As my personal favorite Oculus Rift demo, I’ve been watching Crashland’s development closely. The forthcoming version, which will include a ferocious “Hell Worm,” among other additions like powerups and new weapons, looks absolutely amazing.
Crashland is the hobby project of just one developer, Dr. Llyr ap Cenydd (also responsible for the early Ocean Rift demo), who is based at Bangor University in the UK. It’s been my personal favorite Oculus Rift demo since it launched back in August, 2013. In the demo you play as a lonely space farer who mistakenly crashed landed on a hostile planet. The Razer Hydra motion controller is used to control your weapons and defend yourself from a ceaseless onslaught of space-spiders. You can get an idea of the gameplay here.
Cenydd maintains a blog about his VR experiments where he’s been showing progress on the next version of Crashland.
Meet the Hell Worm
Cenydd, whose interests include “real-time computer graphics, behavioral animation, artificial life, evolutionary algorithms, and medical simulation and visualization,” has a knack for procedural animation, which powers the movements of the space-spiders that come to attack the player in the current version of Crashland. In the next version, Cenydd is working on what he calls a “Hell Worm,” a terrifying beast that will hunt the player. He’s been modeling and tweaking the Hell Worm’s procedurally generated animations and behavior for some time (not an easy task when you are inventing a new lifeform).
In the game there are “small” spiders (about the height of a person) and then there are “big” spiders, which are at least twice the size. The big ones are damn scary when they come up behind you. I can only imagine that the Hell Worm, which is significantly larger than the player, is going to be downright terrifying when it rears its feathered head to attack the player. To be honest, I can’t wait to have this thing chasing me around!
Cenydd has been toying with a number of different ways to get the Hell Worm to move:
The first thing I tried was to literally make the Hell Worm slither along the ground. If you send a sinusoidal compression wave through the body’s segments you can make the worm’s virtual muscles expand and contract. Combined with anisotropic friction (larger friction along one direction, simulating microscopic hooks), it is possible to have the creature propel itself along like the real thing. Direction can be controlled by contorting the body leftwards or rightwards by adding bias to the joint angles.
The second approach I tried was to code snake-like movement, where pulsatile signals are sent through the body joints to make it slither from side to side. Varing the global frequency, amplitude and phase of the signal results in most of the classical snake motions, from Python to Sidewinder.
He’s also working on better AI for the space-spiders, other (unrevealed) enemies, and an expanded environment.
New Weapons, Powerups, and a Badass Hat
Crashland is a great demo but there’s plenty of room to flesh out gameplay mechanics. One thing I’ve been wishing for is new weapons and powerups—Cenydd has been working on just that.
He tells me that he’s “implemented mortar style powerups… it sounds and feels amazing when one of them breaks through the clouds and slams into the ground—flash, thunder, lightning etc… I’ve got this cool mechanic in place at the moment where the powerup enhances whatever weapon you hold in the air when you absorb it, so you can increase fire rate, damage, reload or clip size and make some strategic decisions etc. The guns talk when you upgrade them too *RAPID FIRE*!”
Speaking of guns, Cenydd has added some cool new gun models. Above you can see an example of a rapid fire weapon which looks to absolutely devastate the small space-spider enemies. You can also see an example of the powerups blasting down from the sky (be sure to unmute the sound to hear the great SFX). Also note the shadow of the avatar, complete with a new badass cowboy hat. With an expanded arsenal (and dashing fatigues), we might need more challenging enemies (queue a Hell Worm ripping off my head).
I can’t wait to get my hands on the latest version of Crashland! Cenydd tells me that he works on the game a few hours here and there along with some other experiments. He thinks the next version will be ready this summer when his academic commitments spare him more time. I’ll be waiting impatiently!