Rune Skovbo Johansen
Creative Programmer & Designer
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New pots feature, mixed reality, Discord server, Yonderplay event

It's time for a new update on the development of Eye of the Temple.

Events

GDC in March is well behind us and I had a great time there. Among other things, I got to show off Eye of the Temple at the European Game Showcase (and saw a lot of other cool games too). This was a private event for specially invited people from the network of the organizers.

Now, Eye of the Temple has been selected for Yonderplay, an event that's part of the Nordic Game Conference in Malmö in Sweden and open to everyone at the conference. This will go down on May 25, the last day of the conference. This is the most public showing of the game yet, and I'm very excited about it! If you'll be at Nordic Game Conference yourself, come by and say hi and give the game a try.

Mixed reality

At GDC I also met some of the fine people from LIV, a platform for mixed reality recording (and more) for VR content. I've been integrating support for LIV in Eye of the Temple (it's very easy) and a handful of people from their community has been helping me test the game both with focus on mixed reality and in general.

Apart from testing and feedback, I've also been allowed to create and use some gifs from their recordings. Being able to show Eye of the Temple in mixed reality is very exciting to me, since it shows the physical nature of stepping around in the game in a way that's been impossible with regular purely virtual footage. Here's a few examples: These gifs are featuring ThreeDee from ComedyPipe. I tweeted them here and here.

I would love to have mixed reality gifs with others playing the game as well. If you have Vive or Oculus Rift with a mixed reality setup and is up for it, please get in touch!

Discord server

For a long time I've been using itch's forum feature to talk with early testers of the game, but I'm now beginning to move more towards Discord. I've only just learned about Discord recently, but have been happy with it so far. Feel free to join! Here's an invite link to the Eye of the Temple Discord server

Pots

Last but not least, I just implemented a new feature in the game: Pots!

Pots contain gems. You can tap the pots gently to get the gems out a few at a time or just smash the pots with your whip or torch to get all the gems all at once. But that would be a shame for such antique and rare pottery, now wouldn't it?

The pots give players more opportunities to use the whip, which I think was much needed. They also add more physicality to the game, since the pots (and the shards if they're smashed) are physics-driven objects. Hopefully it also adds just a bit of player expressiveness potential and unpredictability to the game.

A player can intentionally smash a pot, or intend to just brush it softly with the whip to tease out gems in a non-destructive way. This can however still accidentally make it topple over and fall down and get smashed way below. Players could set goals for themselves to smash all pots or avoid smashing any. Whether this will happen in practice is yet to be seen but it at least feels nice to me to allow for different approaches like this.

I made this silly and crudely acted video showcasing the new pots. Do you enjoy pottery too? Let me know in the comments!

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New trailer, public Steam page and Eye of the Temple in the press!

Last week I took a dive into the world of PR with Eye of the Temple.

There is a new trailer you can see on the website eyeofthetemple.com or right here below.



And Eye of the Temple now has a Steam page: Eye of the Temple on Steam

If you have a Vive or Oculus Rift, and think Eye of the Temple looks interesting, you can totally add it to your wishlist on Steam now! ;)

After that I took my first stab at contacting the press with a press release. The story got picked up by UploadVR and a handful of smaller outlets (see list on the Sanctum Dreams website). Considering I'm an unknown small indie developer with no experience with the press, I'm pretty happy with the results.

This week I'm at Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. I'm mostly here with Unity, but I'll also be showing Eye of the Temple at the European Game Showcase.

Exciting times!
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January 2018 update

It seems like I didn't blog since July. How scandalous! Well, here's an update on what I worked on for Eye of the Temple since then.

Presented as a series of tweets, because that's what I have time for.

Note: Add blockers seem to sometimes randomly block some of the embedded tweets for some reason.

Prettier background environment

The cold snowy mountains didn't give the feeling I was aiming for. Failing to find anything ready-made that fit the bill, I created my own lush, mountainous environment.

Failed attempts at mixed reality capture with StereoLabs ZED stereo camera

I think a mixed reality video would be the ideal way to show off Eye of the Temple, so I invested a bit in this. Unfortunately it didn't go well due to a combination of a bad choice of immature tech, and an insufficient green-screen setup. I might revisit this in the future though.

Glowy light for certain platforms

New build for testers with whip and other improvements

I finally finished developing the whip and got a build out to the testers.

Trying to recruit people to test the speedrun mode (never had any luck!)

The speedrun mode is super fun and challenging to me, but nobody else seem interested in it. Besides asking on twitter I also contacted some of the notable VR speedrunners and people who has posted about VR speedrunning on Reddit, but got nothing out of it. If anyone reading this have a Vive and would like to try it, do let me know!

