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SWEET NOTHINGS

Genre

 

Engine

 

Language

 

Tools

 

Roles

 

Skills

 

When

Cooperative, asymmetrical comedy game

 

Unity and Oculus Rift VR

 

C#

 

Oculus SDK, Visual Studio, Yarn, Git, Excel

 

Solo project

 

Code, game design, VR design, writing

 

Spring 2020

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One player (the DATE) plays with the Oculus Rift and the other is on any web browser on their computer (the SPY).

 

The DATE goes on a Sunday brunch date with an attractive partner and attempts to make small talk. Unfortunately, they have no idea what their date is talking about, so in order to woo them they'll have to lie and pretend they have things in common. 

This is where the SPY comes in. The DATE relays their partner's questions to the SPY, who haphazardly Googles each topic until they find the correct answers. They tell the DATE how to respond, and if all goes well, they get the question right and are one step closer to true love.

It's a light social game that pokes fun at the sometimes shallow and disorienting dating world of the 21st century.

Sweet Nothings was nominated and shown at the NYU Game Center Showcase in 2019. 

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DEVELOPMENT

Most of my work on Sweet Nothings was programming and solving problems with the Oculus Rift. I integrated the Oculus SDK into Unity, retooled their player controller for this project, tweaked the physics and accuracy of the hands, and more. I also created a branching text system using Yarn for the conversation tree.

I had a lot of work as a game designer as well. The core mechanic of the game is Googling, which is an incredibly unpredictable interaction. Playtesting would sometimes frustrate players if they felt the questions were too obscure.

The answer to this problem was to make the question topics as ridiculous as I possibly could, but make sure the spy can find the answer within 2 or 3 clicks with minimal reading. This way, they have a fair shot at finding the answer, but they won't take it too hard if they fail since the question seemed impossible in the first place (even if it's actually easy.) This, combined with the punishment for failing questions being very mild, makes sure the game is light and good fun.

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TAKEAWAYS

I came out of Sweet Nothings a significantly better programmer. Coding in VR is a huge undertaking that requires constant iteration and hotfixes. I came out of this project with much greater skill in C#, especially when it comes to understanding how Unity interacts with SDKs/APIs.

Playtesting was also incredibly important for this project. Everyone scans a Wikipedia page differently - some go for the table of contents and pick a section, others read the entire page from front to back, others kind of stare at the image and panic, and some people might end up on a completely different website than Wikipedia. The possibility space of the internet is literally infinite, so gauging the average difficulty of each question was a very involved process. Playtesting is important for every game, but this project was a reminder of how sometimes it is absolutely indispensable.

REFLECTION

1. The code and writing of the project ended up being so involved that I had to abandon the art. I'd love to pair up with a modeler or character designer and make the characters and environments look really polished.

2. VR is not necessary. The way the headset isolates and immerses the date player is great, but this is achievable with other methods (a divider/playing remotely) and I also think the answer-selecting mechanic (hitting cubes across the table with your hands) is clunky. This may not be a disadvantage, since the game will reach a wider audience if it doesn't require VR, but I want to find an in between that will make using the headset feel worth it without sacrificing the compatibility.

3. I want to add interactions for the date while the spy googles. For example, being able to call a waiter over in order to delay an answer, having a few conversation topics to bring up to skip a question if it proves too hard, or even ambient interactions in the style of Hearthstone's clickable surroundings, would add a ton of depth to the game.

1. The code and writing of the project ended up being so involved that I had to abandon the art. I'd love to pair up with a modeler or character designer and make the characters and environments look really polished.

2. VR is not necessary. The way the headset isolates and immerses the date player is great, but this is achievable with other methods (a divider/playing remotely) and I also think the answer-selecting mechanic (hitting cubes across the table with your hands) is clunky. This may not be a disadvantage, since the game will reach a wider audience if it doesn't require VR, but I want to find an in between that will make using the headset feel worth it without sacrificing the compatibility.

3. I want to add interactions for the date while the spy googles. For example, being able to call a waiter over in order to delay an answer, having a few conversation topics to bring up to skip a question if it proves too hard, or even ambient interactions in the style of Hearthstone's clickable surroundings, would add a ton of depth to the game.