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Calamari Catamari

June 15, 2016

Experimentation is at the heart of B-Reel and we’re always finding fun ways to bridge worlds.

Recently, we paired two of our passions together: gaming and VR. Inspired by one of our favorite games, “Katamari Damacy,” we created CALAMARI CATAMARI, a 3D platform game that follows a slightly obese cat on his journey to find and eat calamaris. Here are just a few learnings:

Research. Have a POV before beginning.

After exploring a few different options for building the game, we settled on Unity. It has great tools for everything, from initial game mechanic prototyping to releasing games on a variety of platforms. Another big plus is that with Unity, you can pretty much just drop the Google Cardboard SDK into a project and begin developing for VR immediately. Similar tools and libraries also exist for other VR platforms, including the Samsung Gear, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive, so getting started building VR experiences in Unity is a breeze!

Developers who would like to work with Unity will have to learn C# or UnityScript (which is similar to Javascript). For developers most comfortable in Javascript (like many of us here at B-Reel), it might seem most appealing to simply start with Unityscript. This is not advised: Unityscript is not the same as Javascript, and really only shares some syntactic similarities. Furthermore, there are many more resources available for learning C# than there are for UnityScript.

Focus. Keep the experiment short and sweet.

We set a two-week deadline. This forced us to quickly tackle the challenge at hand: how do common game mechanics translate both visually and systematically into the VR environment? A small team brainstormed the prototype, evolving the controls and mechanics from console-based, 3rd-person ball-roller games (such as Super Monkey Ball) into something players could control using only a Google Cardboard.

Collaborate. It leads to solutions.

While our developers worked on the core game functionality, our creatives sketched concept art and design. We used a combination of C4D and Maya to create the level, characters and other assets. When faced with a challenge however -- such as the copy within the game experience -- cross-disciplinary engagement is necessary to find the right solve. While VR and Cardboard have come a long way, it’s difficult to read text within the headset and often nauseating. This forced the team to rethink how we structured the menu and instructions. The result was more visual, less copy.

Overall, our goal was to simply learn more about the challenges of VR development. VR presents not only design challenges, but also unexpected ones that come with stereoscopic rendering, storytelling and input controls for VR experiences. In the end, we created a prototype that was so much more than a prototype. We made a fully playable 3D game. Cute, fun and over-the-top -- it’s an all-time tribute to one of our favorite games.

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