I’m going to attempt to use this dev blog more like an actual dev blog rather than a platform to occasionally talk about design choices, so that means A) regular updates on what I’ve most recently been working on and B) more GIFs, less commentary!
With that out the way, here’s what I’ve been working on the last couple of weeks.
There a few features planned I’ve got planned that it wouldn’t make sense to access from within the main game. Things like tutorials, setting options, and choosing your loadout all feel to me like they should reside in a space away from the action. I also wanted it to be a place that players would be free to experiment with the controls and just enjoy flying around without the threat of enemies chasing you down. This new world is really the hub of the game. It’s where you’ll spawn when you start Airborn, and where you’ll return to after being killed in the main game.
The main ideas I wanted to convey with the hub world are that it’s an infinite, risk-free, simulated environment to experiment in. Here’s how I tried to get that across:
The idea behind that sky is it’s like a domed screen displaying a stream of digital clouds. Personally I love it, plus it’s the first skybox shader I’ve ever written.
So with that, some thick fog, and a tiled floor that “treadmills” under you, we’ve got the perfect infinite zen world to fly around in.
To open up the tutorials and also transition to the main game, I’ve implemented a menu within the hub world. Something I’m surprised I haven’t seen more experimentation with in VR is interfaces. By now I thought we’d have full blown Minority Report style gestural interfaces in our VR games but so far everyone’s playing it safe.
As a solo dev I couldn’t really justify the amount of time it’d take to make something like that, so I’ve opted for a middle ground. Holographic physics buttons for mode-switching, and a more traditional laser-pointer interface for selections within a screen.
Theming the controls as holographic means I can destroy/create them at will, so they won’t get in the way while you’re flying around, and they’ll appear in front of you again when you land.
Currently that big “HOLD” button unceremoniously drops you into the main game, but I’m planning a ridiculously ambitious method of transporting you there for a future update 😉
Most of the work I’ve been doing lately is on the ingame tutorials that’ll teach new players the controls. The control scheme is pretty unique and you have a versatile moveset, so it’s important to teach the players not just how to control the game, but also why each move is useful. There should be room for players to figure out their own strategy, but that’s easier when they have a good foundation to experiment with.
The tutorials are made up of a combination of lessons conveyed via onscreen text, and various challenges to test the player’s understanding of those lessons.
The tutorials are broken down into flying and shooting at the moment. Here’s one of the flying ones:
And here’s one of the shooting ones:
(I love making particle effects like these)
I actually found myself repeating one of the later shooting tutorials over and over, trying to do it as quickly and stylishly as possible. I’m going to have to think about adding some sort of time trial mode because I can see people getting a kick out of that.
I’ve got a pretty neat workflow for designing these tutorials out of modular pieces that made whipping them up a breeze. I can simply drag in prefabs to use as challenges that trigger an event when they’ve been completed. Shout out to Odin Inspector for streamlining this process, coding this kind of editor myself would have been a nightmare with Unity’s hatred of polymorphism.
I know tutorials aren’t exactly a thrilling back-of-the-box feature, but they’re the last major thing that needs to be completed before I can start sending out alpha keys and getting proper feedback, so for Airborn as a whole it’s really exciting to be working on them!
That’s it for this update, I’m hoping to do these more frequently so they probably won’t all be as big as this one. There’s a lot in here that doesn’t really contribute to the main gameplay, but is essential to make Airborn a polished product.
Like I said I’m gearing up to start alpha testing, so if you have a Rift/Vive/WMR headset and you’re interested, either message me on Twitter @stillnotsuredev, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org