The game has been awarded as a finalist on the 7th international games competition on the ecgbl 2019 and is also nominated as a finalist on the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge (SGS&C) 2019 in the professional category.
Based on the experience described in the previous blog the beta version of the game has been updated. Two additional rooms have been introduced that are visually less overwhelming and introduce the player step by step into the core mechanics. Both rooms are equipped with an explanatory video. Additionally the tutorial at the core game table in the main room has been streamlined in that sense that almost all other interaction possibilities, that are not the reuiqred next step in the tutorium are simply blocked.
Yesterday we have demonstrated the prototype to visitors of the Karl-Marx-Haus. Overall it was very well received. From user feedback and observations we can derive a couple of improvements. The first improvment is concerning the tutorial. I think the trick is here to make it bullet proof to simply block all other interaction options that are not the following step in the tutorial. Some people also seem to be overwhelmed when being placed in the room with that many options. I will add an entrance corrdior and an entrance room which implicitely restict the options the player has in the beginning and will follow what is called the convexity principle in game design,
It looks like that an issue in realistically looking VR environments is the question of interaction. In reality you can interact with any object around you. This is not really an option in a VR game, because you do not want the player to be able to interact with everything (and you do not want to program all interaction possibilities that may theoretically happen). I have taken here a lesson from the old point and click adventures that faced a similar issue and were highlighting points of interest. I do the same here by rendering an orange silhouette around the object one can interact with. After some experiments it turned out to be more comfortable when I only do so, if the user has already approached the potential object to a certain distance.
The fluid simulation obviously plays an important role in the game as it provides a certain interaction feature that is as such only possible in VR. The critical point is finding here the right balance between physical corectness and usability. On the usability side I tried to avoid issues that may come with spilling or swapping of the fluids in a glass. Resorting to something like a smooth particle hydrodynamics simulator would not be an option here. The applied simulation model here consists of two sections:
For the behaviour of fluid in the glass the basic idea is that we want to keep the water surface horrizontal and that we do not want to change the volume of the fluid when the glass is handled. The last part becomes a bit tricky, when the bottom of the glass becomes visible. In the case a numerical solver has to be used to compute water level heights. In the case that the glass gets turned but depending on the game context no further water should be poured the horrizontal surface constraint gets relaxed so that the water can stay inside the glass.
For the pouring mechanic itself it turned out to be helpfull to decouple the visual effect and the aurealization of the pouring process a bit from the physical simulation aspect of the pouring. The effects get a bit low pass filtered to provide a smoother experience.
Today I have been at the Karl Marx House in Trier to take several pictures that will get transformed into photogrammetric reconstructions of some of the exhibits. The folks of the museum were so kind to let me in half an hour before the official opening time making the shooting process much easier.
Originally the game mechanics of simualting the economic theory of Marx has been prototyped on a 2D tablet version. In that version the interaction with the fluids representing the different quantities was realized with slider controls. In contrast to the VR version half of the game play was missing. Prototyping and playtesting the 2D version already provided valuable insights for the dessign of the virtual reality version of the game.
Up to now the technically most challenging and intersting part of the implementation was implemeting the fluid and pouring mechanic. This covers the three main topics:
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