Released for Oculus
Reception & Next steps
Conjure Strike was released for Oculus Rift and has received a very positive response from players. We are still refining the gameplay and plan to release updates in the coming months.
Research & Analysis
Overwatch is TribeVR's main precedent for the feel of Conjure Strike’s gameplay. Overwatch provided a clear sense for the fast pace of the gameplay TribeVR wanted, but I needed to look into dedicated VR first-person experiences to figure out how to translate that to the Oculus Rift's unique interface. Some of the games I looked into were The Unspoken, Echo Arena, Gorn, and Adr1ft.
Researching the competative gamer audiance
I interviewed various gamers that played competative online shooters and then distilled my findings into the persona, Eric The Esports Gamer.
Eric - The Esports Gamer
Likes fast paced action mechanics with precise controls.
Owns a high end PC for playing games.
Was an early adopter of VR.
Primarily plays online competative games (Overwatch, Fortnite, and League of Legends).
Dislikes cumbersome interfaces that get in the way of gameplay.
Optimized for VR best practices
Due to the speed and complexity of Conjure Strikes gameplay, I did thorough research on the best practices of VRs interaction designs and methods to prevent nausea. One of the most helpful resources was the Oculus VR Best Practices guide.
IDEATION & DESIGN
modern VR game + classic tight controls
In Conjure Strike users have a variety of spells they must cast with split second precision during gameplay, but the system for equipping different spells in the initial prototype required tremendous focus, which made it nearly impossible to cast spells with the precise timing. The system required users to reach down and grab from a series of wands floating at waist level. I realized this was a problem when during play testing when users would stop moving in amidst hectic action in order to focus their attention on switching wands. This unfortuately often resulted in the user being killed or missing the opportune moment they were switching spells for. I streamlined this design by removing the wand system entirely, and instead mapped all the user’s spells to the Touch Controller’s buttons. This new controller layout allowed for a user’s entire arsenal of spells to be readily accessible at anytime. This design update was validated during play testing, as the matches became much faster paced and engaging.
Character Locomotion system
In Conjure Strike users move by flying through the air. Users control their flight by simply simply pointing their left controller and pressing forward on the joystick. The system I created assigns all locomotion to the left controller, and shooting to the right. This allows users to fly through environments while simultaneously aiming and casting spells in any direction.
I purposed two different designs for waypoint systems. The fist waypoint system is visualized as a 3D ring that hovers around the user at chest level. This allows it be be easily visible with a slight glance down, but not in the way of gameplay. The main waypoints in the game are attached to the ring, such as your base’s health, and capture the flag locations. As the user looks around, the ring remains static, but the waypoints rotate around the ring, indicating which direction they are in relation to the user. If the waypoint is completely out of the user’s view, the waypoint visualized at the edge their view pointing to the direction the user would need to rotate in order to be facing the waypoint. This design is more reminiscent of the UI found in games like Doom VFR or Skyrim VR.
The second waypoint visualizes the UI floating in 3D space in the direction of the waypoints they represent. If the waypoint is completely out of the user’s view, it is visualized at the edge their view pointing to the direction the user would need to rotate in order to be facing the waypoint. This system is similar to a traditional FPS like Overwatch.
In game waypoints have important states that need to be conveyed to the user. For example, in this case the crystal core is an in game location that needs to be protected. I created various states to show the condition of the core to users.
Special Ability INteractions
Each class has unique spells. I created user flows that utilize sound and visuals in game, and the Oculus Touch controller’s spatial tracking and haptics. These best emphasize the various states of each spell’s interaction. For example, here is a user flow for the Mage Hunter’s ability called Fan of Blades. For this interaction I created a spell that is initiated by an on button press, and cast with a on button release. I felt that this allowed for a maximum control for the user, allowing for more precise aiming.
The Conjure Strike team was curious to explore interactions that could be initiated without the need for an "on button release step from the user flow. To accommodate this I created an alternate design that makes use of on screen visuals to show the state of the interaction. For example, in my alternate design for Fan of Blades the user initiates the spell with an on button press. Upon pressing the button, a semi transparent ring is visualized around the users hand. As the user moves from the center of the ring towards its edge, a red cone is visualized showing the speed and direction of their movement. When the user’s hand finally connects with the edge of the ring, the fan of blades spell is cast.
Simplified Gameplay systems
The initial prototype had a complex system of different resources associated with casting spells that was distracting from the fast paced Overwatch gameplay we wanted. These resources, were mana, ammo, cooldown, and charges. Mana was a universal ammo that was drained whenever a spell was cast. Ammo is similar to mana, but only used for a specific weapon. Cooldown is a timer that initiates after casting a spell, and prevents the user from casting spells again until the timer finishes. And finally, charges dictate the amount of uses a spell has before the cooldown timer is initiated.
I redesigned this system by removing the mana and ammo, and refinined the charge and cooldown timer interaction. In my desingn the amount of charges varies between spells, which are visualized as segments on a ring around a spell's symbol. Below are a few examples of how this is visualized.
The system has varying visual states that display its status. Every time the user casts a spell, a segment is depleted and greyed out on the ring. But these charges are constantly recharging, which is visualized by a red progress bar that fills up the charge segment. If a user uses all of the spell charges, the spell becomes temporarily unvailable until a charge segment refills.