To kick things off, an additional THANK YOU to everyone who’s pitched into my Kickstarter for “RedOfPaw’s Big Crazy Stupid VR Adventure and American Pie” - I raised way above my initial goal, which is awesome.
This will get me to Oculus Connect in September of course, but I also hit two stretch goals! The first will be a video diary of the trip (which should be good fun!) and the second being Stompz support for the game. Stompz is a great, very cost effective motion controller that you strap to your feet and, well… ‘stomp’ to move in game – very neat! Check it out HERE.
This did of course all start when someone suggested I raise money to go to Oculus Connect, and having literally no other choice I decided it was a good one. However I wanted to do it quickly, and as such I was very aware I would not have time to generate a single idea strong enough to stand on it’s own, meanwhile my other projects were simply not ready to bring to Kickstarter.
I felt my only option was to create a project that seemed SO stupid and ridiculous that it would generate some kind of interest on it’s own terms – and then use that interest to hook people into the two main ‘products’ I was selling: Helping me get to Oculus Connect and creating a VR game.
The first part: helping me out to get to Connect – seemed fairly straight forward. I had generated a certain amount of good-will with my Ghibli demos, so I felt I would be able to generate some money that way, but on it’s own it would feel like begging.
The second part was harder. Again, I had no good ideas sitting around waiting and so the only option was to throw it open wide – I would let people back the game and suggest their own ideas to go into the game. Allowing people to take part in the project and leave their own mark on it gave them an amount of ownership over the whole affair, and means their investment would not merely be helping me out, but also in an experience they could enjoy. This would all be hung around the idea that the journey to Connect would be the adventure the player goes on.
The first thing I decided on was the funding target: £1700. This would be the minimum I would require to cover all my costs to go to Connect from the UK. This worked out perfectly in the end – It was low enough that there was a small risk it would not be passed. Any higher and I might have struggled to justify why I required so much.
With the Kickstarter ‘page’ itself I made sure to include all the info people might want to learn about the idea, and then some stretch goals. I think in retrospect the stretch goals were all wildly unrealistic in terms of the level I had imagined we might reach – £20k was massively over the top. By the end I had basically re-done these to reach the video diary, which I had hoped to make anyway, and the Stompz goal, which would be completely reachable.
Backer Rewards were far more successful. £3 was a good low risk option for people to get the game itself, with ‘prices’ rising slowly to other levels, all of which fared well. A full breakdown is as follows:
£1 – 1 backer. They received nothing but thanks. With the next level getting the game itself only being £3 I do not consider it a big surprise only a single individual went with this.
£3 – 99 backers. Got the game.
£5 – 97 backers. Got the game and their name in the game somewhere. Perhaps I should have not had the £3 goal – perhaps all those who went with the £3 would have gone to the £5 instead and got the name anyway.
£10 – 73 backers. Got the game, their name and also a photo in the game. Again, almost as many backed at this level as the previous two. Sadly there is no ‘scientific’ way to test if people would have backed at £10 only if there were no lower level, but I suspect the overall take would have been less without the psychologically more pleasant lower levels.
£20 – 35 backers. Got to put an idea in the game. While most backers did not go with this one, I felt it was a great success and certainly helped to generate interest. Certainly the lower levels allowed people to have a stake in the game (their own name or photo) without the additional cost or effort of having the nebulous concept of an ‘idea’ put in the game.
£35 – 15 backers. Got to put their own assets in the game. I am not sure if I expected many to go with this one, as it was almost twice as much as the previous, but I felt people might be able to promote their own games or work and it seemed like a nice option to offer.
I think by this stage you can sort of see diminishing returns on raising the price…. even though the price has not doubled, the amount of backers has more than halved. It may be the rewards are simply not attractive enough to warrant the additional investment. It may also be that £5-£10 is simply the right level for my project. You may draw your own conclusions perhaps.
Physical rewards – t-shirts etc. may well be suitable and interesting methods to gain backers for projects with a wider scope.
£400 – 1 backer. They got themselves the option to appear as a character in the game itself! So this one was tricky, and to be honest I am not sure if I expected anyone to go for it, but I hoped they might. I was aware that it would take me a large amount of time to create a character, let alone one based on a real person, and so had to set the price at an amount that reflected this effort. This certainly paid off – and even with just one backer I feel this is a massive success.
For their contribution they will receive a fully animated character based on themselves, and no doubt be a significant part of the game. This sort of personalised and effort-intensive reward seems to certainly be worth it, although I guess there are only so many you can do given time restraints, which is why I restricted the number available.
Updates and Upticks
During the Kickstarter itself the main peaks in funding happened at the following:
-The start: This was probably the biggest sustained influx, for obvious reasons, as I was able to get updates out to Reddit, Twitter and then be picked up by the outlets who had previously covered my Ghibli demos. Fans of those in general also picked up on it. The Reddit /r/oculus subreddit were also awesome in their support.
