As our team can tell you, making a game is a tough yet rewarding experience. UNDR[H2O] (pronounced “underwater”) has been in development for several weeks now, but it all started at a game jam earlier this summer. I chatted with some of the guys on the team, and the general consensus was clear: the game jam was not only a lot of fun for everyone involved, but it was also an incredibly productive time for development of UNDR[H2O].
During the week of the game jam, UNDR[H2O] went from merely a concept to a full-blown build. Of course, that build needed plenty of refinement, but the crew was more than pleased with the result after only a week of work.
Courtney, our concept artist and illustrator had the following to say about the initial progress and beyond:
We made a lot of progress given the fact we mainly had just the raw idea to go off of earlier in that week. We got the gameplay down pretty well and I think now we are addressing a lot of the issues we had during the game jam, which I’m really happy with. These changes will help us immensely as we get closer to GDEX (gaming exposition) to make sure the project we present is something of substance.
Our animator and 3D artist, Marc, echoed similar sentiments in reference to the speed of progress made during the jam:
We got a lot done considering that we basically had to teach ourselves how to correctly do the motion controls and how to optimize our game assets as well as make over 50 in game objects in less than a week. We ended up with a playable prototype, so I think we accomplished more than we could have reasonably expected for such a short time.
Our programmer, Andrew (AKA “Daggett”), mentioned something about the week being inspiring and “fueling a great fire under our ass.” That’s a good sign, right?
As it turns out, the jam was a great chance for everybody to remember what working as a full-blown studio is like. Usually, everyone on the team is spread out across hundreds of miles, working remotely from their home, but this game jam was the first opportunity in several weeks for everyone to come together and tinker at the same place and time. The result? Productivity skyrocketed. As Courtney said:
When we’re all together under one roof, we get so much work done…I wish we could do that every weekday. It’s such a friendly and growing environment, everyone is pretty humble about their work and willing to make changes. It’s fun when you’re in an environment where you know work will get done.
Daggett mentioned that instant communication was a huge benefit. Working remotely, everyone on the team has to resort to the internet to chat and make plans. (*Friendly tip: we love Slack; check it out.) But during the game jam, everyone knew exactly what was going on, and as Daggett said, “it made for a great and productive work environment.”
Our fearless leaders (formally called our “game directors,” if you prefer), Tyler and Anthony, echoed a lot of the same sentiments concerning the game jam. What really stood out to them was that UNDR[H2O] went from a concept to a prototype in five days. After all, the game is GuessworkVR’s first venture with the HTC Vive, so there were a handful of roadblocks that managed to get in the way. Even so, Tyler loved the team’s resourcefulness and determination to get the job done despite setbacks.
Of course, after a whole week in a confined space, the mad scientists managed to notice some interesting habits and traits of their peers. Quoted straight from Tyler’s mouth (caps for emphasis):
COURTNEY LOVES RAISIN BRAN. We’ve never seen someone eat so many bowls of cereal per day.
Regardless of the time of day, Marc sounds like he’s talking through a speaker phone and he’s completely unaware. On the other hand, it helps keep us awake as work moves into the night.
Even though he was at a satellite location all the way out in Pittsburgh, Geoff’s stench still made us gag.
Ah, yes, great camaraderie. But on a more serious note, Anthony chimed in to hand out some props:
Daggett and Jimmy are the dynamic duo when it comes to programming. Daggett has the brains while Jimmy has the creativity, and it results in some awesome game mechanics.
Kevin and Elliot are the two silent assassins, throwing headphones in and diving into their work for hours at a time, then emerging with multiple models we didn’t even know they were working on. Their efficiency is incredible.
But the big question is: what of the game itself? Marc explained what he sees UNDR[H2O] being as a finished product:
I think the game can be a fun little “mess around” title, almost in the same vein as Job Simulator, but with our own spin on the genre. We want to throw someone in and just overload them with stuff to worry about, like fixing the pipes, making sure the drain stays clear and saving expensive possessions from the rising waters. I just want people to be constantly stressed while playing the game.
Anthony agreed, citing panic as the main emotion he wants the player to feel as he or she desperately tries to keep dry:
Attempting to close up the leaks as water inevitably rises above your head brings with it panic; as your head plunges underwater and the drone of being submerged fills your ears… It’s way more immersive than we could have imagined.
Needless to say, we think you’ll have a lot to look forward to when you get your hands on UNDR[H2O]. In the meantime, get a first look at the game’s first concept build in the video below. That build was the result of the game jam, and the team here at GuessworkVR has been hard at work improving upon that base. We hope to have more to show you in the coming weeks and months, and we can’t wait until you all can play it!