Turbine Trouble is an educational VR game for kids in which the robot Toby teaches you about tidal energy and underwater pollution.
Turbine Trouble was an university project for the Oyfo museum in Hengelo, NL as client. In this project, we were given eight weeks time of development with a team of five artists and two programmers. The assignment that was given to us was to create an educational VR game/experience about one renewable energy with young kids (age 10) as a target group. We chose to develop the game in Unity3D, since we were the most familiar with this engine. Our game is targeted to be played with an Oculus Rift VR.
In a VR world the players generally try to interact with everything possible to see what is going to happen in this virtual world. One of my tasks during this project make the player interact with as much stuff as possible in a natural way. Some functionalities, like grabbing objects, was quite easy to implement due to the Oculus VR SDK. However even these things needed some refinement and customization for our own project. Since grabbing and pushing an object was used for a wide variety of game mechanics my co-programmer and me decided on a way to solve all these interactions for the future so he could work on the envorinment without having to wait for my player. On top of that I implemented my own teleportation for the movement of the player as well, since we tested out a couple different things regarding the movement in VR.
Companion & Vacuum functionality
My main task throughout this project was to design and implement a companion AI which guides the player through the level and provides objectives to reach. Our inital idea was to give the companion the ability to transform into a vacuum cleaner so that the player could call the companion and clean up the trash underwater. However during the first playtest session with the kids we noticed that this is not going to work out because of various reasons and we decided to make the vacuum a seperate object. In this scenario the companion is still in charge of the vacuum though, since it is carrying it around on its back as long as the player does not need it. Whenever the player does need or want it, he can just call the companion with a button press and the companion will hand over the vacuum. Also the player does not need to worry about losing their vacuum, since Toby, the companion, will always get it for them if they dropped the vacuum somewhere.
Tutorial & Objectives
Since the companion is in charge of assigning objectives to complete to the player, I created an objective log for him to keep track of the status of the missions. The objectives which filled the log could easily be placed and adjusted by the desigers to try out different objective types, positions etc. Of course it also saved me a lot of time to not be involved in every kind of level/objective placement and design. Since we also decided a tutorial to explain all the necessary mechanics, we could naturally create this based on the already existing objective system and tailor it to our needs.
To really show the impact of the players actions underwater, we had the idea to clean up the underwater scene based on how much trash the player removed in their playthrough. Initially the water started out being digustingly green, polluted by tons of trash and lifeless. By cleaning up the scenery the water would gradually become cleaner, more blue and more vibrant, since there would also be flocks of fish and other sea creatures swimming around the player. Since this is an education game, we tried to put a lot of focus on this feedback to show the underwater pollution.