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Alt.CTRL.GDC Showcase: Gregory Kogos' RotoRing

Gregory Kogos' RotoRing is about avoiding danger, dodging the deadly spots on a pair of LED rings using a rotating knob for movement and a button.

The 2017 Game Developer's Conference will feature an exhibition called Alt.Ctrl.GDC dedicated to games that use alternative control schemes and interactions. Gamasutra will be talking to the developers of each of the games that have been selected for the showcase. You can find all of the interviews here.

Gregory Kogos' RotoRing is about avoiding danger, dodging the deadly spots on a pair of LED rings.

Using a rotating knob for movement and a button that allows the player to switch between the rings, players can navigate across a shimmering pair of glowing circles as hazards present themselves.

Kogos doesn't describe himself as a coder, but has still created a neat play experience that uses the natural understanding of color, the draw of lights, and the appeal of just turning knobs and hitting switches to create a delightful experience with RotoRing.

Gamasutra spoke with Kogos about his creation of light and input, which will be on display at the ALT.CTRL.GDC exhibit, among other unique controllers and inputs, at GDC.

What’s your name, and what was your role on this project?

My name is Gregory Kogos, and even though I’m not a coder, I managed to make this thing work all by myself.

How do you describe your innovative controller to someone who’s completely unfamiliar with it?

There are two LED rings, one inside another. With a rotating knob, the player controls the bright white light on the ring. When the player pushes the button, the light switches from one ring to another. Nothing fancy. Innovation is in combination of both custom input and output.

What's your background in making games?

I’m game designer and artist. RotoRing started as an exercise in coding and level design.

What development tools did you use to build RotoRing?

Arduino. I had lots of fun and frustration figuring it out

What physical materials did you use to make it?

I’m using neopixel LED rings for output. They are framed in a laser-cut wooden board. The controller (which is an arduino board, rotary encoder, and button) is neatly packaged in a small box. The entire thing is powered by usb.

How much time have you spent working on the game?

It was a very on and off project. I was making it for one year before I was able to show it. However, there were big breaks when I didn’t touch it. 

How did you come up with the concept?

My main inspiration was Line Wobbler by Robin Baumgarten. I saw it first at the AMAZE festival in Berlin. However, the actual game mechanics and level design are more inspired by games like oO by Rainbow Train and Circa Infinity by Kenny Sun. 

RotoRing uses "pretty lights and clicky knobs" to play the game. What do you feel draws people to want to play with lights, buttons, and knobs when they see them?

Well, lights are very appealing to people. I don’t know why, but people just love to stare at fires or stars. So, controlling something like this with a custom input is very satisfying. Also, basic visual language where red light is danger, white light is the player, is very intuitive. I never spend more than 10 seconds explaining the game.

What thoughts went into creating a platformer with this kind of interface? How did it change how you would develop the game for a basic controller? How did the two develop based off of each other?

RotoRing is actually very traditional in terms of game mechanics and level design. The interface. However, is something that makes the game stand out. I believe that’s because the alternative controller here is made to give better... well…control over the game. Playing RotoRing with arrows or joysticks would feel counter-intuitive and just not fun.

What do you feel it adds to a game when it is built with a special interface? 

When controls are made specifically for the game’s particular requirements, it is more friendly and unique. That’s why it might be appealing to the broader non-gamer audience, and at the same time convey the depth and challenges of traditional games.

How do you think standard interfaces and controllers will change over the next five or ten years?

I think they will become less standard. The creator's original idea of the experience will dictate the interface and controls of the game.

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