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GemQuest VR

Chalen Duncan
Jul 27, 2017 · 6 min read

GemQuest VR is a virtual reality game that starts with the player finding themselves on a fantastical island with their fox companion. To destroy the simulation holding the world captive, players will solve puzzles and battle monsters using full motion tracking and a kickass enchanted sword.

As players explore the many worlds of GemQuest VR, they will discover the world’s many secrets as well as a number of gems. Gems augment your sword — giving it new looks and new abilities.

VR: The New Frontier

Virtual reality is a multi-billion dollar industry that is growing at a rapid pace. Big players like Sony, HTC, and Facebook recognize that they need to get more software on their headsets to ensure VR’s success. In order to draw developers to their platforms, big players fully fund projects in return for timed exclusivity.

“Before we even sell a single copy of the game, we’ve broken even.”

Facebook has made their commitment public, with Mark Zuckerberg promising a $500 billion dollar investment for VR software developers.

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Oculus Connect 2016

GemQuest VR can help big players bring in new content.

Currently GemQuest VR is being developed cross-platform with the Unity Game Engine. Following in the footsteps of other successful indie VR games, we’ll be able to pitch to Facebook, Sony, and HTC then compare offers.

Our current MVP is a step in the right direction towards a functioning demo that will aid in our pitch. The final game will help solve the lack of content problem facing VR.

So, Why GemQuest?

Any well-built VR game could be seen as solving the content gap, but GemQuest VR is a lot more than just another VR game.

TooTall Studios is creating GemQuest VR to bring human-centered design principles to the VR platform. That means GemQuest VR will be an accessible experience that anyone can pick up and play intuitively.

Introducing Notchi the Fox

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Meet Notchi!

Notchi is your friendly guide to the worlds of GemQuest VR. More than just a friendly companion, Notchi is an important character in the game’s story. She makes the game more accessible by dynamically using her voice to guide players.

Voice and hearing are a underused senses in VR. GemQuest VR uses headset capabilities like 360-degree sound to guide players through levels intuitively and without breaking immersion.

No Vomit Bucket Required

Motion sickness is a major barrier to large-scale VR adoption. GemQuest VR has room-scale tracking, blinking teleportation, and optimized graphics to ensure a comfortable experience with or without VR legs.

Full-Length With VR-Sized Chunks

The current VR marketplace is awash with arcade-style experiences. This isn’t without good reason—gaming in VR can be intense, so shorter experiences are often favored.

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GemQuest VR is a multi-hour video game with a fully fleshed out world and story. To accomodate shorter play sessions, players return to a hub after each 15–30 minute level where they have an opportunity to rest or continue forward.

Aside from being a great way to make GemQuest more comfortable, the level-based storytelling brings players through a variety of vastly different worlds.

Intuitive Controls Built for Everyone

GemQuest VR is played with a headset and two motion tracked hand controllers. All input is motion-based and only one button on the controller—the trigger—is used in the game.

By only using one button, interactions feel more natural and players aren’t expected to memorize button mappings before donning the headset.

To fight enemies, players will literally be holding their enchanted sword in their hand. Players can duck, dodge, block, slice, stab, and more. The only thing holding them back is their imagination (and their dexterity). All mechanics are designed to take a backseat as players immerse themselves in GemQuest’s worlds.

If players run into problems controlling their character, Notchi is always there to help.

In order to bring users a state of the art user experience, GemQuest is built by a crazy talented team wielding the best tools in the industry.

Tools of the Trade

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GemQuest VR is built using the Unity 3D game engine which is:

  • Totally free
  • Has a large learning community
  • Is the standard for VR development
  • Houses built-in git-style project management/collaboration tools
  • And allows users to code for Vive/Rift/PSVR simultaneously
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3DS Max and Blender

The art team uses 3DS Max and Blender to create 3D models and animations for GemQuest VR. Blender is a great choice because it is free and open-source. That has fed into a large learning community around Blender.

3DS Max is used extensively because it is a professional program taught at The University of Georgia. It allows for polygon reduction which means models render faster without slowing down the headset’s FPS. Bone-based animation support works together with Unity seamlessly.

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Sound effects for the game were recorded Foley-style using a UGA recording studio and Audacity for mastering.

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Trello and Slack

The GemQuest VR team handles project management and communication through Slack and Trello. Slack allows for efficient file-sharing and discussion. Trello is a great cloud-based platform for task distribution and organization. Trello also has a Slack chatbot plug-in that helps everyone stay up to date on the project’s progress.

By keeping in constant communication and establishing clear goals, all members of the team have ownership. Constant communication also means more feedback, faster iteration, and a better game.

Lessons Learned

GemQuest VR has been a great learning experience for everyone involved. The team behind GemQuest VR is multidisciplinary, allowing the game to be greater than the sum of its parts. That has also meant that proper project management is critical for ensuring open communication. Moving forward project management will be a larger priority as more members bring their talents to the team.

GemQuest VR was founded by students on UGA’s liberal arts campus. As a result, the supply of artists outpaced the supply of C# developers. Moving forward GemQuest VR will use investment to hire development talent to speed up release of a functional demo.

Usability Testing

Like any human-design centered studio, the GemQuest VR team made user research and usability testing an early priority. Participants gave valuable feedback that will be incorporated into the final design, including:

  • Use of teleportation with blinking
  • Gem placement
  • Guidance from Notchi

Thanks for reading!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Our presentation at Emerge 2017 made it into The Red & Black here.

Be one the first to see our announcement trailer and try out our demo at Emerge @ Southern Brewing Co. on Thursday, July 27th.

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