Journey to Production

September 21, 2018
Sean Gobey

Over the past year we’ve been flat out in pre-production mode on our first game SnapClick: Fossil Diggers VR (FDVR). Back in April 2017, VR was something we had always wanted to explore. We came up with the idea to make a dinosaur game as we've always thought they were cool and realised they would be the perfect subject matter for VR.

Doing a bit of research on what games were on the market already, we couldn’t see anything that used VR to put together puzzles in the way we envisioned and anything involving dinosaurs was generally a shooter game focused on survival—not necessarily on creating something. Alex and I sat down and mapped out a general direction of where we wanted to go.

From there we made a list of all the things we had to research and build to create our game. Things like how the puzzles would work, how the artists would create and import the dinosaur fossil pieces into the engine, and how it would all work with animation. We had to find answers for how the player would find the puzzle pieces and what would happen if they dropped pieces along the way. We had to decide how many pieces in a puzzle and if that would impact the exploration part of the game. We asked how they would get around the levels and how big the levels should be? How big was too big? Since it was a VR game we couldn’t rely solely on normal maps for surface details—we had to find a way to use geometry efficiently to detail the environment instead. The list goes on and on and on...

As we continued to work through the list we began looking for people around Brisbane to join the team. We found Ran on ArtStation. Ran’s a fantastic artist who works at his family’s engineering business and has always wanted to work in games but had never had the opportunity. Once we met up and discussed the project he was keen to get on board.

The first level we started building was the Australovenator puzzle—that’s the Dino on our announcement poster, you’d be forgiven if you thought she was a velociraptor. In fact, Australovenator was found in Winton, Queensland, Australia in 2009. After discussing what setting the puzzle was going to take place in, Ran began sketching out concept art:

Whilst Ran and I were designing and building the visual aspects of the level we needed to start creating atmosphere.

Enter Rosco! Our audio engineer. I had met Rosco at a local production house here in Brisbane while doing freelance visual effects work there. We reached out to him and were excited to learn he’s wanted to get into games for a really long time. However, like many of us the GFC prevented him from venturing out of his field. After discussing the project and its requirements Rosco set out to learn Unreal Engine 4 and within a month had started building blueprints and getting audio into the game.

The environment was starting to take shape and feel alive, and the puzzle tech and player movement was (snap) clicking into place. The final piece to the puzzle (heh) was animation. Martin, our lead animator had recently moved to Brisbane from the UK. Alex, Martin and I worked together to bridge the gap between gameplay and animation. The dinosaur puzzle on its own is a complicated problem. Taking a traditional game skeleton and adding the ability to break off bones and put them back together in any order while still being able to play back animation is a tough challenge.

With all of these questions more or less answered we’ve now entered into production. We know where we’re going and what lies ahead–as much as you can during game development–and are looking forward to sharing our journey with you throughout development.

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Until next time!

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