Design Journal Update 2

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 Precedence Study:

Sonophobia as a VR game was based around a game mechanic of navigating a dark environment with a radar-like vision that is provided in spurts rather than a consistent view. The initial goal was integrating this mechanic and gameplay within a VR game and provide a story that would benefit from this mechanic. Looking at other VR games for inspiration I looked at the Stifled for inspiration primarily on how it used a very similar radar vision mechanic. This provided us with a precedence study on how to layout a dark environment that required the use of radar rather than a useful tool. The VR game Face your Fears was a game we wanted to emulate in its use of mood, atmosphere, ambiance and sound design as it really captured a sense of horror. Sonophobia use of sound effects, voices, spatial/ directional sound and background music is in part trying to capture the same unnerving, suspenseful horror motif that can be found in Face your Fears.

Game Structure:

The game flow of Sonophobia has gone through quite a few transformations as the initial design was to incorporate complex puzzles that would be a side game that wasn’t necessary until the end of the game. This involved collecting and carrying objects until the end of the game. The puzzles at this point where riddle based and involved the player solving a riddle that corresponds to a symbol in-game.

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The game was changed to better incorporate the puzzles into the main gameplay making them essential for progression. The core elements of our game are escaping a demon in a dark room and avoiding him at all costs. The puzzles now come into play as a tool used to escape the level. The player can still navigate the dark space and avoid the demon and finally find the escape door but they are presented with 3 possibilities. How do they know which is the correct door? The 360 video within the level provides tells them the correct door. The puzzles were now much more simple and involved the player looking around a 360 landscape or room for a hidden number much like an “I spy game.”

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The last change to the game flow is due to how we were presenting the game upon submission. Originally it would be a performance piece where you can see the player playing the game within a dark room with night vision and as they would walk in the real world they would move the same distance in the game world scaling things on a 1:1 level. Unfortunately, this wasn’t going to be a possibility so changes were made to scale down to 4 levels instead of 5 and expand the scale of the game for the directional pad on the Occulus Quest controller.

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Story:

With Sonophobia the story was created around the gameplay mechanics and progression structure. Brainstorming ideas, we had come up with quite a few prominent ones listed below:

  • Do you enter the wrong apartment? Neighbour has exotic pet ie. creature
  • You are being kidnapped?
  • You have lost your sight, hallucinating monster? 
  • Your a thief blackout occurs, the monster is the homeowner
  • You have summoned a demon….he took away your sight
  • You’ve been cursed in eternal darkness… solve the puzzles in order to regain your sight/light
  • Oh no, you accidentally joined a cult and summoned the dark lord Cthulhu, in order to summon his brother Kthanid to defeat Cthulhu and solve these puzzles and complete the ritual 
  • Enter the dark dimension escape the overlord
  • Your an astronaut who has entered a black hole, your senses disappear one by one, you begin to hallucinate a place of comfort (puzzle rooms) the monster signifies your death which is inevitable. Puzzles are your messages transmitting home (2001 space odyssey/ interstellar)
  • Blindfolded sacrificial lamb for a cult

The final story for Sonophobia involves the player hired as an agent to investigate a cult that is summoning a demon. Previous failed missions have told you that the cult ritual takes away your eyesight and knowing this you are provided with a device that helps you to navigate the dark with a radar-like vision. Your task is to verify if indeed the cult summons a demon and return alive with this information, unlike previous agents that gave gone missing. To escape you have to navigate the dark environment and escape from the demon who is in active pursuit of you.

full script:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1nLWiWw9dkKSNe075I7IdFGkRxAQfY0wGGzDWY6HkD4w/edit

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Playtesting:

Aspects of the game which were developed through countless playtesting sessions were the inclusion of a demo and ending stage as extra parts of the playable levels to ease the player in and provide them with time to practice the game mechanics and get accustomed to the VR experience before starting the game. This also provided us a space to place our story exposition to provide the player with a sense of purpose and orientation mitigating and confusion as to what they are supposed to do in the game and being disinterested because it is overwhelming. Playtesting each build of the game allowed us to polish our radar mechanic and navigation within the game which was key in making the game work. It was also because of playtesting we made changes to the story for an updated script as well as change our game structure to better incorporate our 360 video puzzles.

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Enemy Animation:

Another aspect of Sonophobia that I was a part of was in helping with the in-game demon enemy we as a group named “Steve.” Once Steve was sculpted and rigged in Blender by Donato, had an enemy tracking system in Unity by Ermar, and had a voice captured and synthesized by Sam, I added character animation in Blender for Steve. Unlike a smooth moving animation, the team decided on something more akin to a set of poses Steve would jump through as you only get glimpses of him moving with the radar vision so he is always in a different pose. This is can be described as someone moving through strobing lights in a possessed scary manner.

