One of the first things we had to decide in creating A Giant Problem, our forthcoming VR game, was how big you, as the player, are. The easy answer is big. But it’s more complicated than that, because it’s a matter of how big. It may seem trivial to say bigger than big, and larger than large. Yet it still doesn’t answer the question of how gigantic should the player be in comparison to the rest of the world.
For one, we’re dealing with two very different worlds and how the player feels in each of them. Everyone has a sense of how big their bodies are and how they move in the real world. We’re trying to replicate the movement as much as possible in A Giant Problem, but the size is a different issue, because we’re putting you in the form of a giant. So your hands are larger, unless you’re someone with particularly sizable appendages.
Hands are the first thing that let you know as a player you’re working at a different scale than in real life. Not only do they look and feel bigger, but there’s a certain clumsiness to them. Which stems from the lack of finesse in VR, and that works in our favor as giants aren’t perceived as graceful creatures. Not that they can’t be, we’d love to make a game where you’re an extremely large ballerina. That’s just not this game.
Though that may be the sequel - A Giant Problem Tutu. Or A Giant Problem: On Pointe. Or A Giant Problem: High Barre. And even A Giant Problem: Second Position.
The lack of grace works in our favor. Figuring out an appropriate scale doesn’t. In part because everyone has a different idea of what a giant is. Or really how big one is. Even the mythologies of the world have giants being of different sizes. They go anywhere from a couple meters tall to tens if not hundreds of meters tall. For us, we decide to go on the shorter end, because of all the additional difficulties that arise the bigger a player gets.
Basically the bigger you become, the smaller enemies become, to make you feel like a giant. And small enemies are hard to hit. They’re hard to hit whether you’ve got a sword, club, rock or even a gun. No there are no guns in A Giant Problem. But the logic applies. Also weapon differentiation becomes extremely difficult when there’s a size difference. How is a sword behaving any differently than a club or a spear when you’re trying to smack something small - it doesn’t.
Get too big and then you can also start to feel less powerful if you can’t kill enemies quickly. Think of it like smushing bugs. We’re so much bigger than, most of, them. Don’t look up anything from Australia. Seriously, avoid all Australian insects and arachnids. So we expect and want them to die in a single hit. If any enemy or a bug doesn’t die in a single hit then we don’t feel powerful. And feeling powerful is part of being a giant.
The other issue that comes with items or creatures being so much smaller than you in VR, is how you interact with them. You’re going to want to pick them up. It’s fun. It’s part of being a giant. What isn’t fun is always bending down or looking down. It’s taxing on your lower back, and even worse for your neck if you’re staring at your feet with the weight of a VR headset straining you. So we have a simple solution - we call it Reach.
It basically makes you a Jedi. So you can pull objects to your hand from some distance away. It’s got a limited range, and once players start using it they generally stop bending over all together. This has the bonus affect of getting players to look forward more, rather than down. It improves the playability immensely even if it doesn’t immediately scream “giant” at you. That in turn makes the game more fun, and players capable of playing for longer sessions.
So that’s a little design break down for the game. We’ll have more on it in the future. For now, be sure to wishlist A Giant Problem on Steam if you haven’t already!