Dare to be Digital 2011 team Ape-y Eyes talks exclusively to Develop about working on their entry title PaperQuest.

Dare Blogs – Ape-y Eyes

Being part of a closely knit group of MSc students helped immeasurably throughout the conception and development of the game. As we were all occupying the same physical space for large chunks of time each week we could effectively communicate our ideas – from the fantastic to the mostly terrible – each week. We went through some great concepts: a journey through the world inside a broken television; a night-time firefly flOw-esque Kinect gathering game; and a God-Sim in which you judge people based on a vignette from their life and send them to heaven or hell.

Eventually we thought of the audience: kids. It needed to be fun, familiar and frantic and make use of the latest technology. We stood in a circle in front of our peers and waved our bodies around doing ‘totally Kinect’ gestures. We picked our favourites, and we picked a theme. Thus, PaperQuest was born.

In PaperQuest you control the crew of a makeshift origami airship and have to use your entire body to soar, flap and whoosh around the house collecting pieces of the scattered diorama that you used to call home. You have to be quick, though, as the household are minutes away from returning! To steer your airship you have to put your arms out and tilt your body to control the roll and pitch. To ascend you flap your arm, filling the balloon with a gust of air and propelling your origami airship up. It’s innovative, frenetic and hectic in a very satisfying way!

The loose ‘story’ of the game is that an extraordinarily talented child is putting the finishing touches to PaperQuest – an entirely origami diorama depicting the crew of a sailboat landing on the shores of a new world – except the world is already occupied with settlers. The diorama features a paper beach with leaping fishes, a large boat and a gleaming sun. Beyond the beach is a large forest replete with wildlife and boulders and, beyond that, a clearing with a small settlement of natives. 

This beautiful diorama looks to have taken an incredible amount of time to put together, but it is almost complete. As the child folds the final corner on a paper settler they hear their friends playing outside the patio doors. Elated, they nervously place the paper person into the diorama and rush towards the door, heaving it open and slamming it closed. That SLAM creates a gust of air, catching all pieces of the diorama and sending them whooshing and scattering all over the room.

All the pieces remaining on the diorama find themselves at a loss. They have to recover their brethren! Harnessing the loose pieces of the diorama they set about creating an airship to travel around the room and gather the pieces before the child, or anyone else, returns to see the chaos!

Creation of the game has taught us an awful lot. A few weeks on and the ‘Dare experience’ (if you could / should call it that) remains positive. Building our custom engine in XNA has been taxing and, at times, hugely frustrating, but the team’s (and my) opinion is that we’ll ultimately retain greater control.

Another unexpected bonus was the release of the Beta Kinect SDK for Windows. The Open Source drivers were great, allowing us to get a “feel” for how to access the nodes and joints of the player and giving us the chance to loosely build our gestures and experiment with interaction. As we’re constructing our game from scratch we can take full advantage of the SDK and its drivers, meaning we no longer have to strike the “Strong-Man-Kinect-Calibration” pose; Kinect just recognizes your shape and builds a skeleton based on your interpreted position. Furthermore, we now have access to the RGB camera in Kinect, allowing us to take those hugely embarrassing/entertaining photos of you flapping and flailing as you fly your airship around the room. This is a very important part of our game – hopefully it will generate as much laughter at ProtoPlay as it has during testing.

Speaking of ProtoPlay, the entire team is incredibly excited and massively apprehensive for the exhibition. It will be our chance to get our game into the hands (or the interpreted bones and skeleton, in our case) of the public. We hope that they like it! We’re planning to fill our exhibition space with balloons, papercraft and origami prizes so keep your eyes peeled!

Team information and videos can be found on the Dare to be Digital team profile.

Also, we have a team Twitter account: @ApeyEyes

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