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Marketing:

With Sonophobia nearing completion our as a team we are shifting to more on documentation, building upon our website draft, a trailer, and marketing material. Since the final build is still in tuning and testing we are awaiting screencaps and captured footage of gameplay for marketing material for the website. In the mean-time, I was able to create some cover art for the game as a place holder that conveys the basic concepts of the game.

sonophobia-poster-vintage                                final-posters

 

 

 

 

Blog Post 6: Getting to completion

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Since the last update, Sonophobia has gone through a lot of changes in regards to size and scope. We were lucky enough to test out the core mechanics of our game early on as playtesting the finished levels for polish will be limited as only half our team will have access to playtesting. The main changes made towards the final build of the game is doing away with our concept of a 1:1 scale interaction where if the player walks in person a few meters in one direction they will travel the same distance within the game world. This way they will not use a directional pad for traversing the level and will have to use own body to move. Another aspect we decided to drop was a sense of verticality provided by the 1:1 scale interaction allowing the player to crawl under objects in-game, and step over objects on the ground. Because we are no longer demonstrating our game as a performative art piece anymore we thought it would be best to rescale the levels according to a directional gamepad controller to allow the player to play anywhere according to the space available to them. Another change we made was to scale down from 5 levels to 4 levels in-game since we are scaling up the smaller levels we had originally. Because the player can travel a much larger distance in-game and all 3 main playable levels are similar we decided to drop one due to time constraints and our new game development workflow.

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(above) Final progression chart for gameplay

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(above) Demon animations in Blender that I worked on

Development wise we are in the final process of assembly and playtesting. All our levels are complete with the 360 videos in place and working. So the game starts with an introductory screen with the game name and play button, leading to a demo introductory stage with voice narration and 360 videos used for exposition placed along a hallway for the player to travel through while testing their radar powers. Once they reach the end they enter an elevator portal to the first playable level where they have to avoid the demon and find a way to escape the level, which requires finding a 360 video clue to access the correct elevator out of three options. The second playable level is similar to the first one but the difficulty has increased as the demon is tracking the player on how much they use their radar ability. Once the player escapes they enter a level starting in a 360 video relating to the opening video. The player is explained that they cannot beat the demon as they step out of the video they are in another dark room with the demon taunting them with an exit provided to the game start menu. Going down the list we have all the different assets completed for 4 levels, voice acting and music completed, the demon model as well as his animations completed. The 360 video integration took us the most time to edit but they were completed recently and integrated into the build. Aside from some playtesting and polishing the game is done. We are in the process of recording gameplay footage and in-game screenshots for documentation and marketing material for the website which we have already set up a draft outline with existing documentation. In the coming days for submission, our focus is on documentation, the website and marketing material sucha s the trailer and posters

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(above) edited 360 video clues Sam worked on

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(above) screen cap from last testing

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(above) vintage-style cover art poster for the initial marketing material for the game that I worked on. Later material will be based on in-game footage.

 

 

 

Blog Post 3 – Tutorial Report

During this Tutorial, we focused on 360 video post-production methods and techniques, 360/VR storyboarding and cleaning up footage to remove rigs. What I found most useful was conceptualizing 360 videos storyboarding as the typical approach to storyboarding doesn’t work with 360 videos. With a standard camera, you are able to frame your shots and storyboarding is also a series of frames. With 360 storyboarding I’ve learned that there are two primary methods that work the best. The first is the equirectangular format which is a 2:1 aspect ratio that when curved into a circle forms the 360 field of view. This can be achieved in photoshop which I did to test out our cult chanting concept in VR. This involved finding an equirectangular format picture of an alley and photoshopping cult members so they form a circle around the viewer in VR. Another way to attempt this method is through a paper sketch that can be folded into a circle to create the same effect. The second method to approach 360 storyboarding is through a birds-eye view of the viewer and design according to their field of view. Since there is no framing, you have to curate the viewer through points of focus such as visuals or sound. We ended up primarily using this method to storyboard our 360 shoots as they quicker to generate and allowed us to iterate more ideas overall. 1_pehuieq0ylow5c7ntnzdza

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Design Journal Update

From my contextual review, I focused on games such as Super Hot, Stifled, and Face Your Fears to help in designing Sonophobia.  From the game Super Hot I learned a lot about player immersion in the sense that the player fully invests their body when playing the game often contorting it in response to projectiles launched at the player. The player very early on realizes to be hyper-aware of their environment as small projectiles could lead to a game over. Players adapt to this by changing stances, posture, and become more reactive to slight changes in the environment as the more they move the more the game progresses. From what I have seen this leads to 2 different types of players as the first type will instinctively react and be in-sync with the action but in turn, the games are faster and it’s very hard to succeed. The second type of player will be a statue moving slightly and strategically and thus able to go for longer as they can plan accordingly. So from this, I learned that a player’s immersion is based on the very first seconds of gameplay as well as a game should be approachable from different perspectives as not everyone will play the game the way you intended. Sure the rules and objectives are the same but the gameplay will differ.

