Cappin' Stones (9/9/2016)

It's Senior year at Champlain College, and that means one thing: Capstone. This semester, I'll be working with a small team on a prototype with the hope of going forward working on that game for the second semester as well. But before we go ahead and start working on that prototype, we need to come up with other ideas as well.

Iteration across many months.

Iteration across many months.

Thankfully, throughout the past 3 months, I've been working on a handful of game ideas, around 20 to start with, that was whittled down into a short list of three games: A cooking game using the Leap Motion controller to create a frantic, arcade cooking game, a rhythm stealth game, where you go through various different places stealing everything you can to the beat, and avoiding guards, security cameras, and other stealth like things that operate on the beat, and a 1v1 puzzle game like Tetris, with Street Fighter style power meter mechanics, to keep the game interesting. We figured we might as well have our main idea, and two back ups before the semester even started, and finalized our 3 ideas on August 19th.

But then the semester started and we were thrown a curve-ball, not only do we need to make 3 prototypes to start, but we need to generate 50 ideas, so we sat down and got cracking on 50 ideas. Not all of them were golden, stuff like "Hollywood Hacking simulator where 2 people share the same keyboard", and some were awesome, but entirely out of scope, like Olli Olli Oxen Free, a hide and seek skateboarding game, with the same open level design of a Tony Hawk game. In the end we decided on 4 solid ideas: the cooking game from before, the rhythm stealth game from before, as well as two others, a game where you are a boom mic operator chasing the main actor, but trying not to get the mic in shot, and a murder mystery adventure game set in a room, and in files on a computer in a room.

How we ended presenting the brainstormed ideas.

How we ended presenting the brainstormed ideas.

But we got another surprise after that as well. We created a 51 slide PowerPoint, giving each idea it's own slide (as well as a title slide), and presented it to our class to find that people thought that the other ideas we had thrown away were more interesting overall. All in all, from our list of 50, 14 various ideas were mentioned by peers and professors alike as something that could be really interesting, and that made us sit back and think. While 3 of those ideas we had already thought about going forward with, the rest we hadn't. Each team member got a chance to think about the game idea they thought about on that list and what could make it appealing, and I created a bunch more "game sketches", micro design documents that give a sense of flavor and direction to the idea, and after a long hour we whittled down to these 3 ideas: (keep in mind that all titles are placeholders.)

Point of the VieweR/ 2D VR Platformer:

Largely inspired by having a photographer professor dad, and growing up being taught about various different camera techniques and terminology like foreshortening, Point of the VieweR is a Virtual Reality 2D platformer, where the player must position their head, and look in specific ways in order to make jumps possible. As way of explanation, lets take these 2 images:

Let's imagine that the red cylinder is our main character, and we want to get them over to the white platform over to the left. There's two problems with making that jump:

1. It's too long, and our character can't make that gap.

2. The second platform is actually in the background, about 50 Unity Units away. It's more apparent in the editor or while wearing a VR headset. 

But as far as image rendering is concerned, it's a 2D scene, which we can see from a fixed camera perspective. But what if we could change that camera perspective. What if we could move the camera a bit to the left, and then look towards these two platforms over towards the right?

As if by magic, these two platforms look like they are right next to each other, and the gap between them is smaller, making it possible to make the red cylinder jump between the platforms. By using camera foreshortening, and VR head tracking in order to move the camera, we can make that jump possible. In addition to making simple jumps like this, we intend to have other types of platforms that experiment with how a camera, or a VR point of view could be interesting: platforms that only show up if you stare at them for long enough, platforms that show up only if you aren't looking at them. Platforms that show up only if you are close to them, or far enough away from them, and much more.

Zone of Chalk:

An infinite runner focused on momentum, and speed, where you have to draw your own path. You find yourself trapped inside a chalkboard, and the spirits of erased creatures have possessed the eraser and are trying to erase you. There is no floor in the land of chalk and you must draw your own as you run. The player draws the floor as the game runs for you, but the player must be able to draw paths that avoid obstacles on the board, such as existing drawings, scratches, pull down maps, or magnets. In addition to having to draw your own path, the shape of your path matters. Going downhill is the fastest way you can go, but you have limited space to do so. A flat path gives you a fairly steady speed, while going uphill makes you slower. So not only do you have to draw the line in order to avoid objects, you have to do it in such a way that you try your best to maintain your momentum. If you slip up, and slow down enough, you get erased, and it's game over.


This one has been fun to try to design, as it originated as a throwaway idea, and has grown to something much bigger and beautiful, and then changed again to try to bring it within technical means.



Envisioned as a top down rhythm game like Crypt of the Necrodancer, players must move onto other tiles to the beat, not of music, but to the "pulse of the house", a mysterious magical force that houses, banks, mansions and all sorts of buildings with valuable objects are all under the thrall of. Laying around the house, on various pieces of furniture are all sorts of jewels, gold, precious artifacts and more. You must steal all (or as much as you can) while navigating through the house, trying to find the source of the pulse that's making you and EVERYTHING else move to the beat.

Security cameras swing around on the beat, guards step and turn on the beat, doors swing open and close to the beat, guards conga line to the beat, and you swipe everything you can see on the beat. We intend to make each level built on modular assets so I, or anyone who wants to make a level just needs to plop down some floor, cameras, guards, and loot, and set a Beats Per Minute per level in order to create level after level, each one focusing on various different ways that mechanics can interact. What happens if you have a level full of guards, and need to shuffle them around by being spotted and slinking away? What happens if you rob a place filled with security cameras, which give you a small window of opportunity to sneak through? In addition to just having your beat based movement, you have an assortment of items you can use to aid you:

(Please Don’t) Stop The Music: Allows a brief pause in the beat… and everything else. Time the use of this powerup when a guard is looking away, or a door is open in order to speed through a house.

Slow Slow Quick Quick: Salsa your way through the level by slowing down the beat, allowing you to study patterns or get through an area that was moving too fast for you.

Nowhere Man: A smoke bomb, allowing you to evade being caught, even when a guard sees you.

As well as a potential for other items in the future.

I feel like all three of these are really solid ideas and I'm looking forward to seeing what my team and I accomplish over the semester. Each of the programmers and I have all taken a prototype to bring under our wing in order to see how difficult each one is, I'm taking the VR platformer, while Dan is taking the Zone of Chalk idea, and Garret is taking the Rhythm stealth game, this way we can spread out the work load of 3 prototypes across the team and get towards our "final" game sooner. 

What's our final game? I don't know yet, but I'm personally gunning for Point of the VieweR, as I think it would be a lot of fun to make, and we can do a lot with various platformer tropes in VR. Other team members are also really pulling for the Rhythm Stealth game, so we might end up going down that road. Either way, this semester looks new and exciting, and I'm excited to see where it goes.

Luca Hibbard-Curto