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Overlapping Realities with Terra Farma

Written by Kris Morgan

Watch this short video about Terra Farma, a multi-modal party game that brings an HTC Vive, a HoloLens, and two Xbox 360 Controllers together into a single, connected experience.

Every year as our Winter Open House approaches, we have a tradition: we use some of the downtime to make a party game.

This year, we decided it would be fun to try and make something that connects players with three different device types: a Vive player in a VR space; a HoloLens user whose physical space is augmented by special UI and VR elements; and two Xbox-controlled avatars in a linked but abstract 2D space, presented on a projector. With the party only about a month away, we set out to assemble it all into something original and fun.

Concept

Out of many ideas, we settled on the theme Space Gardener. The game, we decided, would present a bleak view of the future of humankind, set in a domed facility on a distant, orange planet called Vegetus Prime. Here, food is collected via drone and sent up to the mothership for delivery to a dying Earth. Dark stuff. Also, worth noting: we started before the elections.

Mechanics

Working from the technologies as a starting point, and optimizing for short, party-style game sessions, an image of a kind of collaborative, spatial Bop-It™ began to form:

The Vive player, a gig-economy Gardener, picks and sorts root vegetables, using her Gravity Slingshot to pluck Rutabagas from the ground, tossing or firing them at the appropriate receptacles.

The HoloLens player—now the Micromanager—shouts out changes in market demands to help the Gardener maximize company profits, and helps spot irradiated vegetables.

The two Xbox-controller users, cast as extra-terrestrial Moles, ravenously chomp away at the Gardener’s highly prized space tubers—and her chances at making a decent living.

Visual & Audio Style

To counter the downward-spiral of our backstory—it is a party game, after all—we felt that the style needed buoyancy. We rendered visuals with blocky shapes and cheerful colors, affording us room to produce our own assets. Working with Sound Designer and Foley Artist Catherine Schultz, the ambient audio and game sounds lent a science-fiction-turned-lobby-muzak feel, brightening things up with a satirical, corporate tone.

HoloLens Complications

With only a few days to go, we discovered the HoloLens integration was going to need more time than we had. We pivoted to present the Micromanager’s UI via the projector, sharing space with the Mole UI. We eventually resumed the HoloLens integration and it's functional, as you can see here:

Party Time

Even without the HoloLens available, it was fun to watch frantic people sling beets and carrots around in space. We were glad to see that our strange, complex game—bundled together with food, drinks, friends, and a flurry of snow that dusted Capitol Hill—made for an evening of merriment, raucousness, and hoarse voices.

Thanks to the team

David Graunke  HoloLens Development
Cameron Guthrie  Unity Development
Kris Morgan  Game Design, 3D Art
Catherine Schultz  Sound Design, Music
Justin Smith  HoloLens Development
Tiffany Ta  Game Design, 2D Art
Sam Tran  Unity Development
Matt Wolfe  Game Design