April 23rd, 2013 by Rosie
This week marks the wrap up on Intel’s Ultimate Coder Challenge, a seven week showdown between the worlds top developers and agencies. Intel’s hand picked teams were given seven weeks to work with Intel’s new perceptual computing SDK to create a cutting edge experience. The team at Infrared5 worked to put together Kiwi Katapult Revenge, a one of a kind game that leverages Brass Monkey’s controller and head tracking technology to create an incredible interactive experience.
I spoke with each of our team members to hear about the ups and downs of creating this game under such a tight schedule.
What was the most fun and exciting thing about being a part of this competition?
Elena: The whole time that we were making this game I was amazed at the pace we were able to keep at. Maybe it was the thrill of the contest or the fact that we had such a short deadline, but we were able to cram what I thought would take months into a few weeks. I think the most fun aspect of it was the creativity we were able to have with the game. The encouraging feedback from the judges and other team members was really nice to hear too. It made working on the art for the game exciting as we kept improving it.
Chris: One of the most exciting things about this challenge was how our team collaborated on the concepts that were first brought to the table. I had come into it thinking of something very specific. I had envisioned a post apocalyptic driving/shooting game.
The thing was though, the art team had been thinking of something very different. They wanted to create a paper world, made up of items in the style of pop-up books and paper dolls. How could a Mad Max style game fit into this vision? I’m not quite sure how it came up, but I had seen several articles via Twitter that had gone viral on the subject of a New Zealand Ecologist that wanted to eradicate all the domestic cats in his country. Apparently the cats were killing off the native species of flightless birds like the Kiwi. I brought up the concepts of using this as our theme, and it was something that resonated with everyone. Plus it would work perfectly with Rebecca and Aaron’s art style that they wanted to create. And as an added bonus the flat paper style had the advantage of really accentuating the 3D effect of peering around objects in the game. A little more brainstorming, a weekend writing up a crazy story, and Kiwi Katapult Revenge was born. In many ways, after looking back, it’s amazing how much of the core mechanics stayed exactly the same as what I had originally planned.
Steff: For me, the most exciting part was working with the Intel and OpenCV libraries and the new camera. I definitely got kind of a charge the first time I got a good image from the depth camera.
John: One of many fun features is seeing Kiwi in the rearview mirror. The mirror itself is an organic shape so we used a render texture on the face of the mesh and this worked quite nicely. However, dealing with where fire and lasers actually shoot from in reality, as opposed to how they look coming out of the model of the kiwi in the mirror, was a bit of a challenge. We had to set up a separate camera for the render texture of course, but also had to assign separate features to show the fire coming out of the mouth and lasers out of the eyes so that it would look consistent. On top of all of that, we had to then deal with the parenting and rotation of the head now that Steff’s code was coming in to deal with the main camera’s view matrix. I think the result looks convincing and the game is certainly fun!”
Aaron: Being a fulfillment house, it’s not very often that we get to just roll with our own idea. Even though it wasn’t exactly a blank check, it was fun to explore a style not often used in modern 3D games.
Rebecca: The most exciting aspect was getting to have complete creative freedom with the concept through to the final product. I really enjoyed being able to have the paper cut out style implemented on a project after so many discussion with Aaron about that idea. I am just so happy with the end results. The creative team worked positively together to ensure that this style worked well and looked amazing. Really proud of it!
Like all truly exciting projects, Kiwi Katapult Revenge came with its share of questions and struggles. I asked the team to tell me what the most challenging part of their experience was.
Elena: The most challenging aspect for me was diving straight to work with only some idea of how things were going to turn out. I certainly learned a lot more about 3D work and Unity than I had known previously. The project required a lot of flexibility as things kept changing. In the end, I’m still happy with how it came out.
Chris: I think the biggest challenge was retaining maximum flexibility while keeping some semblance of a process in place. As any game designer knows, what you think will be fun is often not the case, and you have to go through a highly iterative process of trying things out. Doing that in a short seven week time frame posed many challenges, especially when we were dealing with cutting edge technology like the perceptual computing depth camera and computer vision algorithms. I do think our team managed quite well even though the experience was incredibly chaotic. I also admit that my style of always pushing and never quite being satisfied was probably a bit difficult to work with. In the end though, we made an incredible game. It’s something that’s fun to play, and has quite a bit of depth for being built in such a short time period. The game is far from complete however, and we look forward to building on it further in the near future.
Steff: When we had to dump all the code in Unity dealing with the camera because our C# port of OpenCV was not going to work and I had to essentially restart the project from scratch in Visual Studio. That was daunting!
John: The game has some unique control features that include flight with relative head rotation for firing/aiming. In and of itself, this is basic gaming, but combined with the perceptual camera code which worked with the main camera’s view matrix, we had our work cut out for us. On top of that, since the typical renderer skybox feature didn’t work when you changed out the view matrix in Unity at runtime, we had to create a simple cube that follows the player around on x and z axis (simple and effective) and thankfully, we didn’t hit too many other roadblocks because of the direct access to the main camera’s view matrix.
Rebecca: The most challenging aspect was working on a complete game in such a short time frame. We only had 7 weeks from beginning to end. In that time, we had to have a game concept created, design a 3D world, create numerous characters, develop a full featured game and integrate perceptual computing and Brass Monkey. It was a large task and the team had a few bumps along the road. However, we all persevered and managed to get it done. Lots of lessons learned.
Here at Infrared5, we would like to congratulate everyone that participated in the Ultimate Coder Challenge. It has been an amazing ride!