Oculus Launchpad Dev Week 2

Part I:  The Struggle is Real. What Diversity Actually Looks Like.

Ayyyyyye. Alright I haven’t really wanted to write this blog because I’m visiting my family which means…

  1. Possibly no Internet. Possibly no lights. Possibly no food. Possibly no one picking me up from the airport.
  2. Chaos. I left home at 18 with a cell phone and a 9th grade education and never looked back. I travelled the globe and got two degrees from one of the best universities on the planet. My mother was in prison for that last bit and my dad’s been dead for all of it. I’m used to being on my own, I’m comforted by the stability of it, family is Hard.
  3. A Bad Thing happened prior to the Launchpad session. I held things together for myself, my mom and my very young siblings and scheduled an extended trip for after the bootcamp. So here we are, here I am. I haven’t seen my family for 2 or 3 years. I’m excited to see my mom and baby siblings. But I also have to Take Care of Everything. Take Care of Myself. Manage Crises. Develop a VR Project. No Big Deal.

These situations, the complications of my life, always make me think about what “diversity” really means. Marginalized faces come in different shapes and shades but also with the real, tangible effects of marginalization; how do you accommodate that? I’m not sure. Hmph.

Part II: Lessons Learned and Flexible Design Strategies.

Travel aside, this week has been frustrating. I felt like I spent an inordinate amount of time on technical things, research and dead ends. It happens, hopefully someone can learn from my errors.

My initial goal was to go forth making this game about privilege where players navigate a neighborhood as several different characters to reveal how the world changes in response to the bodies they inhabit. I thought I would go ahead and mock things up as much as I could and worry about optimization later. So I spent a lot of time looking into blendshape animation, creating textures and polygon management until a couple of issues came up:

  1. The textures/shaders I was using for realistic human characters are likely too expensive for the hardware to run at the proper framerate.
  2. I finally figured out the process to get a running build onto the GearVR (yes, awesome, count this as a win this week), BUT when I looked at the project, the characters I worked so hard on looked…lackluster.

Oh man, I am SO glad I actually took the time to put a build up on the Gear instead of waiting to the last minute or after I’d built an entire scene up. As soon as I saw it in the environment I realized it just looked boring visually. I highly suggest folks look at their project in the Gear and do so often –  what looks okay on screen just may not work in the headset.

I also came to the realization that as simple as my game is, I’m being too rigid in my process. At the end of the day I’m going for a particular emotional response and not a particular composition. Last week I came up with a GDD and an Asset List and started to build the game in a linear way. I don’t feel like my efforts were particularly fruitful so I’m going to switch gears.

For now, I’ve switched to a more modular design process. I’m going to make various components and see what I’ve got to work with at the end of the week, letting my game and experience emerge from parts. Since I’m away from my desktop for two weeks, I’ll be writing small scripts with little nuggets of functionality that I can mix and match. I don’t know if this is the “right way” to approach game design, but I’m hoping a more flexible process will prevent me from getting stuck on design issues for too long.

Who knows what the hell I’m making though? Emergent design! Woo and/or yikes!




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