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VR Two-gether |Cooperative Multiplayer| 2023

About

Genre: PC-VR Cross-Platform Asymmetric Cooperative Multiplayer Game  

SoftwareUnity, Oculus, Trello

Project Type: Team Project

Development and Research Time: 3 months of design, development, playtesting, data analysis, and documentation

Team members: Rana Jahani, Kalpan Agrawal, William Maier, Viraj Shirodkar

 

My Role: Creative Director, Level Designer, User Researcher

My Responsibilities

  • Conceptualized and designed gameplay mechanics for a cross-platform cooperative multiplayer game for both PC and VR experiences

  • Designed multiplayer levels with different mechanics and affordances for the PC and VR experiences, employing an iterative approach within the Unity game engine

  • Created engaging encounters and game beats which included sketching diagrams, creating blockouts, building structures, applying texture and lighting

  • Strategically placed game objects into the scenes to deliver the environmental storytelling 

  • Designed cooperative multiplayer challenges for the PC and VR characters

  • Designed tutorial game beats for the PC and VR

  • Balanced the game pacing based on the character scale and gameplay mechanics metrics

  • Facilitated communication across team and managed tasks for the team on Trello 

  • Contributed to survey administration, data collection and analysis, and paper documentation

 

Game Concept

VR Two-gether is a cross-platform asymmetric cooperative multiplayer game in which one player uses a VR headset and controllers and the other player plays on a PC. Both players need to collaborate and solve cooperative puzzles in order to progress through the game.

With a cross-platform game, two players having asymmetric controls and affordances, and cooperative play with shared goals, we tested:

1) Whether the asymmetric controls in VR and PC interfere or assist with the shared intentionality in a cross-platform cooperative multiplayer game,

2) Whether asymmetric gameplay and controls can lead to equally satisfying experiences for both VR and PC players.

VR-Two-gether.JPG

 Two playtesters playing VR Two-gether prototype. While both players share a virtual gameworld, one player is in the VR and another player controls the PC.

Gameplay

           Story            

The story of the game starts when the PC player who is a treasure hunter and searches for treasure in ancient hidden cities meets the VR player who is a time traveler. The two players have different skills to learn from each other, VR has technology and futuristic knowledge, PC has mythical knowledge of the ancient world and have a mutual give-and-take relation and balanced abilities as the game progresses.

            Intent           

One of our design goals was to create a game that would bring players together and let them enjoy a shared experience regardless of platforms they use. The idea led us design VR Two-gether, a cross-platform cooperative game which taps into different affordances of PC and VR platforms. The mechanics for both players were set with the intent to create balance for the gameplay pacing of the two players.

     PC Mechanics     

In the first level, the PC player can walk around the environment, climb over walls, ledges, or crouch under obstacles, jump over limited spaces, and wall climb. The PC Player can also push certain objects in the game as per the puzzles require.

In the second level, the PC player can use their shield to protect themselves from hazards and obstacles as well as shooting the shield at interactive objects like levers to solve environmental puzzles.

     VR Mechanics     

In the first level, the VR Players can move in the game via three different ways, teleporting, controller-joystick movement, and walking; The VR players can also interact with all sorts of objects in the game in different, realistic ways like most VR games offer. They have limited tele-kinesis for certain objects and can hold and throw game objects.

In the second level, the VR player can use their staff to shoot at different objects, deactivate or destroy them to solve puzzles.

Level Design

The game consists of two levels, each with tutorials for both players at the beginning and cooperative puzzle challenges throughout. These levels are designed based on a spectrum of different cooperative dynamics and different affordances for the VR and PC platforms.

                    First Level                    

In the first level, players are introduced to asymmetric core mechanics with the focus of movement and traversal which consist of parkour abilities for the PC player and teleportation for the VR player. Players have a chance to learn the controls and new mechanics in a short tutorial, then need to work together to overcome cooperative puzzle challenges.

               First Level's Flow               

The level starts from a camp site where both players get familiar with their controls. After a short tutorial section, players get back together and explore cooperative challenges until they reach a temple.

