Maker From Below - description

Maker From Below is a cooperative multiplayer* first-person action game set in a science fiction desert environment. You play either as a smuggler or a sandworm. Smugglers have the goal to cross the desert and make it to the desert town. Sandworms have the goal to stop the smugglers and snatch them from the surface.

The game is inspired by Frank Herbert’s Dune and the Left 4 Dead series. Maker From Below features dynamic team play and a unique VR multiplayer experience.

Sandworms live under the surface, deprived of nutrients. In order to survive they must feed of that what travels on the surface. Despite having selfish business interests, smugglers travel in groups in order to save each other in case of a worm attack.

  • As a smuggler, you will have to devise strategies while being under the constant fear of being eaten alive.
  • As a sandworm you will have to plan your attack* carefully, there are surface temperatures to take into account, and while attacking one smuggler may seem harmless, there is the risk of being attacked by a group of smugglers on a rescue attempt, when exposing yourself on the surface.

*attack function not implemented in JAM build

The desert sky is populated by wormbirds. Like vultures these birds feed of off the remains of the sandworm’s prey. The birds have a special ability to see and track worms below the surface. This enables the smugglers to track the worm’s location. Spot a high concentration of wormbirds in one location? Then there are most likely sandworms very near, lurking right below the surface.

*Due to networking issues, the current (jam) build of the game unfortunately doesn't offer any multiplayer functionality. AI controlled characters aim to illustrate the multi-user experience.

Controls

Controls: Gamepad. Developed for and tested with the Samsung Wireless Gamepad.

Smuggler gameplay mechanics

Goal: find and reach the desert town at the end of the level

  • Experience running across a dangerous desert environment
  • Embody the character
  • Find a safe route across the level
  • Look for worm birds and plot your route

Sandworm gameplay mechanics

Goal: don’t let smugglers reach their goal

  • Experience what it's like to be a large sandworm, creeping around underground
  • Look around using your sand vision, enabling you to see underground
  • Manoeuvre, in true sandworm fashion and observe how your shape deforms
  • Look up to find smugglers and attack them
  • Attack by jumping/sticking out of the sand and eating them Worms are vulnerable when at/above the surface*

*currently only a factor that AI controlled sandworms take into account, does not apply to player controlled sandworms in the VR jam build.

Game Environment

The game takes place on a dry desert planet, consisting of different surface materials, types of soil and natural rock formations both above and below ground. Two suns orbit the planet along with one moon. Natural hazards such as double sun, occasional sand storms and solar flares furthermore endanger life on the planet. Shelter can be sought in caves. A short eclipse happens every x minutes, allowing the surface to cool down. The darkness renders the worms unable to see what’s at the surface. The eclipse gives smugglers the rare ability to travel the lands with a significantly lower risk of being gobbled up.

Innovation

Maker From Below gives you the unique opportunity of playing as both the hunter and the hunted. It's innovative because it combines two contrasting modes of presence in one VR game. Instead of being an experience that tries to evoke one specific emotion or immersive effect, such as the impact of scale or the embodiment of a powerful (or powerless) being, Maker From Below offers players both ends of the spectrum, in one package. We attempted to make the controlling of the worm immersive, by offering a first person view, but also epic, by offering the player the opportunity to switch to a third person view, with a more overseer point of view, for a different sense of perspective.
The game is designed for 4x4 multiplayer, we tried to re-think how online matchmaking can work in VR. Inspired by choosing sides, in the same way kids do, when they play a game of football, we envision the game lobby to work in a similar fashion. Using this technique, we foresee a greatly improved sense of rivalry, imagining both sides literally teaming up, grouped together and standing face to face with each other before the game starts.

Forthcoming: Wishlist of features that didn't make it in time

The following features started being developed, but didn't make it to the actual jam submission.

Smugglers:

  • Set traps to distract, confuse or kill worms
  • Shelter from sand storms
  • Shelter from solar flares
  • Traverse the landscape together in order to free other smugglers in case of a sandworm attack
  • Free another smuggler by attacking the worm
  • Reach the other town before the 2nd sunrise, which causes unbearable temperatures when exposed to

Makers:

  • Various ways of attacking.
  • Move through different layers/types/areas of sand/soil/rock that make up the underground level and each impact your path, vision, speed.
  • Small bright dots on the surface signal the presence of smugglers
  • Worms can't stand sunlight for very long, your health drops progressively when close to the surface. You will have to dive deep to regenerate.

Links

Check out the dev log

Follow the game on Twitter

Notes and instructions for playing the jam build of Maker From Below

Notes:

  • Snapdragon chipsets with Lollipop installed are not supported. It's a bug in the current Unreal Engine. Please use Kitkat 4.4.4 if you've a Snapdragon device. Exynos chipsets and lollipop should be fine. Unfortunately, this bug is out of my hands.
  • If for some reason you get a map loading error when you hit "play offline" in the main menu then your phone might be low on memory, a restart of your phone should fix this.
  • You need a gamepad to play the game, I've tested it with the Samsung bundled wireless gamepad.

Instructions:

  1. Select play offline in the main menu
  2. In the lobby, select a character class by walking onto either a Maker or Smuggler ready zone on either side of the lobby.
  3. Happy with your choice? You can then start the game by walking into the start zone, which is a green box with a small white arrow in it, pointing down. (sorry, it's rather indistinct, ran out of time to make this properly) See lobby screenshot.
  4. The game starts! You can now run around to find the desert town as a smuggler, entering the town will end the game. Flocks of wormbirds will signal heavy worm presence, keep an eye out for them. Or, if you chose to be a worm, you can creep underneath the surface, in true Maker fashion - in first or 3rd person view. There are no attack/being-eaten mechanics in this build, I almost nailed it, but I didn't have enough time to implement it properly in time for the deadline, it will absolutely be included in the next release, that's a promise.
  5. ! The game ends and brings you back into the lobby when a smuggler (either human or AI controlled) reaches the desert town, regardless of the class you are playing. This still gives you plenty of uninterrupted playing time, but it is not as intended, it's a bug found out after submitting.

I hope that you enjoy the experience as it is now, and may it taste for more!

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Note to users having trouble launching the game

Snapdragon chipsets with Lollipop installed are not supported. It's a bug in the current Unreal Engine. Please use Kitkat 4.4.4 if you have a Snapdragon device. Exynos chipsets and Lollipop should be fine.

I had to downgrade my (Snapdragon) Note 4 back to 4.4.4. myself, in order to develop and test. Note: when you downgrade your Android version, don't forget to back-up all of your phone's data.

Unfortunately, this issue is out of my hands :(

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