Crystal Rift and Colosse developer shares experience with the London Vive Jam

by Upload • July 27th, 2015

Our Vive game was called ‘D.E.R.P’ (Destruction Enhancement Research Professionals) and our team was: Jon Hibbins, Thiago Craviero, Rob Ramsay, Jason Storey and Nick Pittom. The team was the same as that working on Crystal Rift, except for Jason Storey, who is working on Echo Red with me.

The team got together quickly when the Jam was announced and we quickly started to brainstorm ideas. Dozens were proposed and after a battle royal face off (or a ‘vote’) we decided on using a ‘conveyer belt’ as the core mechanic. Objects would come down a chute and pass by in front of you, and you would then have to quickly sort them into the correct ‘chute’ – throwing them in. At the time we came up with a series of mini-games to intersperse this, and even a narrative setting, although time would get the best of us and some of this would fall by the wayside.


Before jumping into VR Nick Pittom, aka RedOfPaw, worked for a decade as Animator, Director and Editor with a diverse range of clients in Film, TV, Games and Marketing. In 2012 Nick wrote and directed his first short film, ‘PROTO’, which he also edited and produced many of the VFX for. Now Nick is hard at work creating some of the best VR experiences currently available such as the award winning, ‘Colosse,’ and working on a pair of full VR titles ‘Crystal Rift‘ and ‘Echo Red.’

 


The event came and we all met at Somerset House in London, where Playhubs, Bossa, HTC and Valve had put on the Jam. Some early technical issues (network etc) were overcome and we were set to go. There were around eight teams in total, and the atmosphere was great – very friendly and everyone eager to see what they could achieve with the Vive.

There were three kits set up for testing, which remained in constant use the whole weekend. Those who had not tried a vive before got to try the Valve demos of course, but game testing remained the priority.

For D.E.R.P. we split into two subteams – Rob and I on art, Jason, Jon and Thiago on code/testing. Props and sets were designed, code was written. At 3pm the free pizza came. The day went well and much Jamming was down. Time was also spent meeting the other teams, and indeed catching up with other developers. VR development is a small community and a lot of those involved are friends and support each other – it’s a great space in that way! There’s little overt competition and people want to see others succeed. BBC ‘Click’ turned up to film a segment for the BBC News Channel and there were also folks filming 180 videos.

The end of the first day we had hoped to get the main sequence of the game running. That didn’t quite happen, but we did get the basics – the object spawning, the conveyer belt, the fire pit and the interaction. Day two would definitely be us catching up and adding in all our bigger ideas. In theory… a drink in the evening gave way to some frantic last minute work before fatigue set in.

Many of us slept over. This is not recommended unless you hate sleep.

Day two did not bring the progress we had hoped… As simple an idea as you may have it’s always more complicated to implement. We had multiple objects with multiple object colours, stung together in sequences that involved chutes popping up and down (also different colours) – all this mixed in together with the unforeseen… objects would get stuck to the controller, or would not throw in the way you expect.

The art assets for mini games were made up – involving bombs you throw and pinatas to hit. Sadly as the day drew on it became clear we would not get to add these. However other pretty cool things were added – scoring systems and similar less flashy, but still cool additions. The bombs and pinata still exist in the game, but as incidental additions to the scene, rather than mini games. Perhaps for the sequel. 15minutes before the end of the jam we were in disarray. The game did NOT work, and the code was broken. Despair threatened to wash away our hard work, yet by some miracle the  code monkeys were able to push enough keys to accidentally get it working – and it was great! And fun! And a work out….

The Vive allows for a great deal of freedom – barriers are removed. You feel that more immersed in what you are doing. Even something as apparently simple as sorting objects from a conveyer belt can be hectic, stupid fun! For those who have access to a Vive we hope you get to try it. We were also really impressed with what everyone else had worked on – universally fun looking experiences. VR pushes people to come up with some pretty creative concepts, and the addition of Vive controllers really creates experiences that are have a natural compelling nature.

At the end of the day we dropped off our entry. The next day press and important dignitaries – ambassadors and such (I believe) – would be trying the experiences. But for now it was time to have a drink and go home to bed.

While the London Vive Jam is over, the extended ‘jam’ that is pretty much all VR development right now continues onwards – the addition of Room Scale and motion controllers only adds to that. It’s an exciting time.

 

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