Hello Wannabe Plumbers,
After five months and a handful of days, the UNDR H2O Vertical Slice Demo for the Oculus Launch Pad Program is finally complete! It took hundreds of hours, multiple revisions and quite a bit of delivery food in order for us to complete the vision we set out to create back in September. Back then we had a simple plan: Create a 6 min experience that revamped UNDR H2O into the narrative based-action adventure game we had always wanted to make.
We won’t lie, after 4 years of slowly working on the original project, some of the drive and passion was lost. We kept trying to add to a project we created at the very beginning of our adventure into the VR game development space. There were years old ideas in there that hadn’t aged well. Every time we went back to the project, it seemed messier and messier. Oculus Launch Pad was our chance at a fresh start, so we opened Unity and selected “New Project”. This new project started as a simple doc with a check list.
Writing this in February, we can actually look back at this list and check off every single of those items and add dozens more. We easily surpassed all expectations we originally had for this project and made something that we’re extremely proud of. This project brought back the passion and excitement we’ve always had deep down about UNDR H2O and the City of Cloudy Day. It allowed us to see the progress we’ve made as creators over the past five years and it took every single one of us on the team to make it happen. Now, after all of that hype, are you ready to see what we made?
Redesigning the logo and look of UNDR H2O was always in the back of our minds but during the process of creating the demo it was finally time! Take a look at our brand new logo and icon for anything and everything UNDR H2O (brackets no longer included).
The fresh start allowed us not just a chance to redesign the backend of the project, but also to take another stab at the design of our world, and remake the Basement that many players know all too well. Although we kept a similar style, our artists have had many years to improve since the first edition of the room, making it not just look better, but more performant as well.
The Basement level now consists of different areas based around our main character, Marco’s, lifestyle. We have the entertainment section with a futon, table, TV, and shelves. By the stairs you can find the laundry section with our bouncing appliances. Lastly, we added a brand new area, Marco’s Workshop. This room was design from the ground up and seen in the concept art presented in past blog posts/social media, which truly helped inspire the updated art style. You may also noticed we dropped the outline shader, instead, letting our own artist’s style shine and bring a unique look to our world.
Lastly, it’s hard to miss the updated pipes and the Basement’s largest addition: BEEP Bot. He is the house’s plumbing protection AI who ensures all pipes are safe and secure. Unfortunately Marco likes to tinker and accidentally breaks BEEP Bot during the vertical slice, causing the leaking pipes and many other issues that you’ll have to take care of during the demo. His journey from concept art to final product is one of the coolest and we’re so excited to have so much life and moving parts in the first level of our game.
UNDR H2O was always known for its fast-paced anxiety-inducing mechanics. You’re trapped in a basement with broken pipes and an endless amount of flowing water. It was up to you to repair the pipes and slow down the influx of water, but inevitably, you would lose this battle – in the end seeing how long you were able to last and your overall score. It was popular at the many events we took the game to, attendees battling for the highest score of the day. We wanted to make sure we kept that core gameplay loop, but if UNDR H2O was to reach the heights we had in mind, there would have to be more.
Now there are more objects for the player to interact with, more items to pick up, and a brand new inventory system. In the vertical slice, you’ll have the ability to pick up interactable objects, pull levers and rip off posters to advanced the gameplay and help you in your journey. A brand new inventory system now puts your tools on your waist, allowing you to pick up tools when you want, use them, throw them, but not worry about them getting lost in the room or being stuck in your hands. You can even customize the heads of one of our favorite characters who you met in a former blog post: Beep Bot Mini V5.
The largest new addition to the Gameplay is the QTE System. In the vertical slice the player can experience dodging bolts shooting from pipes and cool cut scenes, but in the full game, quick time events will be our way of bringing both story and gameplay together in epic ways. Although the core demo is a 6 minute narrative slice, we couldn’t help but add our classic endless mode as an option at the end of the game. Player’s will still have the opportunity to see how long they can last in the ever-flooding basement.
It’s no secret that our main focus on the vertical slice was creating a narrative-based experience. Our dream when we founded GuessworkVR was to put story first, and make sure the player felt like they were doing more than playing a game; They were living in another universe, if only temporarily. Through out the process of making the demo, we made realizations about the story we had never thought of before. New perspectives and character’s entered our minds and the City of Clody Day expanded. We not only grew our world, but solidified it. In the vertical slice you get to meet a few of those characters who are completely voice-acted, which include our protagonist Marco, his sidekick and robot invention, BEEP Bot Mini, and the basement’s plumbing security AI, BEEP Bot.
It’s just a small snippet of the coming-to-age adventure story we have in store for Marco and those who decide to step into his shoes. There will be dozens of more characters, human and AI, as well as many more environments to explore in the City of Cloudy Day. If you want to read more about some of the background story, head over to this blog post to read more. Otherwise, get ready for an upcoming post which will reveal our full vertical slice story trailer. Something that our team worked extremely hard on and can’t wait to share with the rest of the world.
Well, at least in terms of Oculus Launch Pad, we’re stuck waiting until the announcement of grant recipients in April. That doesn’t mean we’re waiting for that to keep working! Win or lose, we are more excited than ever to build the complete version of UNDR H2O, so our team is back at work, preparing for potential future pitches, planning out the full game, and building prototypes to take the game further than the vertical slice currently allows. If you want to be apart of the process, please join our discord here.
If you want to try out our vertical slice, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your oculus account email address so you can be added to the release channel. We’d still love feedback and suggestions on what we made!
Lastly, be ready for more upcoming posts, detailing deeper looks at each part of the design process over the past 5 months to see what went in to creating the vertical slice demo.
Thank you to all of those who followed us, helped test our demo as it was being built and supported us along the way.
Until next time,