Pirates VR TD aka Poseidon VR
A VR tower defense game (from scratch)
Table of contents
The starting signal has been given
Our first serious VR project will be a pirates based tower defense game, code named PoseidonVR.
We just finished a first quick prototype to get a feeling for the visuals and I am super excited. This will be a very fun and insightful trip.
Before I get into the details on what will be so special about this game, let me lay out what we plan in case you want to follow along or even join in.
The project and why you might care
Before I dig into details of our (very cool) take at Tower Defense, let me sketch out what this is about on a more abstract level.
This project is about learning, getting in touch with a like minded community - and having a lot of fun along the way.
We want to create something to be proud of and get it into the Oculus store.
Revenues are only an issue as one of the - let us call it acceptance criteria.
We want to reach a quality which justifies to charge anything at all.
So our business goal for this specific project is to have at least €1 in revenues. This may sound silly but the difference between a free product and a commercial product is huge if you look at all the non-coding stuff involved.
We want to make the whole project open source and will try to document every (mis)step and lessons learned on the way and maybe help others to get started with their own journey.
We also plan to create some in-depth courses which target not only the technical topics of software developement for VR but also some background on how to manage software projects like these and hopefully how to make them commercially successful.
But now for the exciting part - the game itself.
(Scene from one of the prototypes).
Pirates are approaching your island and you have to put up your defenses. First ships appear at the horizon, follow the coast and finally land upon your shores. Here they "unload" their cargo (Pirates and siege weapons). The pirates then approach your city over land and through tunnels. Upon arrival they begin to attack the city gates. If the gates fall, you lose.
The attackers follow a more or less fixed path to your stronghold and you have to place defensive structures to prevent them from reaching it. The attackers come in waves, starting with a simple old pirate with a musket in a rowing boat and ending with an armada of warships filled to the brim with sophisticated siege weapons.
So far so good. This story and games description might describe any solid old fashioned tower defense game.
But we want to introduce some special mechanics which will make it stand on its own and which we think will make it very fun to play.
1. Change of perspective / play modes
Strategic mode - 3rd person
In the strategy mode the player hovers 50 meters tall (which is NOT the same as flying 50 meters above ground!) over the island and can watch enemies and place structures.
This scaling lets the island look like a big toy world - something which is simply not achievable on a flat screen where you can see no real difference if you just fly above ground or if you are that huge.
If you happen to play Walkabout minigolf: The aesthetics are similar to when you are in the mode where you float as a giant above the courses. Also Moss comes to mind. Simply awful IMHO and not used enough in VR games yet.
Ability usage - 1st person
While the strategic mode would definitly be enough to create s solid TD game, we want to make even better use of VR in a creative and engaging way by giving the tower special abilities which need to be executed by the player in first person view.
This means: When available, the player can "beam" into a tower, get scaled to "normal" size along the way and then execute the ability.
These abilities will be what makes the game stand out as opposed to regular TD games.
Imagine a "rock thrower tower" (Ballista)which normally fires rocks at 1 rock every 2 seconds.
This tower might for example allow the player to pick up rocks themselves from a pile with their hand and throw them as fast as they can onto the approching enemies for say 10 seconds (duration of the ability).
Other towers might make use of aiming, handling of levers, hand gestures for conjuring a storm, defending against incoming missiles ... The important thing is: The interactions here have nothing to do with "simulated mouse or controller clicks", but need more physical engagment.
2. Usage of 3rd dimension (height) in maps, multiple play levels.
The maps will make full use of the 3rd dimension, meaning, the path will lead the enemy up very high mountains and down into deep valleys. In a flat screen game this kind of setup would require a lot of scrolling and turning with the mouse and be more frustrating than anything else.
In a VR game you can change your point of view instantly and look at the scene from every kind of angles by just moving and moving your head.
3. Two-phased assault
A specialty will be the two phased approach with the pirates first having to land their ships and then continue on land. This will allow for some strategic depth when deciding what structures to place where.
4. Tower upgrades
We plan to introduce a special mechanic for tower upgrades.
The towers themselves have multiple (3-4) floors. Instead of upgrading a tower to make it faster or stronger or what ever, a second or third weapon can be placed on higher floors.
This allows for a big number of potential deadly combinations without the need to create a giant list of different towers with an upgrade path for each. Also depending on the floor some weapons obviously become stronger while others become weaker.
State of things
At the time of this writing, we finished some 6 weeks of research and prototyping (the source code of some ot the prototypes, I will post in the next post).
Today (actually directly after I finish this post) we will create the main public repository on github and get going.
Our roadmap places the first playable version at the end of April.
Who is behind the project?
At this point in February 2022, the project is mainly driven by a very charismatic, smart, good looking, intelligent - and yet humble! father-son duo:
- Tobias (the old guy, almost completly spent from years and years and years of hard work and a very demanding family) and
- Max (the still fresh one).
But we hope that more people will join us in the coming months.
We are running a small software, consulting and training company based in central Germany with a track record of almost 30 years in building "serious" software, mostly corporate and blue chips stuff.
Last year we decided though to keep Mark and Meta some company on their most certainly rough trip (judging from Metas current Stock Price) into the "metaverse" over the next years. Call it midlife crisis if you want. I call it a dream come true, since I am a VR fanboy for decades now, but never saw the market yet (not even back in 2016).
So, this is a strategic, long time project and it might take years until VR really goes mainstream and we dare to leave the good old IT business behind. But we combine the patience that comes with age and the longevity and vigour of youth, so what can possibly go wrong?
But obviously at this point this is only a spare time project and must fight for our time with projects that bring in money, university, the family (dad, mum, 5 kids, 1 dog, 2 cats, 1 rabbit, 1 turtle and growing!) and what else makes it to the priority list.
So I am curious how fast we can go. Our roadmap says at the beginning of the 4th quarter this year we publish. In 8 months I will revisit this statement :-)
Why this blog?
Simple. Networking. It makes so much more fun with a bunch of people to brainstorm and come up with cool ideas.
There must be so many people out there who (as we did) dabble around with Unity for years because it is just so much fun, but never take the step to do something for real - a professionally managed project end to end. I myself have at least 20 unity projects in different states of decay which I started over the last decade.
Feel free to contact us if you want to participate or even just hang out in VR Chat a bit and talk about some nerdish stuff like the latest haptic vest from Tesla or such, or play a round of Walkabout Minigolf.
No commitment required whatsoever.
Even though we are German and as such naturally have no idea on how to be funny or entertaining (or even just likable), we reasonably get along with all you strange guys from foreign parts. Even from the US!
Ah. Now that I think about it. What about the UK? You know, I am still a bit upset about you leaving us after all those years. But as long as you can stand some Brexit related jokes... all right. Be welcome!
Ah and when I say "guys", this obviously is meant as a gender neutral term. In fact I utterly detest these male only settings, which (given the still comparatively rather rare sightings of female developers) are much to prevalent. And just for completeness, I could'nt care less if you identify with your biological gender or not :-) Just be what you are.