Playful physics with Guy Wolstenholme
Guy Wolstenholme is Co-Founder of Moving Brands and Gobi design studio. He is also an experienced 3D animator. Moving World talks to Guy about his latest side project, an augmented reality game called ‘Table Racer’.
Hi Guy! How did Table Racer start?
I’ve been having thoughts about games and children’s stories since my kids were born. At the same time, I’ve been tinkering with Unity and virtual reality. I’ve always loved cars and the addictive cartoon physics of Mario Kart so a racing game seemed like a good idea. The car is actually based on a kit car I had years ago — a Caterham 7.
What tools did you use? What was the learning curve like?
The launch of ARKit made it surprisingly easy to get a prototype together in Unity, through a combination of ‘noodling’ things together and using pre-made packages from the Unity store, without needing any knowledge of scripting. Although ARKit is still in beta — installation is a sticking point — it was still fairly straight forward to copy and paste from the example scenes.
Did you always intend on setting the game in AR?
I didn’t have masses of time to dedicate to Table Racer and doing it with AR actually seemed like an easier prospect. VR is much more labour intensive in terms of creating models and textures — you have to create the whole world! With mixed reality, you can make the model, texture it, give it some convincing physics and you’re up and running.
How important is the ‘feel’ of driving to the game?
The benefit of focusing the game around a car is that we all have a sense of how a car should act. It suggests its own physics, it should stick to a horizontal surface, turn left or right, speed up and brake. As long as you set up the physics of it properly, it ‘feels’ right in the real world. So long as the car feels anchored to your kitchen table, it doesn’t feel like such a stretch that it could drive around it.
The fun with mixed reality is that once you’ve set up the physics of the virtual objects to feel like they genuinely sit in the real world, you can subvert that and surprise the player. I love the idea that you give something realistic properties to live in the world, and then give people the option to mess with the world — letting people pass through objects or drive up walls for example.
Is sound design important to the game?
It was definitely important to help convince the player about the ‘story’ of the game and the setting. I have attached sounds to the car (idle/accelerate/brake/skid etc.). At the moment, they are placeholder sounds that are open source. My plan is to update these with wooden car toy sounds, linking them closely to the actions but can be less obviously a car engine sound.
I’m working on ways to use spatial sound to help the player navigate more easily. Since the game is set in the world, it seems a shame to break immersion with heavy UI menus. For example, when scanning the room, I’d like to play with introducing UI elements into the space itself, straight-away introducing the whole game language.
Would you recommend Unity as a way for creators to explore AR?