience, and not have the hardware go obsolete 2-4x as quick.

If Oculus were to decide to send me a GearVR to keep me developing for it, then I guess I would be willing to develop for it, depending on if my game will work on it without to much compromising. When I sell a game, I want as many potential buyers as possible of course. But I don't see myself buying one, even if I had some disposable cash.

Now that the jam is over, next we got the public voting period for the Community Choice prize. Of course I'd love to win that, and please do vote for my game. But I don't expect I have a great chance at that. At the very least you don't get just 1 vote for all the submissions. You can vote for everything you want, so even if it isn't your favorite you can still vote for my game.

We won't know the results of all the judging until next month, so I'll just have to wait for that.

Looking at the future of W.A.R.P., I'm not sure whats in store. Some plans hinge on if I win anything or not. If I win, it clearly shows that people would want this game to be developed further. And having that money would allow me to use the asset store to make it better. I'd continue developing it if I won, for sure, and would do so for GearVR.

But if I don't win, continuing development isn't sure. And if I do, it's likely not going to be for GearVR. I'd likely even start over from. Keep the general window/portal idea, but not be locked into anything else. The name will probably even be discarded. Part of me wants to continue working on it and prove the merrits of the idea to what I've envisioned. But I have to be willing to let go of a idea and move on to something that people may enjoy better.

I'll likely take some time off from the project. A few weeks/months, then re-evaluate it with a fresh perspective. In the meantime I'm starting work on another project I'll announce later once I've done more. And I may start working out some other game/app/experience ideas and follow through on them.

One thing I'd like to do, but I'm making no promises about, is to start creating assets for no reason other than to add to my portfolio. Help chart, showcase, and progress my capabilities. I feel like a loner in the VR community still. I don't have people knocking down my door for help or teaming up. I feel like I should to some degree, but really, I don't have a lot out there to grab peoples attention. Some of what I'd make would end up on the Unity asset store, others just maybe this website.

Anyway, to wrap things up. If you like W.A.R.P. or its potential, please comment. I'll welcome feedback and ideas. And of course, sign up and vote for W.A.R.P. in the VRJam. If you don't have a GearVR, there's now a DK2 version over on the W.A.R.P. page. So give that a try! =)


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