I took my time, but the day is finally here that I can launch the new version. It brings the game to a completely new level. Here’s why:
First of all, there is a new level. YOU. ARE. PAC-MAN!
How did this come into existence? Here’s the story: The main new feature of the new update is that there are now moving enemies. Not just animated ones, but actually moving ones. While that will not sound like a revelation or something noteworthy to most, here’s the catch. Remember, that Out Or Dead is a game using impossible spaces made of self-overlapping rooms. You can constantly walk through the world without ever using a teleport or other means of artificial movement.
And enemies can do that now as well. They will traverse the labyrinth and will suddenly appear behind a corner and scare the living hell out of you. At least out of me, my Adrenalin levels are off the charts.
In order to develop this feature I needed a test environment. When thinking about enemies moving in a labyrinth… it suddenly hit me. Pac-Man is the archetype of that and with the natural walking mechanics and labyrinths I already have, it seemed like something that just waited to happen. There are some existing tries in VR to adapt the concept but only natural walking really kills it in my opinion. And so it came that now, after more than a month, you can finally be Pac-Man yourself. I tried to incorporate all the signature items:
- fruits, more fruits, pretzels
- Inky the ghost who wonders around rather randomly (more with different patterns coming soon)
- power-ups allowing you to chase and eliminate ghosts
- some cool retro music and sound effects
Since in VR getting caught is quite nerve-wracking I added a new game-play element: safety-zones. In each dead-end there is one of these and stepping in will raise a barrier that ghosts cannot traverse, giving you a break.
Being able to collect fruits also meant that now there is the concept of melee attacks in Out Or Dead, for items that can be destroyed that way. Body melee does not yet work but is something for the future.
But there is more. I got the feedback that walking through the training ground level was nice but ultimately a bit boring as you were relatively safe and even worse, you were just looking up at the ceiling the whole time. Very valid feedback. And it’s all changed now. Let me introduce… fanfare…
Oh. my. god. I wrote that Inky the ghost will raise my Adrenalin level dramatically. But spider-bots are a different league. First, what are they? They are small spider-like robots that explode when near you, reducing your health by 90%. While on a 2D screen, these are nice but not overly spectacular, VR changes this 180°. You are in the labyrinth. These bots make little tip, tip, tip noises when walking so you actually hear them before you see them. And they suddenly come around the corner. While you are maybe still focused on a turret.
I cannot play my own game anymore.
It is this nerve-wracking. And I challenge you all to try it! The game feels so much different now, feeling like an elite soldier lurking carefully around every corner, planning every step. And then I thought, it also deserves a new not so dull name now: A.I. Take-Over.
When I showed it to my wife, she threw the headset away. Literally. Then I realized: the time has also come for level settings. When you click on a level, a detail overview opens and in there you can now deactivate ghosts or spider-bots. And then you only activate them back when you have guests trying VR who you maybe don’t want to see again so quickly.
And there is more
You will find new things throughout the whole game. There is more voice commentary in A.I. Take-Over showcasing the “hear” and “see” mechanics of the SDK. If you have a tile count of 5 or greater, the labyrinth rooms have more openings now making it much more interesting. All physics interactions are improved and the elevators are a much smoother ride now. The pyramid has some more vegetation and cool new music. And I spent a lot of time working on making this all as generic as possible, preparing a first launch of the SDK so that levels can also be created by other creatives and not only me. But more to that in a later post.