What Went Right
The class at Academy of Art University that was responsible for the inception of Last Fate was actually a technology research class. It’s purpose was to have students experiment and develop prototypes using emerging technology. Last Fate was initially going to be a proof of concept game demonstrating the use of mixed reality, utilizing Leap Motion, Oculus Rift and the Unity game engine.
This was a good combination because the immersion of the Oculus combined with the tactile feeling of having your hands interact with the virtual space made for an extremely compelling and new experience. The result from play testers were reactions of surprise, excitement and genuine captivation.
Unity was a powerful tool for quick prototyping. This was crucial to the development of Last Fate because experimentation with new tech meant many game play design failures before we achieved a satisfactory result.
Additionally, our team experience with Unity meant a smoother reiteration process. We could design, create and test within a reasonable amount of time considering the actual in class time with the professor was only three and a half hours a week. It also meant we could get students outside the project to play test frequently and get instant feedback.
Integration of New Tech
This was a double edged sword. The initial integration of Leap Motion was smooth, and learning the Leap API was a fun task. However, as is with any new tech, Leap Motion’s growing pains resulted in our growing pains as well. Leap Motion software updates were frequent, which was good because we knew the developers were dedicated to supporting their product and that hopefully our project would continue to be relevant for years to come, but it also resulted in our build breaking every time we updated. We would need to investigate each time as to what changed and fix it, which was every other week. Additionally, Unity 5 was just emerging and we were anxious to update there as well, but of course that also lead to compatibility issues between Unity and the VR tech.
Despite these setbacks, which took a lot of time away from focusing on designing the game play, we were able to provide a working prototype week after week.
What Went Wrong
The first semester working on Last Fate was a intimate experience in a very small team. This made communication easy. The second semester the Last Fate team grew much larger. We had individual leads for each section of the game, and despite lead meetings and weekly three and a half hour classes, there were communication issues and misunderstandings which lead to a severely incomplete product.
My initiative to bridge the communication between the programmers and the level designers was a success, however still resulted in a lack of understanding. Parts of the team were waiting on information from others, which halted production in certain areas and resulted in last minute scrambling to put levels together. The first three main sections were completed just in time which was enough for about six to seven minutes of game play. Fortunately this was enough to portray a clear demonstration of emerging technology in gaming.
Many students who took part in Last Fate had little to no experience with Perforce. There were many hold ups and mistakes that had to do with Perforce, for example certain files would be corrupted every time a new submission was pushed. In our case it was a water shader. Other times students would check out more files than necessary, holding up operations from other areas. Sometimes files that we needed would be accidentally deleted.
We were able to recover from all these mistakes, however there was so much time spent on fixing Perforce mistakes that the game suffered from it. Sometimes simply adding a quick animation to an object and pushing it to the build would break other things, or the animation would be lost somehow. This would happen in times when we needed a new version because we were about to have a play test session in the next 10 minutes. There was inevitably much improvisation, which resulted in backpedaling and more work than there needed to be.
There was a lot of personal growth for everyone on the team including myself. Communication is extremely important, and asking questions is just as important as informing others of your own status or information. It’s also important to have a solid understanding of version control software, because mishandling could result in not only your own setbacks but other as well.
Technical and communication set backs held Last Fate from becoming a full game experience. Overall, Last Fate was a successful project that met its goal of providing a new exciting experience to the gaming world. Since then I have never played a game like it, at least not with out more hardware than Last Fate used, like dual hand controllers of the HTC Vive.
Here is a short video of a student play testing Last Fate