It’s been several months since we gave a detailed look at the progress of UNDR[H2O]. Part of the reason is that we’ve been tinkering with the game’s design to ensure that the finished product is a tight, polished adventure from start to finish. When we unveiled UNDR[H2O] in Summer 2016, it was only a side project — the result of a one-weekend game jam. But it quickly morphed into our main focus as a story-driven experience that we’ve been developing for the past two years.
As we’ve progressed in building the game, we’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t, and more importantly, what we want and don’t want in the finished product. That’s why over the past couple months, we put our game through a third, hopefully final design iteration. Now that we’re pushing forward under this new design, we’d like to fill you in on what the game should look like when it releases.
Level Structure and Gameplay
UNDR[H2O] will feature three different environments for you to sink or swim in. If you’ve played the demo at one of our convention or event appearances, you’re familiar with Level One: The Basement. In order to progress from one level to the next, you’ll have to complete two different types of tasks. The first is, of course, to fix leaks and stay afloat. That has been the core of UNDR[H2O] since Day One. But we’ve decided to slip something a little more secretive into the gameplay aside from the obvious water leaks and chaos.
If you’ve ever played the Zombies mode in Call of Duty or gone to a real-life escape room, then you can probably visualize the second set of tasks. Alongside fixing leaks, you’ll have to find items and solve puzzles to advance from section to section. We won’t go into much detail about how this will work (since, you know, that would involve giving away some of the puzzles), but it means that you will have to be part plumber and part detective — a bit reflexive and a bit cerebral.
Combining action and puzzle means we’re now able to mix two previously separate modes into one. Earlier in development, we envisioned having a Story Mode and an Endless Mode. But we found that the gameplay of Story Mode was a little stale, and the action of Endless Mode didn’t have a sense of progression. Now that the two have become one, the combined experience feels more fun and engaging to play, which is exactly what we’ve wanted from the start.
After you beat each level in the game’s main mode, you’ll unlock its original Endless Mode. Then you can fix leaks ‘til you drown, but without the story elements. Long story short, we’ve infused our story with better gameplay while still keeping Endless Mode as an unlockable reward for story progression.
New Power-Ups and Tools
When we first took [UNDRH2O] to the GDEX convention in 2016, we asked players to fill out a survey after playing the demo. We got a lot of great feedback about players’ thoughts. In our recap article for that weekend, we mentioned that some players provided suggestions for the game we hadn’t even thought of yet. One of those suggestions was to add power-ups, and we loved the idea so much that we plan to add several as we continue development. Again, we don’t want to show all our cards just yet, but one power-up is the Timestop, which will slow time to a crawl and give you a chance to catch your breath, fix some leaks, and gameplan for when time speeds back up. We have a handful of ideas that we’ll share as we continue, and we think this is one more way we can spice up the gameplay. This should help the game feel both more hectic and a little more under the player’s control.
Aside from power-ups, we’re also adding some new tools to your arsenal. You’ll still have the duct tape and wrench currently in our demo, but the more the merrier, right? If you follow us on social media (Shameless plug for our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter….go follow us…now), then you might have seen a concept for a caulk gun that will let you plug leaks from a distance. Just like for power-ups, we have a handful of other tool ideas that we’ll show off later. We think you’re going to love the extra options.
We aren’t stopping at reworking gameplay and adding new features; we’re attending to all those nitty gritty details that aren’t the most thrilling to talk about but simply have to be done. That includes squashing the bugs you may have noticed in the demo, adding a HUD to show your progress in Endless Mode, building the user interface for menu screens, and much more. This means that UNDR[H2O] will not only be fun to play but easy to use as well.
TL;DR, we’re overhauling UNDR[H2O], from the story progression through the gameplay, to make sure that the experience is exciting and engrossing at every turn when it releases. After all, a VR game should make you feel like you’re in the shoes of your character, and we want want you to lace up for an incredible adventure every time you boot up the game.