“At The House of Fables we specialize in making casual adventure games, where hidden object scenes and logic puzzles are the most important aspects of gameplay. Fascinated by the possibilities offered by VR we decided to transfer this kind of game into the immersive VR environment. We instinctively felt that beautiful hand-drawn hidden object scenes may be much more fun to play in 360˚”, says The House of Fables’ producer Marta Wierzbolowska as she sheds more light on the creation process of Wrath of Loki, The Best VR Game and Most Innovative Game of Indie Prize Tel Aviv 2016.
“We knew that VR projects were dominated by horror and thriller experiences. Therefore we decided to offer something completely different: a relaxing experience based in pleasant
locations and casual puzzles. That is how Wrath of Loki was born”.
Our previous games have been based around Slavic mythology, but in case of the new VR project we
turned to the Nordic gods and myths. We wanted it to be epic, so that the immersive VR experience
could be fully enjoyed. We chose two Nordic gods: Loki and Thor. This pair is famous for continuously fighting with each other, so it gave us a ready-made setup that everyone could step into without needing much of explanation. Therefore, while having created a new project, we were sure we had an idea familiar enough to be catchy, yet epic enough to become a truly unforgettable experience.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing. It soon turned out that our usual way of preparing assets was not going to work for VR. We had to figure out an entirely new production pipeline. We had to convert our hand-drawn 2D locations to the 360˚ technology. It took a lot of learning and many iterations of trial and error. It’s not so easy to draw a “flat” 2D world in a way that it can be applied onto a sphere and transformed into an immersive environment that gives the player the illusion of being inside a 3D world. We needed to find a way for the parallax to work. So we created our own tool which allows us to present 2D graphics in the way we need. I can assure that in the next game (in 360) the graphics will be even better – we found a way to do really awesome stuff! And we’re excited to show it to the world ^_^.
At the same time we tried to make a user interface that would work naturally in a situation where you can only use your head and gaze to control the gameplay. Our main goal was to create an interface simple enough so that it will not destroy the feeling of immersion. And there was still the issue of moving between locations. We decided magical portals that transfer you between the worlds would be the most natural choice for Asgaard. It also helped to keep the VR biggest danger – motion sickness – at bay. It was our main goal when designing the interface and movement in game: to make it available for everyone and we can proudly say that we succeeded. There is no nausea effect in our VR game!
Still we were battling other problems. The puzzles and challenges we were used to producing were not easily transferable into VR. Difficulty levels that are appropriate for mobile or PC games are not applicable for a headset and gaze-based interface. We had to find the golden mean between a puzzle, that is “too easy” and “too annoying” to solve. Classic minigames, such as connecting dots, etc. can be tiring and burdensome in VR, despite being a very simple and well-known mechanic. Even hidden object scenes had to be designed in a different way, to ensure all 360˚ of the backgrounds are used.
We have also implemented our own version of the inventory and hint button, but not all players found them intuitive to use. It took a lot of testing and adjustment to make it work. So our best advice for fellow VR developers is: try, try and try again, and do not be afraid of failing over several attempts. Eventually you will find the solution. Just don’t give up!
What are we Proud of?
We have gained a lot of experience over this project. We are happy to admit that we have created a unique and effective pipeline for using a hand-drawn 2D location in a 3D environment.
We wanted the player to feel that they were inside Asgaard, so we put a lot of effort into creating locations that would be epic and legendary. Music has been added that would help enhance the atmosphere in such places. We work with a great composer – Arkadiusz Reiko Reikowski. He’s a very talented man. We are so lucky he has the time and is willing to work with us! So we didn’t choose music – it’s music composed specifically for this game (like in all our projects). Thanks to all of this we succeeded in creating the unforgettable experience of being in a different world.
We have found that there is still a lot of space for improvements. We would like to create more complex and lively animations and interactions with NPCs. As well as to design more complicated puzzles and more demanding hidden object scenes. We want to further improve the hint and inventory mechanics. We also believe that the introduction of menu or UI to the players should be entwined into the first location (not through a tutorial). A menu that is a natural element of a location (for example: a cockpit in a spaceship) is much better for the immersion. It can be fun to learn and can be perceived as a part of the game, not as a boring interface. As you can see, we have a long list of improvements.
“This project was our first attempt and now we know we could have done better. And that is what we are going to do next time: we will do it better”, Marta promises.
Wrath of Loki is available on the website, and the team’s updates can be tracked on Facebook.