 

       First Level Game Beats Modeling       

 

Here you can take a look at the screenshot, sketches, and greybox models of game beats in level 1. Please click on the pictures to have a full view.

 

                    Second Level                    

 

In the second level, asymmetric mechanics of shooting for the VR  player and shielding for the PC player are introduced. Similar to level one, players first have time to practice the mechanics at their own pace and then play together in cooperative challenges.

               Second Level's Flow               

Upon entering the temple, the players discover new weapons including magical shield and staff. However, these weapons are the property of the temple and taking them triggers a trap causing the players to plummet into a lava-filled pit. Now faced with a ominous cave filled with deadly traps, the players must work together, utilizing their newfound weapons to overcome the obstacles and solve environmental puzzles in order to escape.

 

       Second Level Game Beats Modelong      

To create engaging environmental challenges for the players, I began by brainstorming potential scenarios that incorporated both shielding and shooting mechanics. As I developed these ideas, I gradually introduced additional layers of complexity to make the challenges more compelling for both solo puzzles and cooperative puzzles. Here you can take a look at the screenshot, sketches, and greybox models of game beats in level 2. Please click on the pictures to have a full view.

 

Cooperative Puzzle Design

We encourage cooperation between the two players by designing challenges based on cooperative dynamics that create meaningful cooperation proposed by Patrick Redding in his GDC talk.

 

Some of the cooperative dynamics that we used to design co-op challenges in VR Two-gether are:

  • Gating/Tethering - No players proceed unless all players proceed in the game.

  • Punitive Systems - One player is trapped and another player needs come to rescue

  • Asymmetric Abilities - Players have different sets of actions

  • Combined Actions - Players need to apply more than one skillset at the same time

        Helping Each Other        
05.JPG

The gap is too wide for the PC player and they can't jump cross the gap. The VR player should teleport themselves across the gap and interact with a lever which lifts the bridge. Then, the PC player can jump over the bridge to cross the gap.

Looks like the teleportation stone has fallen and the VR player can't use it! The PC player to wall climb the ledges and cross the gap to get to the next platform. From there, they interact with a teleportation stone, rotate and move it to a proper position so that the VR player can use it and teleport themselves over the gap.

        Worked Out Strategies        

Both players reach the Temple's entrance, but it's locked. They both need to follow the symbols related to their abilities and get to the top of two symmetric walls. Frome there, they should both interact with the interactable plates which are linked to the Temple's gate to open it.

Final Co-op Challenge.JPG

This is an image of the final cooperative puzzle in Level 2 where the PC player must shield the VR player and themselves from the flames while the VR player shoot at the gems on the cylinder to connect the magical power of gems on the cylinder to the orbs in the statues' hands. Every time gems are connected, the flame underneath it would be deactivated. Laser 1 deactivates flame 1, laser 2 deactivate flame 2 etc. When the players successfully solve the puzzle, the central time travel gate will open and both players can escape the cave.

Cooperative Puzzles Analysis

I drew inspiration from It Takes Two in designing cooperative challenges. I analyzed the cooperative challenges and puzzles in this game to understand game design techniques and patterns used to design for cooperative play. 

Below I included two examples of my analysis to show my though process:

ittakestwo1_edited.jpg

Symmetric Puzzle: I help you with a puzzle, then you help me with the same puzzle.

Problem: Gaps

Solution: Interactables - Switch and airflow cans

Ability: A switch that changes the airflow direction, jumping and dashing

Skills: Timing, Communication, Puzzle Solving

ittakestwo2_edited.jpg

Asymmetric Puzzle: I help you with my specific abilities and then you help me with your specific abilities.
Problem: Gaps
Solution: 1) shoot nails at yellow sticks so that May can cross the gaps.
2) Then hit a button with hammer to bring up a bridge for Cody to cross 3) and finally they reunion in the final platform.
Abilities: Nail (hook) + Hammer (grapple)
Skills: Timing, Precision (aiming), Communication, Puzzle Solving

Playtesting and Research

We documented our research on game usability and player experience in a paper. If you are interested in learning about what inspired us, the research methodology, and the results of our experiment, please check out our paper.

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