Smash Hit Plunder is very close to being ready for you, after over four years of development! So we’re sharing what we’ve been doing and how it’s been done over a series of blogs, and hopefully you will learn as well as get excited about what’s coming out shortly. Let’s start with the concept.
The feel of a game is so critical. When we are coming up with a concept we have to think about how it’s going play hour by hour, minute by minute, second to second. That intangible game feel is really hard to place – but it’s a combination of scenario, interaction and feedback. Fundamentally though – it’s the concept that drives all of those.
When we started Smash Hit Plunder back in June 2014, we had no idea what we were going to make, but we had a passion for VR and saw its potential. I had done a lot of research into VR and the games that were being produced and saw one glaring thing – so many experiences but it all felt rather moot when I felt like I couldn’t interact with or explore the world. No matter how realistic something was rendered, the fact that I couldn’t interact with objects meant the world never came alive for me, it was like I was watching a film rather than being inside a game.
At the time we had some very early VR hardware that had no positional tracking or controllers, but something that was a problem then still limits VR today – physical feedback. Even with the controllers we have, feeling like you are holding and touching that object is a hard thing to achieve.
As a designer, I like to constrain myself when coming up with ideas as it seems to make me more creative. limitations lead to innovations as problem solving comes up with far more interesting ideas than just being set free to do anything. For Smash Hit Plunder it was a few things; VR (obviously), believable interaction that’ll bring the world to life, and physicality that makes it feel like you are touching those objects in front of you.
I was thinking back to my childhood – what would I have loved to do, but not allowed and what could I have done if there was no consequence? I used to watch a lot of game shows as a child of the 90’s, but I remember Finders Keepers being one of my favourites. Teams are asked to find an object somewhere in a room, based off a clue they are given. They get to tear that room apart looking for that object – it looked so fun! I remember trying to role play the same thing at home. I would ‘hide’ an object for myself and tear my room apart looking for it. Now obviously when I knew where the object was and had to clean up my room again afterwards I never truly felt like I was playing the game.
The Finders Keepers idea stuck – the concept has so much potential for interaction and real impact on the world and would allow me to live out a childhood dream that I know if others had the chance, they would enjoy too. Who doesn’t like tearing the place up if they don’t have to be an adult afterwards?
We started a prototype with an Oculus DK1 and using simple one button press on a wireless mouse to pick up objects. It was a simple room with a few props around – but in VR it really felt like I was there both in the freedom of being able to move, but because I was able to move objects how I wished. The idea of using VR to have to hunt objects was inherently fun so we carried on developing!
The gameplay concept of Smash Hit Plunder lends itself so well to VR, and VR to the concept. There’s something special about the feel of a game that uses the platform so well – we have seen it with Unseen Diplomacy, and have hopefully done the same with Smash Hit Plunder.