-Regular updates as I went were of course great on Twitter and the Kickstarter itself, giving info on when the Trailer was coming or when I had something to share.
-Creating a Demo. At the start I quickly realised that the idea of the game itself was massively difficult to explain as I was effectively making it up as I went and so to showcase the sort of thing it might be I decided to create a demo. Announcing this got a spike.
-The Trailer for the demo was an odd one in concept. I had a demo I was making, but it was taking so long and I wanted to get a new update out. The idea I had was to create a video update from myself, much like the kickstarter video, and play it on a screen in the location for the demo – which people could view in VR. This and then a day later with a video of it got a big uptick. These sorts of updates: with new media to view or watch are great ideas.
-The Demo itself. This was a few short days before the end, but probably saw the largest boost before the last few hours. The demo got some great responses and allowed me the opportunity to get out on all the same channels as before with some legitimately new and cool content.
-The end. The last few hours saw, as I think most Kickstarters see, a nice final upsurge of support. Mostly small numbers but a lot of them, which says to me the more casual interest decided to take part after they see how the campaign fares.
My kickstarter is going to be a lot different from many, but I think there are a few lessons that could be learned from it that might be useful:
-A realistic goal. How many people even have VR headsets? How many might be interested in the idea? My own goal was set low, as I knew that even if everyone with a DK1 saw it, many would simply not care if I went to Connect or not. Even larger, more serious and awesome games might struggle in the current VR ‘market’ with too high a goal.
-Have an audience ready to go. My Ghibli demos had generated an amount of good will and ‘fans’, as well as media outlets who had reported on them. I had twitter followers who were interested in what I did next.
-A unique ‘hook’. In my own this would be both ‘ridiculous, stupid, yet funny idea’ and how I was raising money to go to Connect. Without my previous work with the Ghibli demos neither of those two would have worked however, as I had shown I was already capable of ‘serious’ work and so the ‘silly’ nature of the Kickstarter had a foundation to rest on.
-Updates and the demo. Regular updates with new info or ideas for what was to come helped keep interest and the trailer for the demo was not merely a video with titles and some ominous music… it was possible to view it in VR itself. The demo was massively important. However for a ‘regular’ kickstarter with more planning than my own I think the demo should come BEFORE the kickstarter has begun and as such can raise interest before the campaign even kicks off. However a NEW demo with NEW ideas could do amazing things halfway through a campaign.
Making of the Demo
The DK2 version of the demo for Windows is available here
It was made to showcase the ideas and feel that might come to the final game itself, yet even so I suspect the final product will be very different still! Yet it does give people an idea of what I am able to produce in my spare time over a couple of weeks. Ideas were generated, and many thrown away. At one stage it was going to be twice as long, with extended Red Panda sections, but the animation took too long, and so some of those ideas will be recycled into the full game.
The modelling, texturing and lighting of the main location and furniture is almost entirely from scratch, bar a few specific items (the DK2 for instance came from a pre-made set of assets). This was by far the largest time-sink. Even so I am not 100% happy with the lack of DESIGN – it’s very much made up as I went along and isn’t a particularly interesting space, aside from a few nice objects to examine. Unity is pretty quick to work with however so it was a simple case of dropping everything in and a couple of lights to finish it up. The outside is a simple panoramic image attached to a curved plane.
To the shelves in the middle I added in previous objects I’d made for the Ghibli demos, allowing people with a DK2 to get nice and close and observe the details.
The video content that plays on the screen was filmed locally and quickly edited. This simply sits on a plane and is triggered to turn the plane ‘on’ and automatically start the video and audio content. The video and audio are separate with the video a low-res H264 .MOV to keep file sizes small and the scene running quickly.
Oculus integration was very simple, dropping in the prefab to Unity and ensuring it’s all working as desired. The DK2 SDK is a little more tricky, but not a great deal more.
Interaction is the most complicated part of the process. I have a ‘raycast’ sticking out the front of one camera. When you press ‘A’ on a controller or the left mouse button it ‘fires’ the raycast. If the raycast hits an object it then checks the objects ‘tag’. If the tag matches one of the presets it then ‘does’ something. In the case of the door, if the door is ready to open then it simply runs an animation of the door opening and an audio file. Collecting the DK2 box involves changing the box’s parent to the player and then moving it over time with a ‘smooth’ to the motion to the player. The rest of the interaction is variations on the same thing, with some boolean coding to ensure things happen at the right time.
The Dawson’s Creek room and Virtual Boy setups were simple changes, with Dawon’s involving new texture work and lighting (and music) and the Virtual Boy room swapping the shaders on the materials to Toon shaders, with the outline as bright red. These were simple, quick changes that had a lot of effect for their silliness.
