String Theory

String Theory is a VR yoyo combat game where players explore an underground city and fight enemies using a motion-controlled yoyo.

Role: Product Owner, Systems Designer, Gameplay Programmer
Software: Unity
Development Cycle: January-April 2019
Team Size: 9
Purpose: Production course semester project
Target Platform: Oculus Rift

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Game Details

String Theory is a simple linear action game where players utilize VR motion controllers to perform actions using a yoyo.Players take on the role of a child playing in a pretend world with their friends, exploring a secret underground city of robots. The buildings and cave systems show a massive scale to them that’s amazing in VR.

Players can throw and pull back a yoyo to hit switches and enemies, and they can build a combo by not letting the yoyo spin out. They can also knock enemies back if they’re too close and grab onto enemies and objects to pull them. The player’s options are limited, but are all satisfying and empowering  to pull off. There isn’t much in the way of puzzle solving, but there’s plenty of encounters that will challenge players’ yoyo abilities across 4 levels.

Contributions and Philosophy

  • Maintained creative vision within the largest team I’d worked on up until this point
  • Designed and scripted motion-based mechanics with an emphasis on physicality and empowering the player
  • Consistently iterated to make gameplay easier for players new to VR

After having had three weeks to prototype 3 separate games, we were asked to keep developing one of our prototypes to hopefully continue working on it for the rest of the semester. I convinced my team to try this crazy idea of a VR yoyo combat game, and after 3 months of development, we were able to include 4 levels, 3 yoyo moves with many different interactions, and 3 enemy types for the player to tackle.

My intent behind String Theory was to create a visceral and imaginative VR experience tied around a single mechanic. What came about was a game with a lot of heart and scale that really gave VR players something fun to just play around with. My role during development was Product Owner, keeping the team on track towards the intended product. I also was the lead designer in charge of the game’s systems and testing, as well as a gameplay programmer.

While designing the systems of String Theory, I wanted the focus to remain on using a few moves in multiple ways and making the yoyo feel as real as possible while maintaining a fantastical physics system. For example, the grapple not only can be used to throw enemies off the sides in combat, but they can also pull platforms while exploring and shields off of enemies. The haptics and sound effects, as well as the gesture-based interactions, gave players the feel of a real yoyo and the power of a weaponized one.

String Theory is easily the most fun I’ve had developing a game yet. Our idea was solid from the start, and our team’s dynamic was extremely cooperative and supportive. Besides the obvious skills of learning how to work in a VR setting,  I also experienced my first set of cuts and onboarding of new team members. Finally, I took on my first real leadership role as Creative Director, where I was responsible for giving direction and feedback to 6 other students.