Posted by Radek on January 13th, 2012.
Categories: announcements, contract work, videos.
Project VRP is our third title developed for Science Alberta. The game takes place in a virtual reality setting where the player must manage various types of workers in order to design, build, and maintain a proper pipeline.
Here’s a trailer of how it looks in action:
Below is a short case study of the project’s development:
Following a successful completion of The CO2 Connection, we discussed various possible projects with the Science Alberta Foundation. In the end, Project VRP won out and the other proposals were slotted in for a later date.
The game required an extended pre-production process as well as a more complex feature set, so the timeline was set at 8 months with a budget increase of 25k over the previous titles. An iPhone port was also scheduled as part of the initial contract.
Project VRP was aimed at a slightly older audience than our previous Science Alberta games, and as such it needed a more mature look. In addition, its numerous scientific concepts were quite advanced but still needed to be conveyed through a single overarching experience.
The specific goal of the Project VRP was to showcase various types of jobs associated with pipeline production and upkeep. This extended to environmental challenges and acts of nature that had to be reflected in the main gameplay as well.
About half-way through development process, a change in priorities also took place. It was deemed that some scientific concepts needed to be explored in more depth, with the principles of corrosion, welding, and soil composition taking centre-stage.
The Kelvin mascot was a central connecting theme between all the SAF titles, so we suggested a virtual reality environment to balance the cuteness of the Kelvins. This move allowed us to use darker palettes along with a more high-tech, industrial aesthetic.
Fairly early on in development, SAF ran a focus group with some grade-schoolers to gauge the effectiveness of this approach. The responses were overwhelmingly positive, with not a single complaint or request for alterations.
The goal of showcasing numerous professions was tackled via a list of individual “worker units,” each one possessing a single ability vital to pipeline construction and maintenance.
The difficulty in representing such a vast number of workers was tackled by separating the units into small groups, initially hinting at which workers should be used for which tasks, briefly introducing each group at the start of every level, and letting the player peek at a codex that contained info on the entire cast.
A bit of randomization was also added via weather effects that slowed down production and tied into real-world emergencies. This core game was then playtested with another group of grade-schoolers, and their feedback led us to add some extra polish to the tutorials and include a few additional visual effects to make the mechanics more intuitive.
When development of the game was temporarily halted due to a change in focus, we worked with SAF on how to best incorporate the new goals. It was eventually decided that adding minigames to better showcase some of the jobs would be the best solution, and these were seamlessly slotted into the end of each production phase.
To minimize the costs of the delay and the extra features, the iPhone port was removed from the feature-list. This covered the majority of the work, and in the end the budget was increased by only 7k.
The final version of Project VRP was very well received by the sponsors, with SAF inquiring into possible future ports to iOS and other mobile devices.