It’s pretty much common knowledge at this stage that Oculus Rifts are the most awesome things on the planet, so it was only to be expected that Friday’s Playup After Dark would pack out (we set a new record with 60 people!). New tech also called for a new venue, which SK Games were gracious enough to provide. With the extra room and awesome games, the Playup was guaranteed to be good, and that’s before you factor in the bar! Horseback fighting, sci-fi archery, and pies were just some of what was on show, but I’ve only got room to mention the big ones here.
The game most people (understandably) hoarded around was Offpeak Games’ Valiant, a medieval horseback combat game designed for the Oculus Rift. The game had a very Mount & Blade feel to it, but your avatar leaned with the Rift’s movements, which was a nifty mechanic to dodge your opponent’s lance! The biggest issue with the game was the motion sickness. Most people admitted they were fine until they turned their horse, at which point the unreality kicked in and stomachs started churning. This is more a problem with the Rift than the game itself, but one suggestion was to make a jousting mode to help break in the VR-ness for newer players by minimising turning.
The other big issue was the controls. At this stage of development, it’s understandable that movement is more like gliding than riding a horse, but not being able to move backwards felt strange. If I ever ran into a wall, I couldn’t get my horse to back up and turn, I’d need to slowly spin on the spot and wait to be able to stab my enemies in the hearts again. Adding in some bobbing when moving, being able to turn quicker when going slower, and making the game’s movements seem more organic would all help in making an immersive experience worthy of a knight’s attention.
You can follow Valiant’s progress from the Offpeak Games facebook page.
Defender of the Wood
Off to the side at the Playup Fayre was Daragh Wickham’s Defender of the Wood, a small archery game for iOS that relied on keen timing. Think Angry Birds, but instead of pulling back a slingshot, you carefully time the archer’s pull by holding your thumb on the screen. The longer you hold down for, the farther the arrow flies, and that’s all there is to it. It’s actually a really nice little game, and the difficulty level is perfect, but it’s still a very small game.
The two modes available in the game are target practice and a survival mode where you shoot oncoming goblins. While it could take weeks to master both modes, they didn’t have much in the way of variety. Sometimes the wind might change, but everything else would stay the same. That said, Daragh had only learned programming earlier this year (which is pretty impressive!), and this was more like a test than a full fledged game, so it’s entirely understandable that there’s not a huge amount to do just yet. Adding more modes, enemies, and modifiers were intended to be done over the coming months, and hopefully an Android version will pop up one day!
You can pick up Defender of the Wood for free from the iTunes App Store.
Into The Pie
Feeding those hungry for a bit of old-school card gaming was Eeshwar Rajagopalan’s Into The Pie, a card drafting game about making pies. Everyone started with a hand of five ingredients from a deck of cards, placed one into their pie, and passed the rest onto the next player. This was the only constant mechanic of the game as Eeshwar tested out a plethora of different ways to play. The main issues arose from two things: the eligibility of edibility mechanic and difficulty to make specific pies.
In the first round my group played, we had to justify the edibility of our pies and select who had made the best one. This was a controversial mechanic since it added a party element to the game but removed objectivity from the rules. Some people liked it, others didn’t, but leaving it as a variant was always an option. As my group progressed through the rounds, we found making pies to be difficult, even after removing half of the ingredients from the deck. This was somewhat alleviated with a post-pie-constructing top decking mechanic, which was greatly appreciated by everyone in the group. There were still kinks that needed fixing, but the amount of feedback Eeshwar received on the night will no doubt be more than enough to work with.
You can follow Eeshwar on his blog: Questionable Mechanics.
Far away from the medieval Playup offerings was SK Games’ Astral, a 3-player sci-fi boss battle game that was just as strange as it sounds. The game involved two players in small space ships trying to destroy the behemoth space fortress controlled by the other player. The occasional power ups would float towards the fortress for the ships to intercept, lest they wish for the fortress to become even more powerful. While the game itself was a lot of fun, the controls for the fortress were a minor hassle.
The fortress is stationary, but to make up for that, it can rotate it’s four guns around itself. The problem is figuring out which direction you push your stick in to fire what gun, because it’s not the direction you face when the game starts. Since there’s no clear indication of what direction is forward on your fortress, you have to flail about for a few seconds to get your bearings. Adding a clear indication of which direction it’s facing or adjusting the controls to fire in the direction you point the stick in were suggested solutions, but it’s a minor complaint of an otherwise very enjoyable game.
You can check out more from SK Games on their website.
It’s never easy leaving an Oculus Rift behind, but when you leave feedback for devs, it definitely makes it a bit easier. Everyone walked away with something from the night, whether it was feedback for the games or watery eyes from riding horses. Thankfully, alcohol helped soothe the unwanted pain from both, assuming it wasn’t the pain Francis Underwood lives by. Playup #5 should be around soon, but if you can’t wait more than a fortnight, the Perth Games Festival is happening very soon!