How Luden.io developed the AR God Simulator ARrived
Staff Writer By: Oleg Chumakov, Unreal Blog
EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanks to the team at Luden.io for taking the time to tell the development story behind ARrived - one of the App Store's Best of 2017. For more information on making AR experiences with Unreal Engine, head here.
We'll Follow the Plan
We were experimenting with AI and drawings identification and decided to make a VR god simulator game. All of us at Luden.io love Black & White to death; we love to draw in VR with our hands and everyone thought that it was a cool idea to control the little men on earth. You draw a rain symbol in the sky -- it starts to rain, doesn't that sound cool?
No Time to Explain
To make the story complete I should mention that we have been working in the VR field for quite a while, but we've all agreed that AR is more interesting. In June at WWDC, Apple announced that ARKit would be released in the autumn of 2017, and it took us five minutes to decide that we must jump on that train. What were we doing during those five minutes of decision making? Finding out if Unreal Engine supported ARKit.
With the switch from VR to AR already eating up time, and with two months of development left before launch, we decided that we wouldn't be changing the genre of the game. Some of the development, such as on neural networks, was still useful, but more on this later. Based on the terms and our capabilities, we decided to bet on the updated Sequencer, aiming to make a weekly interactive story about a tribe that lives in the player's room. We wanted to make the tribe look at the player and react to the camera.
The Game vs Reality
When the third player began to check the game out, we realised we were in trouble. We noticed all the players were poking the poor humans about five times per second. They wanted the little lads to react and to be able to zoom in with standard mobile gestures. Our wonderful script and story transitions did not particularly interest anyone. It was like a lightning strike for us, since there was only about a month left.
Rethinking the game's systems so late in the game posed many new design challenges. We tried to keep everything we had made during the past month in the game, including animations, scenes, and transitions. To receive such a hybrid, we added selection buttons to the key moments of the game. All the rest of the management was just pressing on the little guys.
The game also lacked wow-factor. We knew how to solve this issue, but we were afraid to do so because of the tight deadlines. However, after we finally gained some courage, we decided to take the risk anyway and added the ability to recognize real-world objects in the game. Just imagine how cool it would be if a virtual tribe reacted to a dog from the real world. Or if the tribe wants to eat, you can show them a banana and they will receive a virtual banana in the game. We implemented the Apple CoreML system to the game using a self-made plugin in Unreal Engine.
We performed playtests as quickly as possible prior to catching a plane to Gamescom 2017. The interactions did their job and it was possible to start polishing the game. The wow-effect from object recognition also worked as smooth as butter. It was a truly new experience for the player. We had to show the game to the journalists with our fingers crossed, in the hope that it would not crash. We were very lucky that everything went smoothly and, our friends from VRFocus even believed the game was already stable, but we knew that was far from the truth.
Besides meeting with journalists at Gamescom, we had one more important task to take care of -- speak with the Unreal Engine team. With the release of iOS 11 just prior, Apple had changed the format a bit. While we were able to test the game on our devices, we could not load it into TestFlight, which we needed to begin Apple's review process. After a chat with the Unreal Engine team and some follow-ups, the problem was solved.
The game became better and better each day, and our hands were not shaking as much when we demonstrated it at PAX. We even had some time to add an option of changing the size of game objects in the same way we zoom photos on iPhone. It was super funny when people discovered this and made the little guys grow to the height of the Washington State Convention Center, where PAX Seattle 2017 was held.
After the iOS 11 launch, our game was right on the main page of Apple's App Store. We were crazy happy and hyped about this! A few different fun surprises followed later, such as Apple's award in the end of 2017, but those are stories for another day.
So what conclusions can be made based on this story?