Paperplane is a VR game I co-produced with a team of five (Camille, Jehan, Mengyang and Wang Yang). We spent two weeks crafting the free flying game in Oculus Rift platform, featuring a valley of paper planes.
In the game, player is free to explore the low-poly styled valley. The ultimate goal of the game is to guide player to the top of the mountain, where the largest beacon resides.
Illusion of freedom
Although the game is a free flying game, which means that the player can fly anywhere they want, we still need to place hints that guided the user to the final destination.
Guiding player can be tricky. Placing obvious hints may make player feel that they are no longer in charge, while subtle hints may simply get ignored.
Through research and play testing, we discovered that players tend to be attracted by flashing and colorful targets. Strong visual cues catch their attention and encourage them to fly near and explore. Therefore, we placed shiny beacons along the path to the top of the mountain. All beacons are colored in pink, which is a rare color in our scene.
To amplify the effect of beacon, once player fly through a beacon, four planes will join the player, forming a group of planes.
Besides placing beacons, we also planned a non-stop stream of non-player paper planes flying from one beacon to another, eventually flying towards the top of the mountain. We believed that once the player notice the flow of paper planes, he/she is very likely to fly with the flow. It was simply peer-pressure, as one of our play-tester responded when we asked her why she joined the flow.
To play safe, we also added colorful rainbow and dark lightning clouds to show player which way is safer to go.
Through strategically placed beacons, visually appealing attractions and the use of peer pressure, we present player an illusion of freedom. We tested our game with multiple players and most of them followed the path we designed although they theoretically can fly to anywhere.
Respect for details
In Chinese, Hao Le （好了）means finished. However Hao （好）alone means satisfied, settled. When I was young, my art teacher told me that I should never claim Wo Hua Hao Le (“我画好了”) when I finished my drawing. Because as a learner, I should never be settled with my own work. Once I am settled, my learning stops. I should say Wo Hua Wan Le (“我画完了”). Wan （完） means finished.
I remembered my teacher’s words by heart and wanted to make it a life long practice. I always believe that excellence comes from the respect for details. In designing the Paperplane, we aimed for a high degree of detail.
We placed two flying trail on each side of the plane. The trails do not make a significant contribution to the game play, however, it fulfills player’s imagination of flying with wind by simulating the flow of air.
We also create lightning effect under raining clouds although they are hardly seen if player follow the designed path.
We also spent extra effort in making sure that when other paper planes join the group, they fly in smoothly and naturally. To simulate a team of accompanying planes, we created three regions around the main paper plane. The accompanying paper plane can either stay in their own region with some random movement, or flying towards another region.
Besides that, we added one more trick to elevate the realistic simulation. In the early stage of development, the accompanying paper planes copy the rotation of the player-controlled paper plane in real time. It looks a bit artificial. we added a random delay factor to each accompanying plane, creating a reaction time. It turned out that a simple delay in response gives life to the accompanying paper planes.
Two week is not a long time, some games are made for years. However, achieving game goal and crafting for details should be evenly weighted even though the schedule is tight. I am glad that while creating illusions of freedom for player, I did not give up on striving for perfection. Anyway, never settle. I still have a long way to go.