Sneak into the facility to steal the jewels, climbing through ventilation shafts and dodging lasers, in The Hatton Garden Heist.
Using the high accuracy room tracking of the Vive, and a smart room loading system, physically maneuver yourself through while having to use your tools to get you through safely.
The Hatton Garden Heist was made 24 hours by Triangular Pixels, at the London’s Bossa Vive VR Jam.
It was about 10am on Saturday, 14th July, and select game developers from all over Europe have been chosen by Bossa to come and jam on the HTC Vive. The theme was ‘Using the room space”. We went there with no initial ideas or plans other than to try something new and really push the Vive, so I had to immediately get concepting while John had to start learning the new Valve VR SDK.
I had a big mix of ideas, from being Godzilla (well, we did that theme last jam!) to having some sort of cute virtual pet. I kept coming back to the Crystal Maze through – a series of rooms with a mix of physical and logical tasks, which other people helped out on a monitor while powerless to physically help themselves.
So riffing off the Crystal Maze, I thought of how great it would be to have to get through ventilation shafts, like you’re sneaking in somewhere – which is where The Hatton Garden Heist came in.
If you don’t already know, a few months back a security deposit bank got robbed in Hatton Garden and was one of the UK’s biggest robberies in years. It captured the imagination of people, as it was just like Oceans 11. As a jam idea, it fitted the brief so well.
We wanted to experiment with making the space feel much bigger than it actually is, by dynamically loading in and out rooms, and remembering to turn you around occasionally.
We also had planned;
- -Catch & throw mechanics
- -Don’t tread on the lava
- -Avoiding & ducking
- -Balancing stuff on your hands
- -Stealthing past guards
- -‘Shaky hand game’ i.e. moving your hand steady along a wire with a tool, and not touching it
- -Spotting & smashing CCTV and alarms
- -Searching & finding clues
- -Crawl spaces
- -Cutting wires
- -Crystal Maze final room, where there’s boxes to open, money flies out, and you have to scoop it into your bag
And you had these tools;
- -Torch to light the way
- -Crowbar to open and smash things
- -Powder to reveal lasers
- -PDA for a main menu, help, and hacking
We wanted to keep the tool selection as natural and as in world as possible, to make sure people stay immersed. To do this, we first tried a tool belt around the player’s waist. To change tools you would just pick them up from your waist. The logic for the belt was going to take too long for a 2 day jam. When you were standing up or crouching, it was OK – but when you kneeled or lied down, it didn’t work. This was because there wasn’t a quick way to see if you were just looking to the side, or turning to the side. It would sometimes mean you would loose the belt – and if anything like that would misbehave, then it would break immersion. So we made it into a fold-up carry case, which would unfold from your hand on a button press.
The room loading worked like a treat, first time. there was a few ways to load a room, from marking it as always seen from the previous room or next, to trigger zones and buttons. It allowed us to make a much much bigger virtual space, and still keep it mapped one-to-one to the real world space. As part of the level design, I realised I had to make sure that players wouldn’t always walk in the same direction, so designed vents that would disorientate you, turn you around in the same room space and send you the other way, and thought about having a lift room – where you enter and exit through the same door. We didn’t get to the lift, but it worked well with the vents!
Time was very fast running out of this point, with only a few hours left. I had made a bunch of props and rooms, and John had made the inventory, tools swapping, and room loading. We had no more time to really do any of the tool creation or logical gameplay – so we concentrated on sticking to the physical gameplay, by adding lasers with the ability to move in various directions. These were so much fun! It added a different kind of physical challenge.
We finished off the build well in time, and of course based the logo on the iconic picture from the real heist.
The next day we had to present and demo the game. It went down incredibly well, with players crawling, rolling, dodging, physically for the first time in VR. They were walking to every corner of the room, and really getting absorbed, using their torch to light the way. The fact that players were crawling around on the floor ment they were getting the physical feedback from the floor – making the virtual crawl spaces feel so real. If we tried to make stairs, or high spots, they would have been immersion breaking as they wouldn’t have existed for players to stand or climb on in the real world.
We learnt so much from the jam, and really enjoyed it. The Vive SDK is wonderful to use, the hardware is reliable and enables really interesting new gameplay, and the fellow devs and reps from Valve/HTC/Unity/Unreal/Bossa were so friendly and a pleasure to meet and work with.
We love jamming, and we’re looking forward to investigating the Vive further!
EDIT: We’ve since been featured on BBC Click!