EnigmaVR is a VR experience made using the Unreal Engine 4 and Oculus Rift. It is an escape room-like game. The player has to find his way out of the room by inspecting objects, solving puzzles and collecting gems. The main feature of this experience is that the player can change their height (from 1.80 m to 18 cm). In order to get through areas usually unattainable. This ability is inspired from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Ant-Man. The game was released on the 24th of May 2016.
The game takes place in a magician/alchemist’s laboratory and the “era” would be around the beginning of the Georgian period. The magician is trying to create a spell to resize objects at will. You, the player, are a human cobaye. As the magician successfully resized you down, he left the laboratory to spread the word. Leaving you in a cage.
Being a great magician, the door to his laboratory is sealed with a magic circle. In order to get out of here, you have to find a way to unseal the door.
The game is full of objects to inspect and take.
And unexpected paths to discover.
We were a team of two gameplay programmers: Alexandre Lecomte and I (Pierre Planeau). As mentioned earlier, the game was made using the Unreal Engine 4. It was our first time using this engine, so we had to learn the basics while prototyping the game. Also, we did not have an artist for the game so we found most of our assets online (on 3dsky.org). Also, we had some help from Jordan Jacobe (friend, but also Environmental Artist at Ubisoft Paris), Aurore Gal (she notably drew us the magic circle) and Laura Trouche (with whom we did the game Dead Poule).
Having a better PC than Alexandre, I was hosting the project. Thus I did the entire level design and assets integration. I did the fundamental gameplay classes in C++, which were then used as a base for blueprints. I participated in the conception of the enigmas and implemented them in the game. Also, I did some gameplay features like the growing/stretching ability, the locks, the doors, the magic circle animations and the objects inspecting animation. Finally, I did the loading screen, options screen, title screen and the VR integration.
Here you can see a scene comparison between one of the first prototypes of the game and one of the latest.
EnigmaVR made us learn a lot about VR. Indeed, we pretty much did all the mistakes related to VR games:
- We did have an invasive UI.
- The character could move around freely using the controller.
- Players could move the camera freely using the controller.
- The character could fall from significant height.
- The size changing ability.
But we did not only do mistakes. For example we have a very good use of the depth in our game: objects close observation, the sense of a gigantic world when small, the claustrophobia when inside the mouse tunnel. Also, we were aware of a few “rules” to follow in VR games like not allowing the character to jump, or to “die suddenly”.
Additionally, we resolved an unsolved Unreal Engine VR problem (unsolved as we were making the game aka February – May 2016). Indeed, when using a VR headset and moving towards a wall in the game, the camera would go through the wall if the user lean their head forward. After days of fruitless research we decided to try something new: resizing the whole room by a factor of 10. And it worked! The camera doesn’t go through the wall now. I might detail this in an article, contact me if you want more details.
In the end, it was a crazy project for two “new to VR, new to Unreal Engine” developers. And even if we struggled a lot, it was all worth it.
You can find the game on IndieDB if you want to try it yourself!