Game Designer ∙ Puzzle Adventure ∙ PlayStation VR
Brilliancy is the project that I have worked on back at PlayStation. It is a VR puzzle game in which the player has the supernatural power of controlling, aligning the sun, and
positioning the shadow for altering the environment to solve the puzzle.
‣ Developed navigation mechanics and gameplay systems that prevent nausea on Sony’s VR headset.
‣ Created one page design documents to explain unique VR puzzle mechanics for clients and designed 50+ levels.
‣ Deconstructed and analyzed VR game mechanics, levels, and gameplay created by other studios.
‣ Worked with game director to refine game mechanics, background story, and puzzle systems.
‣ Collaborated closely with programmers to develop game mechanics and tools for
designers and artists.
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I was fortunate to join the company a few weeks after the PlayStation VR headset
announcement at the 2014 GDC event. As the only game designer in a small agile team with two other teammates, one artist and one programmer, I was responsible for all the design works. From Ideation to documentation to in-engine implementation. Our team has three main goals to achieve during the development time:
‣ To create a free-roaming navigation system that provides a smooth experience and
reduces the cause of motion sickness side effects.
‣ Discover the unique gameplay system, mechanics, or design principle for creating virtual reality games and leverage the PlayStation VR system.
‣ To build a unique VR experience that only plays on the PlayStation VR system and apply the first two goals.
1. Only for PS4 DualShock controller.
During my time at PlayStation, the headset was still in early development, and the PlayStation Move controller was unavailable for PSVR. However, we needed to create something playable before the PlayStation Move controller input function was completed. Therefore, the only thing we had was the PS4 DualShock controller. We faced a challenge which is how to let the player hold a virtual item similar to a PS4 DualShock controller but not look exactly like a controller and at the same time not break the immersion.
The art style of Brilliancy and the game’s theme responds to a journey in an abandoned mystical fantasy world. So the visual representation is an essential element in a VR game, such as in-game UI. Sometimes, an unconvincing component can break the player’s immersion that is a crucial design principle we try to avoid.
It’s a massive challenge for us, and we knew the experience could be way better if we could use PS Moves as input devices. We overcame this challenge from two aspects.
‣ One is the game story setting; we tried to revise it with that players have to use an ancient civilization technology device to access the supernatural power. Since it is an “ancient civilization technology device,” it makes sense to look like a mechanical shape or design.
‣ Secondly, we kept the shape similar to the actual DualShock. We made the input function as simple as possible, lowering the learning cost of controlling this supernatural power, so players can smoothly engage with the game flow.
2. Navigation system investigation.
Before building the gameplay and the mechanic, we analyzed many navigation systems from other VR games to understand the most comfortable way to navigate in virtual environments.
This task is challenging because virtual reality started to get attention in 2014 and most of the demos are created by VR enthusiasm developers who own Oculus DK1 or DK2. So there are limited demos or experiences we can study, and most of them are 360 videos or the roller coaster-style navigation system.
(SONY announced PlayStation Project Morpheus at 2014 GDC. HTC announced Vive Developer Kit in 2016. Microsoft Hololens announced in 2015.)
We have tried many different navigation systems in virtual reality, such as teleporting, point-to-point teleporting, traditional FPS control, climbing movement, moving on a trail, etc. Many of today’s VR games implement some methods from above already, but back in 2014, it might be a concept that needs to be proven.
After all the navigation experiments, we decided to adopt FPS moving, but with snapping rotation and drifting. In this system, players can look straight down to access a control schemes UI menu to customize the parameters, such as moving speed, snapping angels, drifting, etc. We also made a few presets for players as well.