The angry Red Panda character was added last. The character was one I had previously modelled and rigged, but not used. Animation was done in 3DS Max and hand animated with a video of the voice actor used as reference. The voice actor is a friend who had some spare time! Once animated this was simply dropped into the scene. The character has an idle loop and when triggered goes over to the main animation/audio. Simple, yet hopefully effective as a nice little joke for some.
Overall presentation was an important aspect, and even though I had VERY little time to get it made I wanted to ensure that I was reaching a level of quality of presentation I could feel proud of (considering time restraints).
I hope that provides a little insight into how the short demo was made and as always feel free to get in contact with any questions you may have about any of it.
Got my DK2!
So awesome to have it turn up! It was like Christmas! Aaaaand… of course I’ve been so busy since I’ve barely had a chance to use it. Senza Peso however was a standout experience for the new HD screen, and I love the new test demo built into the config utility to showcase the positional tracking. Kokiri Forest I have tried (Zelda fan :) and got great results with, and I Technolust is of course EPIC as always. Radial-G works REALLY nicely, although the movement triggers my motion sickness sometimes, yet FAR less than on a DK1. Wind Waker emulator with DK2 looks AMAZING also, so I’ll have to try that.
The DK2 versions of all my demos are available here:
Click HERE for REDOFPAW KICKSTARTER DEMO – DK2 Version!
Click HERE for SPIRITED AWAY BOILER ROOM – DK2 Version!
Click HERE for TOTORO BUS STOP SCENE – DK2 Version!
And you can also watch a VIDEO of them all by CLICKING HERE – video by the awesome EvolPenguin.
The Great: The new low-persistence, lovely OLED screen. Positional tracking, when set up correctly is epic. Power button on top – I no longer have to unplug it! Direct to Rift is an awesome concept for when it works.
Not so Great: The screen still has screendoor effect (although reduced), resolution etc. Fiddly set up sometimes. Direct to Rift and the Unity SDK still have issues, but hopefully soon to be fixed.
Other notes: Take time to set up! Get the camera in a good spot, set your IPD (much more important than DK1. There are of course plenty of guides out there to get the best out of the DK2.
Unity Integration is pretty much drag and drop, however with positional tracking scale becomes more important to get right (and I still have work to do on that with my demos). DX11/deffered. Direct to Rift? But still pretty awesome stuff (all working in the first day to a degree). Some fixes, but waiting to get new version.
South West VR – Bristol
A great time was had for the evening! Set in the very chill Chill Bar, Small st, there was a nice room, someone brought cupcakes, and there were some awesome people. Sam Watts from Radial-G came along with their DK2 demo (sadly their kickstarter did not quite make it, although I am sure they will still make an awesome game!), Toxic Games came along with Qube, which looked very cool, Altergaze were there (Liviu is a cool guy!), Wormslayer (of HLVR fame) was present and a very nice chap, and Dan who set it al up did a great job, and spent the night running around ensuring it was all awesome! Met other awesome people as well and hope to keep in contact with some interesting folks.
It was also great to show the Ghibli demos off to people in public for the first time – got some great feedback and somewhat impressed how few people got stuck on Totoro!
Bossa Studios (Surgeon Simulator) for London Oculus Rift/VR for Games meetup! Sept 2nd. Had an awesome time the first time, where I got to meet plenty of great folks, including Callum from Oculus (who I have since bothered way too much). Poppy who works to set up the whole thing is a class act and I am sure she will do a great job with everyone at Bossa to make the next one even better.
Oculus Connect. 19th and 20th Sept! This is the big one of course. I shall be producing a video diary for everyone which I shall release on my return, including an awesome recipe for American Apple Pie (the best almost-two-days in Hollywood can possible find, maybe, perhaps). Should be good!
I am working on some updates to all my demos based on feedback to the DK2 versions. This will be after the next versions of the SDK and drivers drop from Oculus to avoid any changes breaking it all.
The full game for RedOfPaw’s… has gone into pre-production, and I am collecting names and ideas from people who backed the kickstarter. Photos and other assets will be collected later. Deadlines for these will be announced, but won’t be anytime soon. Full production will begin after Connect.
Otherwise I am working on some new experiments in VR storytelling, the first using the Spirited Away demo as a base. You might have noticed a full Chihiro model in the Kickstarter Demo on the shelf. Lin may also make an appearance. This demo may or may not make its way into the wider world depending on how happy I am with it.
However, Decay Theory is the next big project I am working on – a VR ‘cinematic’ storytelling experience, created for a real-time game engine (UE4 perhaps). I will likely be working on this one for a while, but it’s fun to drop teases and hints about it. But it is very exciting :D