TightropeVR

Step out onto the tightrope and overcome your fear of heights in TightropeVR, a controller-free game for the GearVR.


The Game

Inspired by the amazing televised feats of Nik Wallenda, this controller-free game lets players step out onto the wire at terrifying heights, attempting to ignore an assortment of distractions while maintaining their balance one step at a time until they reach the other side.

Controls

This game is completely controller-free. Details are below, in addition to the included tutorial level.

Forward Movement: Look down

Balance: Left/Right head roll

Turn: [TOUCHPAD] + Left/Right head rotation

Duck: Physically duck (utilizes Android sensors)

Launch cannon (Circus): "Yes" head nodding

Reset HMD Orientation (Circus): [BACK]

Tutorial Skip/Exit (Loading/Tutorial): [BACK]

Universal Menu (Circus): [Long-Press BACK]

Mechanics

TightropeVR is designed as an immersive casual game of balance and patience. This demo features a tutorial level followed by 3 rounds of tightrope walking challenges. The primary objective is to safely navigate all three rounds of tightrope walking challenges while pleasing the crowd and avoiding distractions.

-Round 1 is a classic tightrope without additional distractions.

-Round 2 introduces 4 jugglers with bowling pins being tossed across the wire.

-Round 3 features a knife thrower at the destination platform throwing knifes towards the player.

The game is best enjoyed from a standing position for maximum challenge and immersion. Do so safely at your own risk.

Innovation

One of the most innovative features of this game is the controller-free gameplay mechanics featuring gaze-based movement and balance and gravity sensor-based ducking. Additionally, the games tutorial is audio based rather than the traditional text prompts along with interactive audio cues listening for player input via head nodding.

Scoring

Scoring is calculated based on the amount of time it takes to complete the round in addition to the amount of off-centered balance detected. The player's score is briefly displayed on the scoreboard at the end of each round.

Distractions

Safely and quickly crossing the tightrope is already challenging on it's own but we are throwing in plenty of distractions to help shift the player's attention and balance including bowling pin jugglers and knife throwers.

Development Challenges

Engine Limitations: This game is powered by the UE4 engine. Unfortunately, GearVR support is currently minimal at this time. We have been able to work around a lot of these limitations with the latest source builds containing several GearVR workarounds and fixes by Epic's JJ Hoesing. However, many limitations still remain including the lack of mobile HDR and movable lighting. This limitation has forced us to remove one of our favorite distractions, the moving spotlights.

Controls: We could have taken the easy approach and required the use of a gamepad. By doing so, developing the player movement would be a quick implementation allowing us to focus to other aspects of gameplay. However, this not only felt too "safe" from the challenge perspective, it also felt too safe in-game. The feeling of risk and danger seems to elevate when the controls are tethered to your head instead of your thumbs. We still have a lot to figure out with this approach but we're up for the challenge. Our primary focus it to allow a comfortable experience (as I am EXTREMELY sensitive to simulator sickness). We want the only feeling of discomfort to be caused by the nauseating heights, not the character movement.

One of the most challenging issues to overcome with the controller-free movement is the lack of positional tracking on the mobile platform. Ideally, we would have liked to use forward and backward lean for the movement and leave head movement for looking around. We hope that the added "deadzones" for hit detection offer a decent balance between the two.

Hardware Limitations: It goes without saying, designing a great VR experience with the limitations of mobile hardware is no easy task. We've had to make several sacrifices in terms of assets to use but overall, we've been amazed with what the Note 4 can run (after a LOT of trial & error and optimizations).

OS Limitations: We initially hit a major roadblock during the start of our development when all of our builds resulted in just a black screen when launched on the GearVR. This turned out to be an issue with the Android 5.0.1 OTA update that was pushed to my phone a few weeks ago. After identifying the root cause, I went through the process of reflashing with Android 4.4.4 which was immediately followed by the device being stuck in a boot loop. Clearing the cache had no impact and a factory reset was needed to resolve the issue.

tl;dr - Don't upgrade to Lollipop anytime soon. If you already did, backup your device before you downgrade in case you too require a factory reset.

Post-Jam

If we are awarded a prize for this submission, we have plans to develop additional levels with their own unique challenges. This includes walking between two skyscrapers in a downtown city environment, crossing a vast arid canyon and for the ultimate thrill-seekers, stepping between two bi-wing planes tethered wingtip to wingtip as they soar over the fields and pass through the clouds.

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