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  • Writer's pictureBretton Hamilton

Bit Bowling - Humble Origins

My final months in Australia were focused on immersing myself in new and challenging directions before I would have to make the ultimate plunge into the unknown; moving to Europe! During this time I traveled, scuba dived in the Great Barrier Reef, jumped out of a plane at 14k feet, and taught Unity alongside a VR course in Sydney. This was a phenomenal opportunity as it allowed me to explore and understand UI and UX on a new interactive platform.

In the final weeks of the class, students flocked to me for programming assistance. In a 10-Week class, we had only covered coding lightly. Any group with the desire to work on something a bit more sophisticated needed some hands on help!

This is where I met Danny Webster and Kwame Powell, both talented designers. I had helped them on a class project called Bit Bowling.

The concept combined bowling, mini-golf and billiards to create an intuitive and engaging VR experience. It was well received in the class but the students wanted to do something more with the project. They asked if I would be interested in helping them give Bit Bowling a proper treatment. While I had taken a 10-Week VR Design class, this seemed like the perfect project to begin my VR Portfolio.

The first stage of development required us to look at what we had, determine the core experience we are trying to provide, and then to start from scratch. Danny would focus on user experience and handling early VR integration (My HTC Vive is still in the mail!) Kwame would handle audio design and implementation. Lastly, my role was that of the level designer and developer.

Now at the helm of the level design, I threw out the initial designs. We needed something that made proper sense, and would allow players to develop a mental map of the course.

Bit Bowling evolved from a hybrid VR game into a more focused concept.

You play as a farmer who must "lead" his flock of sheep back down the mountainside. Not every sheep will survive the perilous journey! Sand traps will slow sheep down and floating rocks can knock these wooly critters off cliffs. In your race against the sunset, you may even be forced to leave a few behind to ensure at least one or two sheep make it to the finish line.

The basic conventions from the original version are there. - False ledges for 'balls' to fall out of bounds - Moving obstacles to impede progress - Silly and thematic concept

However we cut a few concepts as well. - Billiard balls are boring compared to knocking around floppy rolling sheep!

- Cue balls wouldn't have a range of properties - The whole free asset art style needs improvement

Once the team agreed with on the new direction I hopped into Unity and mocked up the course.

Now that the level has been blocked out I'll be programming the core mechanics of the game. - Balls/Sheep tracking which have fallen off an edge - Re-Racking balls/sheep between platforms

- VR Integration

The HTC Vive is currently out-of-stock so for the next few weeks I'll be doing development without a headset. Fortunately, the ball related scripting can be done without VR.

Thanks for reading!


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