Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sanctuary Hub and a Platformer?

I've been working around in the background for a while now, so I feel that it's about time that I stated a bit of what I'm working on. Development has been heavily halted for a while since I haven't had a primary control system to work with, however, I recently changed my direction in the near term for VR control and have a more solidified system for controls at the ready that I can begin to work with. As such, development has rapidly accelerated and I'm taking steps to set up some software that will be able to take advantage of my control system and some of the benefits of Virtual Reality. From a broader look at the system, I'm finding that the items I'm working on evoke many of the functions and design ideas present in the very first game I ever played: Super Mario 64

The first item on the agenda is the Sanctuary Hub, though it's functionality will be considerably more limited. Functionally and from a design sense, I'd say it'll be comparable to the Castle Hub from Super Mario 64. The primary goal of the hub is to give the player an environment where they can explore the control of their avatar and navigate to other parts of the world seamlessly. I'll have more a tad bit more functionality with a Command Deck and a few other items available to make it a bit more interesting to deal with, though it's not going to be anywhere near as extensive as it will be in the distant future once I can add things like character creation, world modification, online interactivity, and more. For now, it's serves as a decent playground for amusement and in my case, development. 

The next item is one I haven't previously announced or indicated much, but I'm planning on making a basic platformer as test game, sort of. The goal isn't particularly clear yet and for the most part, it's likely that this platformer will mainly be focused on testing out the control system I'm working on using the X Box controller involving and exploring the new realm of possibility VR allows in the platforming genre. I'll be designing with exploration at the forefront and entertainment later, though I think both are kind of intrinsic at this immediate moment in time simply due to the novelty. 

Ever since the transition to 3d came about, the platforming genre obtained a hitch that wasn't present in the 2d era: a lack of depth perception. Without this, doing jumps with precision can be a very problematic task that requires considerably more work and mental adaptation than it had in the 2d era where it wasn't even really a problem. First person titles in particular avoid platforming like the plague since it adds the problem of the player not normally having the chance to see their feet in conjunction with the lack of depth perception, creating a messy, unintuitive system for both our conscious and unconscious to deal with. VR however, has resolved both these problems.

The issue of depth perception is immediately resolved by the Oculus Rift and other VR HMDs have 3d as a default making the user's ability to gauge distances considerably better than it would be on a regular gaming set up. Taking things further, modern HMDs have head tracking, making the player's view and their functional operations effectively two separate entities. This means a player can compare their current ground level and that of the platform they wish to move to on the fly, bringing the opportunity for situational awareness that is problematic with typical first person platforming. I want to harness this for everything it's worth, so I'll be constructing a test level exactly for this purpose. It should be a good design exercise and help to get me better acquainted with Unity's intricacies.
I should hopefully have something presentable sometime soon. I'm mainly prototyping right now so things can hardly be said to look "good" by any means. I want to at least get a basic character model done before I get start presenting things. I'm not too good with character modeling by any means so it's going to be yet another learning experience for me, though I have some ideas on how I can ease some of that workload. 

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