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The Lake House

Project Details

Genre: Puzzle Game, Virtual Reality

 

Platforms: Itch.io

Engine: Unity

 

Role: Sole Developer

 

Summary: The Lake House is a prototype of an interactive virtual reality experience that has been designed for the Oculus Quest 2 headset. This project represents a culmination of all of my skills acquired as an Interactive Multimedia major. The basic objective will be to find a way into your lake house by solving puzzles in the surrounding area. The game is heavily inspired by escape rooms, something I know a lot about, and the type of puzzles I plan to include are going to be a reflection of that. The game will be a similar format to the famous point-and-click games of the 90s, but in a three dimensional VR space. The game will mostly be atmosphere-based, with a heavy emphasis on the tone and feel of the setting.

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My Process

The first thing that I did for the project was start my pre-planning phase. This involved playing a large amount of video games. I first played through all of Arctic Journey, (the Google Cardboard demo) as well as several other VR interactive short videos and art pieces. This was meant to research the best way to utilize Virtual Reality for telling a narrative. I also replayed through games like Myst, Firewatch, Grim Fandango, Gone Home, to get a feel for the tone and visual stlye I wanted for the project. Was all of this necessary? Let’s go with yes!

After spending most of Fall semester and Winter Break researching, (playing video games) it was time to start putting all my newfound perspectives to use. The next step was to create a ton of concept art. The experience aspect of the game was very important to me, so I spent a lot of time on the design aspect of the game. Blue water is good, but green water is even better! Things like that.

The next step was designing the puzzles and story. The puzzles came pretty easily, the story less so. I was on the fence for a while about whether or not to make the game scary, or at least eery and unnerving. I ended up deciding against it; after all, it would be hard to enjoy the environment I was going to spend so much time on if it was too scary.

My next step was definitely to created all of the models. I had never 3D modeled anything before, but figured that learning Blender would be an easier task than finding a great many assets that fit the aesthetic I was looking for and all looked good together. I had decided fairly early on that I wanted to stay strictly low-poly. I created somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 unique models all together.

Now, it was finally time to put on the headset. Oculus Integration for Unity sure is something! I spent a good couple of months tinkering around in Unity, until finally creating what I have today.

Programming! That was fun. I have a background in programming, so most of what I did was pretty standard.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the main music track of the game, a custom piece done by the fantastic Haley Wright (wrighth1@tcnj.edu)!

Inspiration

My first inspiration for this project was the Arctic Journey demo for the Google Cardboard. I played through it shortly before my thesis planning really began, and loved the low-poly aesthetic. I had definitely wanted The Lake House to be an immersive VR experience first, and a “game” second.

To summarize my artistic vision, it would be; green. If you’ve seen any of my digital art (insert not-so-subtle plug here), you would know that I am not a huge fan of using the color green. I figured, what the heck, let’s try something a little different.

As for the gameplay aspect, I’m a huge fan of games that allow you to use the environment around you to progress and solve puzzles. Like I mentioned earlier, I also have prior experience working on Escape Rooms, so I thought my project should incorporate some aspects of that.

What I Learned

What didn’t I learn from this project, honestly. I had used Unity before this project, but not very much. But after months of throwing stuff into the program and seeing what stuck, I now have a much more in depth understanding of the back end of game creation. I also taught myself a great deal about 3D modeling, and how to use Blender. And of course, there’s the big one; VR integration. Before beginning this project, I had never even put on a VR headset before. I learned that I get motion sick very easily, and also learned the definition of the word “irony”.

What’s Next

In the future, I plan on continuing my work on The Lake House. It looks good as it is now, but it could definitely look better! I definitely want to go back and edit a few of the models. A few of the early ones I created look a bit wonky, at least in comparison to the later ones. Apparently you got better at modeling the more you practice, who would’ve thought? Not only that, but I want to add more models as well. 25-30 models sounds like a lot, until you actually put them into an environment, which currently looks a bit barren. Another thing I want to tackle is the story. The story is there, yes, but it’s largely told through the clues. And as I’ve learned from many of the inspirations that I played through to prepare for this project, a game’s story can be told through the environment, and I definitely want to get in on that.

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