What a blast at Global Game Jam 2016! My teammates Douglas Gregory, Brent Mitchell and I wanted to create a VR experience during the jam. We had Oculus DK2 and Leapmotion devices on hand. Amazingly, GGJ’s 2016 theme was “ritual”, and the idea of wizard hands felt like a great excuse to try the Leap with the Oculus!

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We created an experiential game named “Acolyte” in Unity where you learn how to spell cast from magic books. With the Oculus Rift and Leapmotion, you use gestural controls and head motion tracking to find spellbooks that fly off of nearby shelves, and cast spells to pay homage to three god statues. Your hands are swirl in front of you in smoke form. A clap forms a magic circle that creates fireballs, and you can also telekinetically grab and launch objects around. Even the bookshelves and podiums can be set on fire! When you play with the peripherals, you feel like you’re actually creating magic out of thin air – Wizard hands!

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All three of us have always wanted to try incorporating the Leapmotion into our development, but none of us have ever tried it before. A weekend jam like this was a great way for us to explore the tech’s usability and functions. So, on the Friday evening of the jam, we had a leisurely dinner and brainstormed a lot of different game design ideas. All of us wanted to create an experiential game where the player can just try new things in a kind of meditative or pensive pace. We didn’t necessarily aim for a win/lose state for this sort of game. Doug plugged in the Leapmotion hand gesture capture controller and we got to see it in action for the first time that Friday night. Just played around with it, no coding in Unity yet, but started thinking about what gestures might work better than others, due to readability of the sensing tracking device.

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Unfortunately, next morning, we ran across technical difficulties at our jam site due to incompatibility of the drivers with the Oculus DK2, and we had to relocate across the city. So it wasn’t until 5pm on Saturday that we actually got started on the game development itself. We had 24 hours! Within that time, we managed to squeeze in more than just one game mechanic, and also had a pretty game world to look at. The particle effects that Brent and Douglas created that had a depth to them are just amazing to look at in 3D VR! They really pop. The smoky wizard hands look responsive and really fit a magical game milieu.

We had other things that we wanted to include, such as three separate spellcasting powers from the magical books to correspond to each of the god statues. We’ll just have to develop that at a later time! Also this gem:

When using the fire spell on the butterflies: …What if they turned into FIREFLIES, because SCIENCE?
– Brent Mitchell

This jam was such a great experience for me! I am the 3D artist on the team. I haven’t jammed for over a year (and had completed four playable game jam prototypes in the past), so having that different rhythm of thinking about games was like a great reset button for me. As Douglas said, jams are a great way to set aside the perfectionistic qualities, something that I am still learning to do. I also love our brainstorming sessions, it’s a great way to ease into a whirlwind of learning from Brent and Douglas work out the technical and design details of the game mechanics.

 

The cool thing as well is that each of us have now influenced how an actual playable game prototype looks, plays and feels, from concept to realization. It’s so magical to be able to do that over the course of the weekend! I’d definitely recommend working on a team for any first time jammers, it’ll definitely inspire how you approach game making in the future!

Rawr!
– Tanya Kan

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