Galaxy Grapple

Repel yourself across space, fight off scavengers, and build a mining empire to make your way back home.


A first-person RPG/shooter with citybuilding aspects and a light-hearted sci-fi feel. Kind of like a more casual Borderlands with a splash of SimCity Buildit. About 20-30 minutes of gameplay in this demo.

An electrical storm destroys your spaceship and fries the jumpgate back to Earth, leaving you adrift in space with just your grappling hook. You'll have to make friends, battle raiders, and collect or mine resources to powerup the jumpgate and return home.

MOVEMENT

The movement mechanic is to use a grappling hook to move and swing in zero gravity from asteroid to asteroid.

INPUT

Only the headset touchpad and back button are used.

• Look-taps control the grappling hook (shoot, recoil, release) and menu buttons.
• Touchpad holds open NPC and Mine menus.
• "Combat Mode" automatically activates, which adds lasers and shield that are controlled by look-tapping at targets. • One special mission also uses two weapons, a freeze ray (touchpad) and a bomb (back button). • BACK button toggles the combat upgrade menu.
• Toggle upgrade menu with the BACK button, toggle HUD with touchpad hold.

GAMEPLAY

All player movement is driven by the hook/recoil/release mechanic. The other main loops are resource collection, mine building and upgrades, combat, combat upgrades, and NPC quest completion.

After a short intro scene (in which your ship explodes and strands you), the gameplay narrative moves forward with NPC quests, which compel you to collect crystals from space, build mines to collect gold from asteroids, and complete special missions like the turret mini-game. The game is also peppered with combat zones, which will allow you to collect more resources from loot drops, though they may also cause you to bleed resources if you get into too much trouble. An upgrade menu allows you to spend resources on stronger weapons and shields, which becomes necessary as the game moves forward.

Quests

• Several NPCs will give you quests to complete, driving the gameplay and narrative. The super-objective is to collect enough energy cells to repair the jumpgate home, which can only be obtained from NPC missions.

Resource Mining

• Mines can be built on special asteroids. They have a max capacity, which forces the player to return and collect the produced resources before it continues production. Capacity and production rate can be upgraded.

Combat

• Enemy ships fly around and shoot mines at you, which push you off course and damage your shield. If you take damage when your shield's down, you lose resources (though they can be picked up within a few seconds). Weapons have a limited charge. The player can upgrade shield capacity, shield recharge, and shield recharge delay, as well as weapon strength, weapon power drain, weapon recharge rate, and max weapon power capacity.
• One special mission uses two weapons: one to freeze enemies and one to shoot a mine. You only have one mine for every 2-3 enemies, so you need to freeze them in clusters before shooting the mine to complete the mission.

INNOVATIONS

The main innovations are the zero-gravity grapple hook locomotion and the fact that many conventions from other genres (campaign FPS, city building, adventure) have been well-adapted for an accessible VR experience.

Locomotion

• The grappling hook mechanic is the sole method of locomotion, providing a balance of control and accessibility (no gamepad needed; can reach more users). The player automatically slows before they float too far from a grapple anchor, removing the need for artificial level bounds.

Motion sickness

• Player controller rotation is frozen on the X and Z axes, and changes in direction are gradual to prevent motion sickness.

UI

• As menus aren't locked to camera rotation, an indicator points to where the user should look when a menu's active.
• Looking at interactable objects activates an info reticle that provides guidance on where to go and why (new mission available, stats on mines). Objects that are grappleable also display a unique cursor that changes color based on the grapple hook state (since the same button handles hook, recoil, and grapple).
• NPC Menus exist on 3 planes with small Z-depth differences, adding a 3D feel to 2D menus.
• Splash screen 3D is done manually, since Unity doesn't yet support automatic stereoscopic transformation.
• Most menus are contextual based on position, allowing a touchpad hold to activate an NPC menu in one case, or a mine menu in another.

Combat

• Combat is automatically activated to avoid additional input schemes. Look-tapping to shoot is conventional, but requiring tap-grappling to move at the same time adds a challenge, especially when on a "collect items" mission that gets foiled by enemies pushing you off course.
• One mission uses a combo of two tap-shoot weapons to freeze enemies and then deploy an area-of-effect projectile. The limited projectile ammo requires the player to cluster the enemies together before destroying.

Optimization

• UI design had to take alpha overdraw into account for a smooth experience, which required designing in a way as to provide as little UI information as possible at any given time.

Scope

• The game is ready to scale, as all major systems are in place for a large quest-driven narrative in the vein of many console FPS games. Unique locomotion, a full quest system, a combat system with weapon/shield upgrades, and a mining/resource management system.

On a side note, as a developer with zero 3D art skills, this project's visuals were brought to you by the Unity Asset Store, ha.

Music attribution credits:
Kevin MacLeod - "Impact Prelude", "Impact Lento"
Chris Zabriskie - "Cylinder Nine"

Try it out