These concepts were applied to Sonophobia by us adding a tutorial stage that allows the player to adapt to the environment and controls without worrying about gameplay. The player is provided narration and a cutscene and can choose to remain within the safe area until they are ready to start. Based on our playtesting we are hoping to build immersion immediately through the mechanics and environment and not overwhelm the player with tasks immediately. To provide for multiple gameplay experiences we streamlined our game to have basic objectives. We got rid of our riddle-solving mechanic to focus more on escaping and avoiding the monster. The level design so far also allows the player to navigate the space on their own and are not placed on rails that guide them. This allows the player to choose how if they will wait and hide, or if choose to run and dodge. This approach developed over time based on both gameplay testing our builds with feedback as well as creating game structure and flow charts charting the progression of the game. Based on feedback we heard the mechanics took some time to adjust to and was overwhelming at first. This was a sign that if they might not try it again if they lost as they weren’t comfortable with it. With the integration of providing a variety of approaches to gameplay, it was based on discussions that we are asking players to keep track of multiple objectives at the same time, carrying objects within the game that weren’t useful until later within the game. This lead to streamlining and simplicity which made the game smaller in regard to rules and objectives that can lead to varied gameplay.

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In regard to the game Stifled, our game borrows heavily from the mechanic and aesthetics as the player has to use sound to view the black environment highlighted in white line drawings. The enemy within the game is also represented in a shade of red. From this game, we learned a lot about building an environment around our dark aesthetic as well as what we did not want. Unlike Stifled, Sonophobia is completely pitch black with no outlines in white of the objects and environment of the game. The vision of the player is momentary which benefits our gameplay and horror theme. We first sought after Stifled because it had a similar radar sight mechanic we had come up with for our game. We wanted to see how it was implemented within the game and how this mechanic works. In Stifled the radar once applied to an area remains so that you can have a clear understanding of your environment and once you leave from it, the effect disappears. For our implementation of the mechanic, the effect will only last as it is being activated. So unlike flashlight where a section is illuminated, ours is more strobe light where we get glimpses of the environment. We also learned about enemy pathways and how to make a monster scary within a horror game. We learned sound and visuals play a key role and came up with a monster design suited for our story and game aesthetic and found a voice that was eerie to listen to in-game. We experienced Stifled on the vibe and did not have the best of experience with the controls so from this we decided we wanted to avoid using analog controls for movement and allow the player to explore the space in person using their body in real-time using the oculus quest which is wireless.

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From the VR experience Face Your Fears I learned about how horror can be adopted within a VR setting especially with the use of binaural sound. Face Your Fears is not interactive much like a game but is more of like a haunted house on rails as things jump up at you for jump scares or the environment builds up for the upcoming scare. Based on what we learned our team was focused on the varying different levels of sound we would need for our game from background music to set the tone, environment sounds for immersion and small details like breathing sounds to induce panic and fear, the voice of the monster as it pertains to his location. We have even changed our story to be scarier by altering the ending to not be happy but be suspenseful. This was implemented overtime over many builds layering sound so one particular thing doesn’t become overbearing.

Blog Post 5 Personal VR Game Progress

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For our VR game Sonophobia we have made a lot of progress since our concept and early test build. My work in regards to Sonophobia was to build upon the original concept and create the story and accompanying script used for the 360 video shoots and how the player progresses through the game levels. This also involved building flow/ player experience charts to see how we can incorporate 360 video elements within the game as puzzle games. During our group discussion, it was decided that we should streamline the gameplay to focus more on our core gameplay elements of escaping and avoiding the enemy and have the 360 videos a tool used to escape the enemy. The two charts illustrate the changes and progression made in our game progression layout.

 Original game structure v1

This rendition of the game had players collect and solve riddles that were to be assembled in the 3rd level.sonophobia-flow-chart-structure-chart

Updated streamlined game structure v2

This new iteration was based on feedback from players to streamline our levels and focus on our core mechanics of gameplay being escaping and avoiding. The solving riddles aspect was replaced with 360 videos that were tools used to progress to escape the current level. Being caught by the enemy would not result in starting the entire game over anymore, but instead starting at the start of the level where you failed.

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Another aspect I was apart of was for the filming of the 360 videos and directing the group based on the game’s script I had written and revised for the new progression chart. The scene below is used for our opening expositional cutscene which takes place during a cult initiation ceremony.

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Currently, I am working on helping to animate some aspects of our enemy in Blender that was rigged by Donato, as we want him to have an unnatural movement style that varies from level to level and thought multiple animators would create distinct styles in the movement that can be switched between to have a jarring and frighting effect.

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Currently, we have our first level of three fully built based on our theme of a home but it was decided in it would be based more on an apartment. Our initial concept was to have the player find the correct door to exit the level but this was replaced with an elevator, where the player would need to figure out which of the three highlighted floors they would go to to escape. Pressing the wrong floor number would result in the enemy appearing leading to a game over screen. Currently, the enemy path is basic and set to walk around the elevator placed in the middle of the level. The player has to navigate the dark apartment to avoid the enemy and find the video for the clue and then reach the elevator to input the correct floor number to exit the level.

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The red circle surrounding the enemy above is the projection of his voice and from how far the player can hear him approaching. Below is footage from our playtesting from the first level where if the player runs into the enemy the game is over, so the player must view a 360 video to access the elevator exit.