Pastimes For Pirates Developer Diary #3 – Tacking Where Neccessary

Make Real's Sam Watts returns to give the lowdown on how development of their new pirate-themed title is going.

In this third Developer Diary for Pastimes for Pirates, we look at how we’re expanding upon the initial prototype into a more fully fledged vertical slice, one that will hopefully whet the whistles and widen the wallets of virtual reality (VR) games publishers.

Pasttimes for Pirates Dev Diary #1DoF McGrog’en

When we first set sail on our journey to find the lost treasure of the phantom VR publisher that would secure enough booty to develop the full game title, we created a mobile VR prototype for Gear VR and Oculus Go, based upon an old map handed to us by a strangely tattooed, bearded young man.

Much design and development went into this initial prototype, trying to make best use of the limitations of the 3DoF input controller available, focusing on one game aspect, which we had lovingly called Daaaarts, to convey the pirate-y theme.

The first build was fun to play, offering multiplayer in a standard turn-based way expected from the game of darts, to which we introduced the wider concept of hornswogglin’ within. Rather than just making a straight-forward version of darts, we wanted to add a pirate-y twist to the mechanics, allowing players to interfere with the active players turn, making the game more challenging and adding tongue-in-cheekiness elements.

So, we provided the waiting player with a flintlock pistol and limited ammo, enabling them to either shoot the ships wheel the dartboard was attached to (spinning it around to change the position of all the numbers), or lodge a round within one of the desired radial score segments. Then we added a mischievous monkey that ran around the cabin and if timed right, when shot (without being harmed!) would jump up and steal the last dart thrown, removing it from the round scoring.

Pastimes For Pirates - ScreenshotPlease note: At this time with the prototype all assets are Unity Store Art Assets and are not representative of desired final form look and feel.

Lacking Skills

However, the initial gameplay felt a little more about luck than skill and it was hard to determine accuracy through the 3DoF input controller and the finer mechanics of how it was held and used visual feedback. We decided to add a swing-o-meter, much like those found in traditional golf games, to show the output of the controller motion as a player threw a dart. This had a power bar that would lean to the left or right, showing the hook and draw of their throws, depending upon how the accelerometer and gyroscope interpreted the momentum of their arm and rotation of their wrist, to help the player be more accurate and build the muscle memory in practise.

Based upon feedback, we expanded upon how the longer game and player pirate profile progression could work, with the idea being that games won would result in XP, allowing stat points to be spent to enhance abilities depending upon player preference. This gave the ability to highlight the options of gameplay available to players they could build upon to balance out their own strengths, or weaknesses.

As time (and budget) was limited, we decided to incorporate two suggested stat profiles, “Good Arm” and “Good Eye” that would affect the player as follows:

Good Arm: Reduced the impact of hook and draw and enabled a wider perfect throw area on the power bar

Good Eye: Improve accuracy by reducing the size of the aiming reticule that the player uses to determine where each thrown dart would strike the board

Pastimes For Pirates - Good Eye

Gameplay tests with a variety of users showed that these additions certainly added a level of depth previously not present whilst allowing repeated play to build up skill and ability in a rewarding, satisfactory manner. However, ultimately the experience was still a little below what we wanted to achieve with a fuller VR game title beyond just a single game mode. And so we started looking at how we would take the game from a 3DoF mobile experience to a fully fleshed out social VR experience with 6DoF interactions and movement available, which we’ll cover in the next blog post.


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