Implemented a new type of dangerous rooms for the temple

The reviews for this feature are through the roof.

Got serious working on the big level design overhaul

Still far from finished with this one.

Worked on a texture tool "Bricker" to easily create bricks and carved shapes

More on that in another post.

Contracted a few pieces of concept art to get inspiration for improving the visual look of the game

And finally, introduced this little birdy

That's it for now. Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the development, and see you soon. Back to working on the game for me! Remember you can also follow the development as it happens following @EyeOfTheTemple or @runevision on twitter.
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July update: Trials and triumphs of whips and levers

Here's the latest updates on the development of my Vive VR game Eye of the Temple.

For the past several months I've been working on improving the whip I prototyped last year. In the last post, I showed how it could grab levers, but there were a lot of issues and the whip and lever didn't exactly look pretty. Now see what it looks like now:



This feels really good to use now. It didn't get to this point without a lot of issues on the way though.

The whip

A bit of background on how the whip is implemented in broad strokes. Using physics joints etc. quickly turned out infeasible when I did the prototype last fall. Instead, I’m keeping track of positions and velocities of “links” in arrays in my own scripts and doing very custom simulation with lots of tweaks and workarounds. One of the needed things to make it behave whip-like is that in the spring code that maintains distance between adjacent links, one link should affect the other slightly more than the other affects the first. This is to simulate the fact that the whip gets thinner towards the end, which is critical for whip-like behavior.

Collisions with level geometry works by doing sphere-casts, one per whip link per frame, which is around 30. The spherecasts are from the previous position of a segment to its new position, and if anything was hit, I move the new position to the intersection point, which should be in between the old and the original new position. That's the basics.

There's special logic that makes the stick of the levers "sticky" and "unsticky" at specific times, which aids the behavior, but the way the whip curls around the stick (or fails to curl, sometimes) is still driven by the regular simulation apart from that. For all other surfaces, there's no special logic. It uses the sphere-cast based collision avoidance I mentioned above.

I should say there's a glaring issue in my collision approach which isn't shown in the video, which is that collision fails against moving surfaces, such as the moving platforms. I'm not quite sure if I want to solve that, because it's going to add tons of complexity to the code, while probably also degrade performance significantly. I've chosen to ignore this for now, since there's no lack of other things that need to be done that are more critical.

The lever

The lever has caused me all kinds of problems. Doing a lever that works properly, particularly for VR, is apparently a complicated problem. I made a video about my woes here:



I found out that levers could be made to avoid sliding out of their joints given three criteria are met:

First, the collider of the lever handle must not overlap with any other colliders in the world. The tricky thing here is that it's not easy to see that overlapping colliders might affect the handle, since the handle is firmly locked in place. But they do affect it in very non-obvious ways. So I ensured the handle collider doesn't overlap with any other colliders.

Secondly, the rigidbody must have its position set to locked.

Thirdly, the center of mass of the rigidbody must be overwritten in script to be set to the pivot that the handle should rotate around. Unfortunately, this leads to another problem. Sometimes the lever handle would get completely stuck, in which case no amount of forces would make it move one bit. After some experimentation, this seemed to happen if the handle is exerted to forces while the connected rigidbody (which is kinematic) simultaneously move. (Some levers in my game sometimes get moved around.) I worked around this by disabling the rigidbody position locking at strategic times and then reenabling it again. This seemed to fix the issue.

Polishing it up

After I had gotten most of the technical issues resolved, I set out to create proper 3d models for the whip and lever to replace the simple cylinder placeholders I had before.

And as the last step, I added the ability for the whip to be rolled up (which it now is by default). The whip is still fully simulated while rolled up, which is what gives the rolled up whip its nice juicy appearance. There's no animation or pre-canned movements involved in the whip at all.

The transition where the whip gets rolled up is done by pulling at specific segments of the whip towards a specific point on the handle. This happens to also be how the whip remains rolled up in general.

In the video I do a little upwards flick and then the whip rolls up. This is purely "role playing" though. The rolling up is actually triggered just by pressing a button on the controller. ;)

If you've been following the development of Eye of the Temple, does the whip related gameplay change how you view the game? What do you think it adds to it?
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June update: Verticality, puzzles, whip

Here's the latest updates on the development of my Vive VR game Eye of the Temple.

For the past month I've been mainly working on improving the whip I prototyped last year. It can now be used to grab levers at a distance, and then you can yank the whip backwards to activate the lever.
There's still some way to go, especially with getting the audio cues right. The physics will never be quite like a real whip, but making it satisfying to use is the top priority.

