WARP! is a fast-paced shoot-em-up set in deep space and featuring two distinct forms of gameplay. It receives input exclusively through gaze-tracking and the GearVR touchpad -- no controller required!
Now that our .apk has been uploaded, we've gotten a chance to look back and see how our final demo compares to our initial ambitions. We feel that our core game mechanics of exploration, avoidance, and upgrades were executed rather well, if not to the extent that we would have liked. Time constraints and the knowledge that judges would only be able to play the game for 5-10 minutes meant that we cut our upgrades down to only two active abilities. This had the upside of greatly simplifying controls -- a simple swipe down is all that the player needs to learn to use their bombs or cloaking. We also implemented a "hold to lock aim" mechanic, which makes it much easier to deal with the limitations of gaze based mechanics. Other upgrades are purely passive, but we were pleased to find that they impact gameplay just as much as the active abilities, if not moreso.
All in all, we are very happy with how our VR jam submission came together, and we hope that others get a chance to enjoy it as well!
In the first mode, the player is presented with a first person view of their space ship’s bridge. A holographic grid in front of the player displays the region of space they occupy, as well as their own ship and any enemies in the area. The player must navigate their ship throughout the grid, exploring each sector of space until the entire region has been lit up and explored. After each sector has been explored, the navigation computer can calculate a warp vector, and a wormhole opens. The player can now begin the second mode of gameplay… the WARP!
After entering the wormhole, the player is presented with a third person view of their ship inside the warp. The navigation computer has plotted a safe course through the wormhole, and the player must stay on the projected path lest they be torn apart by the interstellar turbulence. By looking left or right, the user can navigate the meandering light-bridge and avoid the many obstacles and dangers of the warp.
UPGRADE YOUR SHIP
What sets WARP! apart from other shoot-em-ups is its level branching and upgrade system. At the end of the wormhole, the path forks and the user must choose which of the two branches to take. Each branch immediately leads to different upgrades or abilities (like a cloaking device, spread-shot, stun-gun, time dilator, etc.) and spits the player out into a new sector of real space. We feel this adds a good deal of replayability, as it encourages the player to explore different gameplay styles -- “stealth mode”, “big guns”, or “speedy scout”, to name the extremes.
Another great thing about WARP! is that it can be played without any external controller. All input is gathered exclusively through head-tracking and a limited number of simple touchpad commands - swipe down to activate your first ability, swipe right to activate your second ability, and so forth.
GOALS AND CHALLENGES
Achieving our goals for WARP! requires overcoming some notable challenges, the first of which lies with the control scheme. We chose to forego the game controller in order to remain accessible to the widest possible audience, but it’s difficult to incorporate all the functionality we’ve envisioned into a control scheme that fits well with just a touchpad and head-tracking. Mapping different touchpad gestures to different abilities seems to work well, but we are still evaluating different methods to allow the player to navigate and aim their guns independently.
Writing code for new hardware inevitably means finding new platform bugs. So far this has impacted our productivity only minimally, but it is a challenge nonetheless.
Lastly, budgeting has been a struggle. While our team has diverse enough skills to be able to create most of the assets ourselves, acquiring a dev-kit for each team member has proven too cost-prohibitive and this limits our ability to work independently or implement multiplayer features.
Despite these challenges, we are glad to have the opportunity to participate in this game jam, and we’re excited to see how WARP! develops.