Absurdly Graphical Debugging


About the project

'Absurdly Graphical Debugging' is a mini-game produced for exhibition at Kiwicon X, New Zealands Hacker/Infosec conference. AGDB is based around an idea for a game concept, which involves a visual metaphor for a computer - where the players task is killing bugs that attempt to attach themselves to 'instructions' as they pass from one stage of a processing unit to another.

Production

AGDB was produced over a period of approximately 2 months, and was conceived and implemented as a roomscale VR experience for HTC Vive hardware, and was designed to be playable and accessible by a wide audience - while the graphical treatment and concept was tailored for an audience who were very much familiar with sci-fi/cyberspace tropes as well as a familiarity with the internal workings of a computer, the basic idea revolves around a common human response to the appearance of a cockroach or 'bug' - most people need no specific guidance on how to proceed with the game.

Graphics

AGDB was built using the Unity3D game engine with Blender used for all modelling/texturing work. The graphical concept was developed and refined over the course of the project to give an over-the-top cyberspace feel. 'Kiwicon X' branding also plays an important role in the graphical treatment, with a video featuring images of previous Kiwicons playing in-game, and various 'billboards' adding event-specific touches to the environment.

Background artwork was assembled from photographic reference and hand-painted by Rochelle McKelvie to realise a 'cyberspace city' concept. Neon lights and other coloured elements in the background panorama combine effectively with the heavy use of transparent elements and realtime reflection mapping in-game

Sound

Sound effects and music are an important part of any VR experience. Sion Evans was the sound designer for this piece, and the heavily electronic feel imparted by his soundscape really makes the AGDB experience come alive. Sion worked off a minimal brief and put together various event-based sound effects as well as a 2-part musical composition for the game. Mostly working remotely, these effects were mixed, balanced and revised in-house at beVR to arrive at a final sound design that worked extremely effectively in production.

Exhibition

Developing AGDB was a lot of fun, and it was great to be able to present a project that was so physically interactive and immersive to Kiwicon attendees. Somewhere between 70 and 80 people tried the experience, and feedback was all positive. Custom solutions for keeping the HMD clean between users, and to ease the installation of Vive hardware in a public space were developed to make setup and running the installation easy, There were no problems and everything went smoothly, which is not always a given when doing this type of work.

Pete gave a talk on the 13th December 2016 at an NZ VRAR Association event which detailed some of the challenges and lessons learnt during the production and exhibition of AGDB. There was no video, but the slides for the talk are available.

Gameplay video

Some users (of all ages) enjoying Absurdly Graphical Debugging

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