Apart from this I've been looking into designing more puzzles for the game. I'm no expert puzzle designer, but bit by bit I come up with some that I think work well. The latest involve tall rotating towers, activated by levers (no whip use necessary for this one) where you need to step around on and in them at two different levels.

This also marks my increased effort in making better use of verticality in the level design. Experiencing the great heights is a draw of the game, and I'm figuring out how to use that optimally. I don't have a new build with these new things yet. The work right now is on smaller isolated pieces and puzzles, and once I have a set of those that fit nicely together, I'll begin integrating it all back into the overall world design.
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April update: Fire, blades, speedrun mode

Here's the latest updates on the development of my Vive VR game Eye of the Temple. New additions:
  • Fire! One challenge tunnel now has fire hazards.
  • Blades! One challenge tunnel now has swinging blades.
  • Speedrun mode! A more challenging way to play the game. More notes below.
  • Hat! You're now wearing a hat. Hope you like hat.
  • Experimental spectator camera. 3rd person view. More notes below.
  • Field of view is now restricted when close to falling and when falling in order to further reduce risk of motion sickness.
  • Placeholder ambient soundscape taken out of the game for now since it had confusing footstep sounds.

Speedrun mode

For those of you who wanted more challenge in the game, there is a new speedrun mode. This mode times your play-through but also speeds up the platform movements as long as you can keep up.

This mode is has a higher risk of being uncomfortable, causing motion sickness, and falling over, so engage on your own risk.
  • Each time you take a perfectly timed step onto a new platform, the game will speed things up a little bit.
  • Each time you miss an opportunity to step onto a new platform, the game will slow things down a little bit. (This can occasionally happen through no fault of your own.)
  • When you die, the speed is reset, so it's recommended to keep to a speed you can handle in order to not lose momentum in your speedrun. You can avoid speeding thing further up by taking steps in a slightly slower way.
I do not recommend this mode to people who haven't already played through the game at least once, so in the final game I'll probably only unlock the speedrun mode by completing the game.

How to use: For now though, you start a speed run by first starting a new game, and then press Shift+R on the keyboard.

Experimental spectator camera

The gameplay in Eye of the Temple can be hard to get an impression of for others by looking out in first person. I've experimented with an alternative camera angle shown on the monitor that shows the action from 3rd person perspective.

How to use: Activate/toggle 3rd person spectator camera by pressing X on the keyboard.
This view requires extra resources from your computer, so if you get performance problems, turn it off.

What do you think of 3rd person spectator camera? Is it something you might use for streaming, videos, or for people watching you play? It's still a bit buggy and has room for improvement, but I'm curious what you think of the overall idea.
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February update: Gems

Here's the latest updates on the development of my Vive VR game Eye of the Temple. New features:
  • There are now gems throughout the temple that you can collect.
  • Moving platforms have glowing symbols on them.
  • Visuals: Intro area has some red stones and some of the dungeons have grittier gray stones and spikes.
  • The way the platforms move has been tweaked, hopefully to further reduce potential for dizziness.

Notes on gems

The gems are found throughout the temple. The exact placement tries to take player proportions into account so that they are at a comfortable distance for reaching. I haven't tested this on different people yet though. If you could let me know how it works for you and how tall you are, that would be helpful. If you don't want to share that, that's ok too.

Right now the gems don't do anything yet. Later I will implement at the minimum a way for you to see how many you collected.

Beyond that I need to decide if the gems have a critical or non-critical function:

A critical function of the gems could be if they are used to unlock new areas in the game and thus are needed to progress. Or an almost-critical function would be to unlock alternative paths or secret rooms not otherwise accessible. This is still fairly critical because it would be annoying if you're trying to see 100% content of a game to find out you can't due to some mistake made earlier that's too late to do anything about. Currently there are one-way platforms that you can take which will prevent you from going back to collect any gems you might have missed. If I make the gems critical, I'd have to find a way to make it possible to always go back to all areas of the temple.

Non-critical functions of the gems could be high-score, achievements, and, I dunno, unlockable hats if I get a selfie stick implemented for the game. :P Old games would typically grant you extra lives, but it doesn't work for modern games with infinite lives.

For now I refrained from placing gems at platforms that only go one way. If there were gems there and you failed to pick one up, you wouldn't have a second chance and I thought that might feel unfair or frustrating.

Early testers online forum

In order to try to get faster feedback and shorter iteration cycles, I opened up for people to sign up online to be early testers of the game. If you have access to a Vive (and 2.2 by 2.2 meters space) and would like to try out the game and provide detailed feedback based on your experience, please don't hesitate to join!

Sign up to provide feedback on early builds of Eye of the Temple
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