Jed Merrill, Producer/Game Designer

Week 8 – Fall Break

Tuesday to Thursday, October 13 to 15, 2015.

It’s Fall Break at the University of Utah, but most of the class is still here, working on IGF submissions.

Ojos de la Muerte, Ahmad’s GApp Lab game for lazy eyed people, is a finalist for the Serious Games Competition, and I suggest we port Ojos over to The Void instead of B.E.S.T. ūüôā

john-blackburn-disney-infinityWednesday night I attend UDEN 7, where John Blackburn, CEO and Co-Founder of Avalanche Studios (now Disney Interactive or Disney Avalanche) is the keynote speaker.  He gives a lot of good advice to startup studios, like keep your books clean and always have an attorney.  He says this makes life a lot simpler when larger players knock on the door and want to acquire you.  He talks about Disney Infinity 3.0, how he pitched the game to Bob Iger of Disney, how many warehouses of toys they have in stock for this Christmas season, and says Toy Story 3 had a lot to do with getting greenlit for Disney Infinity 1.0.  You might call it the prequel, since it featured a toy box that Bob Iger played with his kids and pre-sold him on the concept over three others presented the same day.  UDEN will likely put out a YouTube video of the event in a week or so.

After the talk, I network with one of Chair’s two lead game designers. ¬†We plan to play disc golf sometime in the next few weeks, which might give me a chance to learn more about Chair, the Epic owned studio behind Infinity Blade.

I talk with Jon Dean, organizer of UDEN, about some volunteer work, then ask John Blackburn about his metacritic goals for Disney Infinity 4.0 after 3.0 came in around 93. ¬†100? ¬†“No, that would be too expensive,” he says. ¬†He tells us about the politics and economics of metacritic scores, and how the closer you get to perfect, the more expensive it gets.

QA testing is already a nightmare with the snowball effect of backward compatibility with past generations of Infinity characters, locations, vehicles, weapons, etc, all having to interact with every other character, weapon, etc. ¬†Mathematically speaking, the next iteration could be all play testing…

Thursday morning we have a long talk about the future of B.E.S.T. and discuss breaking Scenario 2 up into an investigation phase followed by an interrogation phase, kind of an immersive VR version of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, but police themed.  (Compare also LA Noire.)  This would give users more to do in The Void environment.

I also discuss some of the texture limitations of the Oculus with Shahbaz (1K textures?) and ponder mechanics that might work for the proposed investigation phase.

We discuss what graphic standard users of The Void are going to expect, and how to meet it with the hardware limitations of first generation VR.

There is a promise inherent in VR, one of an immersive, possibly tactile experience, especially at The Void.

CyberHeist (IGF finalist, winner of the Serious Games Competition in 2014, and an EAE thesis project) also set a high bar for graphics last year that I/ITSEC is going to want us to surpass. ¬†Could a person pause any given frame and say “Wow!” ¬†And do we have the manpower to pull something like that off?

Lots of¬†questions, and even more to do…

Saturday, October 17, 2015.

I attend a Virtual Reality presentation,by Kevin Williams, sponsored by Salt Lake VR.  Kevin outlines the history and immediate future of VR and AR as applied to the Out of Home Entertainment industry.  He mentions some of the big elephants in the VR space, hygiene, safety, and liability, and speaks highly of The Void, a partner of B.E.S.T., which he just got back from seeing.

After Kevin speaks, I get to try out the latest Samsung Gear VR games, including Smash Hit and a Cirque du Soleil experience, Kurios Cabinet of Curiosities, that makes you feel as though you have a private showing right in the middle of the stage!  I also enjoyed The Night Cafe: A Tribute to Vincent Van Gogh.

Freedom VR DemoFollowing the event, I am invited by Wil Bown, CEO and “Mad Scientist” at Freedom VR, to join him on the top floor of a parking garage for a demonstration of his Freedom VR technology.

It’s very impressive. ¬†Setup takes a few minutes, but he is working on that. I play through the standard Oculus Rift Tuscan Villa demo using Freedom VR, and am very impressed by how much more immersive it feels than when you play with a controller or keyboard. ¬†When you walk, you walk in the demo. ¬†When you kneel, you actually kneel. ¬†Very cool! And no motion sickness!

I experiment with walking through walls of the Villa that you can’t walk through in the Oculus experience, finding a secret room under the staircase, and even check out the 3D model from below… ¬†You do need an angel-spotter to make sure you don’t fall eight stories off a parking garage when you get so curious what is around the corner that you lean over the rail just a little too far… ¬†This brings to life the safety concerns mentioned by Kevin Williams just an hour before. ¬†(The most basic safety issue is having people walk blindly around physical environments.)

Over the weekend, I think that maybe we should consider Freedom VR for the non-Void version of our simulator.