VR has been the holy grail of my gaming mind since my youth. Always wanted to step into another world and experience a new reality. It has been a long and slow promise that one day we would see this reality. And it finally is happening with all these wonderful consumer grade VR headsets and equipment out now. So I had to procure myself a setup too and finally make that step into what my child hood dreams were made of. I bought an oculus rift setup during their sale last summer. And I must say it is quite amazing. I think I spent the first hour laughing to myself about how amazing what I was seeing was. And how much this changes things for gaming and beyond. Now it is possible to step into the world of the games we are playing and be there. I wanted to explore this idea a little bit more.
It started with a crazy idea, what would it look like if you were inside Donkey Kong. If you were Mario running down those girders and having to avoid the barrels and fireballs. That would be pretty crazy and fun right? Using my knowledge of Unity I decided to try this idea out. I setup a unity project and started to research how to do some VR experiences in it. I found this wonderful free library I highly recommend called VRTK https://vrtoolkit.readme.io/ This library gives you a pile of tools to use to build your VR experience. And some great examples of how to use them.
As for the graphics, I wanted to try the VR drawing tools like Blocks. I grabbed a reference image of donkey kong and pulled it into blocks. Then drew my own pixel art version of him there in VR. The experience was ok, I do think the VR drawing apps are pretty neat and useful. But I am not really much of an artist so any drawing is a little clunky for me. I think they turned out pretty good tho. I also drew the hammer, and fire sprites here too. The barrels I found on thingiverse. The girders I drew from primitives. Then for the audio you must use the original. The sound gives off such nostalgic vibes when you hear those old effects.
I played around with a few options for movement. A lot of games use the teleport to move technique. But that didn't seem like it would work here with the barrels coming at you and you have to react, teleporting feels like cheating. I tested a run in place mechanic where you wave your arms like you are running. But that didn't quite feel like it would work right and got frustrating more than anything. Then finally just went with the push the stick forward to move. It can cause some nauseous feeling in some people tho. As for the barrels In the traditional game you have to jump over them. But it felt like jumping would be dangerous here and probably cause someone to break something in the real world. So I set it up so you can step to the side and let them roll by. If they hit you you don't die, but they push you till you fall off the side and then you will die. So it is a little easier in that regard. The ladders in the game you have to actually climb up, You must perform physical climbing like a real ladder. And the hammer you have to swing and at a barrel or fire sprite to destroy.
Donkey Kong VR is quite a challenge to play. It ended up being fairly physically demanding. Between dodging the barrels and climbing the ladders. It felt like a bit much for some people. So I started to think what other classic games could be brought over and re-imagined in VR. The idea for making a complete 80s arcade experience in VR came to be. I wanted to have a hub world that acts as the place you start. This would be the arcade. The arcade has a few simple games in it. I added pool, darts, and whack a mole. These are all fully playable. Whack a mole is pretty great. Then there are the arcade machines and the quarter change machine. Found at the quarter change machine you can find some quarters. These quarters can be inserted into any of the arcade machines to play the games. The user can grab a quarter walk over to the machine put it in and find themselves transported into the arcade machine of their choice. I even set it up so that if you looked up where the glass would be on the machine you would be looking out into the arcade. It is truly that you are now in the arcade machine.
Games created included:
- Donkey Kong
- Space Invaders
- Duck Hunt
- Mini Golf
These games have varying degrees of difficulty and VR intensity. Duck Hunt doesn't require any movement other than pointing and shooting. Where as Donkey Kong has you moving all over. Pacman I would put somewhere in the middle. And I did find Pacman rather amusing as it was almost a scary game. You are going down a hall collecting the pellets and suddenly a giant ghost is right there around the corner and its chasing you down. It can get your heart going.
VR has certainly delivered on some of its promises for immersive and interactive game experiences. There is certainly further to go. And I am quite excited to work more with Unity and VR and help shape the future in this sector.
Look for my other posts about the games for more in depth making of for each game and code.