Fathoms Below Summary
Fathoms Below is an underwater adventure game which uses unique controls designed specifically for the Gear VR headset. The player swims to various areas and solves puzzles in order to unfold a story of the connection between humans and merpeople.
We’ve developed a unique head motion input system to simulate swimming by tightly coupling physical head motion with in-game translational motion. This reduces simulator discomfort while moving in-game compared to gamepad input or automatic motion. This system also makes simulated motion feel more real, as in-game movement is solely controlled by the user's actual motion and doesn't require any input peripheral such as a game pad.
In-game motion only comes from “nods with an intent to move.” This was critical, as it would not be pleasant or easy to play the game if the nodding motion were directly and always mapped to head motion – otherwise gazing around would induce unwanted in-game motion, when all the user wanted to do was look around from a stationary spot. Great care was taken to register intent to move based on filtered nod frequency and velocity. We analyzed how people naturally nod their head, and found that generally, people have a quicker downward nod than upward nod. This led to mapping brief accelerations more heavily to downward nods than to upward nods. Velocity always tapers off very quickly and comfortably when the user stops nodding, so the stopping motion is both natural and expected. Words don't do it justice – the swimming mechanic really needs to be experienced in VR rather than explained on paper! The other primary form of input is the touch pad, which is utilized to interact with objects that the user is gazing at in an intuitive manner.
The primary mechanics are positioning yourself by swimming, and solving puzzles via trackpad input. The user will need to interact with an NPC, solve logic puzzles by moving and rotating objects, as well solve puzzles that work particularly well in 3D like perspective puzzles.
One of the most innovative aspects of the game is the swimming, which was covered under the “controls” section. This system was fine-tuned to balance comfort, function, intuition, and novelty.
Rather than utilizing a typical GUI to manage inventory, the objects that need to be used in the game are all moved around and kept close at hand by the user. This makes for a “natural inventory,” much like you would have in the real world. Need something later? Just lay it down beside you and pick it up when the time comes.
The trackpad is used in multiple ways. Tapping for digging, swiping for sliding or rotating, dragging for orienting, and holding while moving objects are all used for the various puzzles in the game.
It was important to be able to move things around easily without the need to worry about depth control, since many things in this game move. Depth control is defined by the environment that the movable objects slide across. Enjoy the game!