Recognized as the largest game developers jam in the world, Global Game Jam (GGJ) attracted more than 28,000 developers, scattered across 78 countries this year. With over 5,400 games produced, more than 60 were designed especially for use with the Oculus Rift Dk2. Here we take a look at some of the more memorable VR demos to come from the event, which ended on January 25th.
See Also: ‘Holocommander’ Oculus Rift RTS Prototype Emerges from Global Game Jam 2015
The yearly theme of the jam usually centers around a simple phrase or question, a prompt that gives developers a base to work from for the next 48 hours of tireless game development. Needless to say, Global Game Jam participants were confused by this year’s theme, “what do we do now?” and wading through the 60-odd Oculus Rift prototype games, which were courteously gathered by our Teutonic friends over at We Are VR, we can’t say we aren’t a little confused ourselves. The open-ended nature of the question yielded a wide variety of games, with heavy emphasis on snap decision making that either result in a short congratulatory message, or a black ‘Game Over’ screen.
Some looked very promising, with cohesive game mechanics and well-layed instructions, while others left the user with little to do but raise their arms in defeat, and say “what do I do now?” Out of all the VR prototype games, we chose 5 of the most innovative and engaging, all of which you can play yourself following the included download links.
Po Ta To
Don’t be ashamed to let out a hearty “chip the glasses, crack the plates, that’s what Bilbo Baggins hates!” as you dodge an onslaught of plates and dishes thrown by an ungracious dwarven guest. The developers worked out of a space in the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and have based their game on a quirky reoccurring fascination with potatoes found in the Lord of the Rings films. An experimental mode also exists that allows you to go into ‘bullet time’ by shouting ‘po-ta-to’ into the microphone, but it was finicky and went off at strange times.
I managed to dodge about 3 dishes on the first try, but found that near misses would often count as hits. With that said, I found Po Ta To to be an interesting stand up experience that is just begging for 360-degree positional tracking like that found on Oculus’ Crescent Bay prototype headset.
Much like the IndieCade 2014 finalist, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, Say What!? is a two-person co-op game that puts one person in the Oculus Rift, and provides the other with an instructional manual with the unique goal of guiding the Rift-bound player through a series of timed puzzles. A Stockholm based team composed of only 3 people built Say What!? , but it was by far one of the most ‘complete’ games that I tested.
I asked my girlfriend to play along with me, but because of her persistent motion sickness, I didn’t want to subject her to anything that was still ‘rough around the edges’ like the sort of experience a game built in 48 hours would provide. So she read the instructions as I raced against time to match symbols and insert codes, all the while being stared in the face by the omnipresent ticking clock hanging over my head, which was ultimately my undoing as tempers flared.
On the first try we weren’t able to make it any farther than 6 out of the 16 rooms, randomly numbered to add to the confusion. On the second try, we were hoping to clear all 6 previous rooms without a problem, but alas, the rooms are randomly mixed to make for a unique playing experience each time.
Update (2/10, 10:25AM EST): The developer tells us an updated build of the game with fewer bugs is on the way. We’ll add it below when available.
Update 2 (2/10, 6:29PM EST): We’ve updated the link below to a newer build (1.9) provided by the developer which allows all rooms to be completed but crashes upon winning (remember, it was made in 48 hours!)
Download Say What!? (Windows – Game Pad Required)
Frogulus Rift & RoadKILL
This Frogger (1981) inspired game has you dodging cars and buses, and although the moving obstacles are untextured (likely due to time constraints), the deeply unsettling feeling of being struck by a moving car is what makes it frustrating, traumatizing, and very replayable. Created by a Bristol, UK based team of two developers, Frogulus Rift takes a simple concept and leaves a lasting impression.
Frogulus Rift wasn’t the only VR interpretation of the ’80s arcade classic to come out of Global Game Jam 2015 though, with RoadKILL throwing a large variety of moving vehicles at you, including tanks and cement mixers to squash you flat on the ever growing multi-lane highway. Created by a Vilnius, Lithuania based team, we can clearly see that the game mechanics of our youth are coming back in a big way.
A fairly disconcerting experience was being struck by a speeding limo that catapulted me so high in the air that I actually felt the familiar gym class rope-effect in the pit of my stomach—so those with intense vertigo ought to skip this one.
Download Frogulus Rift (Windows)
Snap decision time. You’re stuck on the train tracks, and the 10:06 to Buffalo is headed straight for you. On the table next to you is a bomb, a potion vial, a chainsaw, and something else that you can’t identify because, well… you’re not exactly calm enough to tell what it is. What do you do now?
Facing Death, created by a Portland, Oregon based team, delivers these ultimatums and more with their short prototype game that takes us into a larger set of nightmarish ‘what ifs’. Although there’s only three stages in the demo, games like Facing Death could create a new subgenre of experiences solely based on climatic decision making.
It’s bad in a good way, like doing the Trolley problem thought experiment, but in VR—not only to see how you react, but to see how you internalize those reactions in a safe space.
If you’re interested in going through more Oculus Rift prototype game submissions from GGJ 2015, head over to our German-speaking friends at We Are VR. Remember, not all submissions have included executable files, and that completion levels are consistent with games made in 48 hours.