Project Name: Back Home
Group Members: Jiayi and Nora
Synopsis: Back Home is a first-person decision making game in VR. The protagonist revisits her hometown 30 years after a nuclear accident, in which her best friend lost her life. While exploring the surroundings, the protagonist realizes that by interacting with certain objects she could return to the past and remake some decisions. Can she thus change the future and save her friend’s life?
For more details please see our updated design document
Play the game here!
Originally both of us want to do a level transferring game which focuses a lot on storytelling but different in mechanisms. We decided to adopt Jiayi’s idea since it is more practical and the mechanisms are clearer. ‘Back Home’ has a lot of Japanese elements. The story is set in a Japanese town, with a back story which replicates a Japanese historical event (Fukushima nuclear accident). The game mechanism and the concept of converging world lines also origin from Japanese video games. We tried to make the assets in our game as Japanese style as possible (with the content packs we have), and hopefully the player will be able to experience the Japanese elements we embedded in Back Home.
Our game, as it develops in the production process, focuses a lot on the story. There are around 7 storylines in total that the player can explore by making different decisions. Although they ultimately lead to the same result, the development of each storyline varies. We hope that by interacting with the surroundings and selecting different decision, the player will be better engaged in the story.
Deciding on game idea, general mechanism, interaction, and basic story line (how different world lines converge into one result).
Drafting design document.
White boxing the first level (level 2: home)
Discussing the rough storyline (roughly what kind of decisions to make, the sequence of level jumping, etc)
Find sound effects
White boxing all of the levels, adding textures and light sources, game testing the levels
Finalizing the details of the storylines, including the detailed development of each story line, the conversations and the decision options
Figuring out interactions (picking up objects, flash back and switching levels), game testing the interactions
Simplify storylines and change some of the details according to techniques issues and time issues
Adding storytelling and decision making functions (widget), game testing
Modifying ideas (storytelling methods – from text display to audio)
(Level 2: Home, before the accident)
(Level 2: Home, after the accident)
Reflection – Jiayi
Role: responsible for white boxing, interactions and teleporting in Unreal Engine
While structuring the blueprint, I started with the key mechanism of our game, which is the teleportation between current and the past. The first approach was starting and ending the level stream. However, I wasn’t able to call the pickup event that’s within the BP_Pickup cube in a child level from the persistent level. Therefore, we decided to go with a trigger box that will activate the teleportation once the player starts to overlap with it.
We tried to give the player the ability to move around with the face buttons/joystick. It did work (see motioncontrollerpwan2 in VR BP folder). However, the pawn does not come with a collision. It’s walking through everything and the trigger box isn’t working anymore. Therefore, we have to remove that and stick with the lamer but functional one.
Everything took much longer than we expected. We wish we could have more time to match the location while teleporting and most importantly, to finish the story.
Reflection – Nora
Role: responsible for storylines, audio editing and documentation
Since Jiayi is more experienced in 3-D modeling and using Unreal engine, I mainly took up the responsibilities for developing storylines of the game, editing audio/sound effects for the game and documenting our works (writing design document, sound map documentation and final documentation. I think I contributed most to the development of the story of the game. As Back Home is a heavily story-based game, we thought it would be important to development a sophisticated storyline – how different choices can be in a rich variety but still develop into the same result in the end logically. After me and Jiayi roughly talked about our idea, I drafted seven storylines with the choices. I made sure that at each level the player get to make at least one decision. And different decisions lead to a different storyline which gives a different reason why the friend finally died. Then I constructed the detailed story with specific conversations which we later recorded to uses as our storytelling. I edited the each piece of audio in Audacity and labelled them with specific categories for easier uses (you can listen to them here. ) And along the way I collected the files and materials and organized in our project drive. However I think that I could do more in terms of actually building the game world in real engine. As Jiayi is very good at it, I kind of let her take over (I also can’t run UE on my mac). So it came into the late production period, I couldn’t help Jiayi much other than searching tutorials online and got the professor for help. I hope I could be more involved in the UE construction part and continue learning the skills of actually building games in VR. Although I learned how to whitebox and how to apply sould and lighting, I wish I could further improve my skills at building more complex interactions in VR.
As we started a little too ambitious considering the limited time we have, we didn’t really finish all we plan to do. At the very last period we realized that using widget to display our storyline and the decisions are way more time consuming than we thought. So we changed our original idea of storyline visualization to audio display, but we didn’t have time to figure our the actual decision making. If we had more time, I would take more initiative in figuring out the decision making functions.
As mentioned in the reflection section, we are still to figure out the decision making function to make it a complete game. But we are quiet happy that we managed to figure out the flashback (level jumping) function. In the future, we would like to:
- Complete all three levels of flashbacks
- Figure out how to push forward storylines with the use of widget (decision making function)
- Try to improve the storytelling function. As we now use audio record to tell the story, we do think visualization will be easier and more engaging for the player. So it would be good to spend some time to program the visualization and make it aesthetic.