Blue Drift is a 1st-person horror game for the Oculus Rift and Razer Hydra.
It was developed with the Unity Engine at HTW Berlin.
The player controls a diver exploring an underwater cave system to find his lost brother.
With only a flashlight he discovers unknown dangers and creatures while he makes his way through claustrophobic tunnels and strange chambers.
Soon he doesn’t know anymore if what he encounters is real or imagination.
When suddenly his oxygen is running low, he has to make a decision – escape or stay and find out what happened to his brother?
My tasks included
- Developing game design concept for all core game mechanics (player movement, features, AI behavior)
- Defining the story and atmosphere
- Creating story elements
- Finding intuitive solution for controls
- Designing level concepts
- Building levels in the Unity Editor
I joined the group for the chance to develop a VR game which required a different approach to game design.
Considering the possibilities and limits of the input devices we quickly agreed on making a horror exploration game taking place in an underwater cave system. The slow movement and limited sight distance underwater seem perfect for the Oculus Rift, the diving movement for the Razer Hydra.
Defining 3 pillars turned out to be most helpful when working on Masaka.
During a brainstorming with a fellow game designer I defined the 3 pillars for Blue Drift as following:
Atmospheric (optic and acustic), short level parts rich in variety rather than huge, empty spaces
The feeling of being at the mercy of a strange element, limited sight, suspense, being buried alive, narrow tunnels, being lost
Moving must feel good and intuitive to not distract the player’s immersion
I also came up with the idea that the player character is on a rescue mission for his lost, probably dead brother. This adds to the unsettling atmosphere of the game.
Another idea used as a storytelling mechanism, tutorial, and even as horror element later, is a game character on the surface who keeps radio contact to the player.
We use him as narrator and to explain the basic functions of the game, give hints how to deal with ingame situations (e.g. wipe off leeches) and point out escape routes.
The game begins realistically and gets out of control at a certain point, with the surroundings supporting the horror going on.
The colors of the game change from different hues of blue to tones of red and it gets constantly darker the more the player proceeds.
We used pen and paper prototypes to figure out the basic game mechanics, possible level designs and the enemy behavior.
The rather linear cave system provides physical boundaries and gave us the opportunity to plan the whole course of the game, including pacing and story.
The different levels were built after defining the basic game elements, including:
- Hook. Can be shot to certain stones, the attached rope pulling the player to it. Helps to escape quickly or to access places in areas with strong drifts
- Wall-hugging. In any part of the game the player can push himself off a wall, giving him a boost in a certain direction. He can also grab walls, helping him to stay in a position (e.g. in areas with drifts, letting him look around without moving). It adds a lot to the immersion because players feel physically involved
- Player movement by swimming arm movement with the Razer Hydra
- Enemy encounters
- Sonar, triggered by nearby monster fish
Each level focuses mainly on one or two of these elements, considering the overall pacing of the game.
Some other important decisions included:
No puzzles. We wanted to focus on the atmosphere and immersion instead of distracting the player with puzzles. The surroundings he moves in aren’t man-made. Also it is easy to lose orientation with the Oculus Rift.
No fights. It’s hard to properly aim with the Oculus Rift and would have been too difficult. It also didn’t support the atmosphere we wanted to create.
No jump scares. Playing with the Oculus Rift is intense and we didn’t want the player to remove it and refuse to keep playing.
Intuitive inventory. Everything the player can use (sonar, flashlight, hook) is attached to his body and can be accessed easily with the Razer Hydra.
Sebastian Plesch implemented 2 different mechanics – swimming strokes and moving with jet propulsion by pressing buttons.
I had test players try both options with different settings (speed, boost etc.) very early in the game development process.
All test players preferred the swimming stroke motions.
Even though divers use their legs and not their arms, it was the most intuitive solution for the Razer Hydra, so we kept and adjusted it.
There are 2 types of enemies in the game: Monster fish and leeches.
Leeches are a game mechanic and also a horror element (body horror).
The player can remove the leeches on his body by wiping his arms, which works well with the Razer Hydra.
We used it as main gameplay element first and developed several situations where it could show up, patrol and chase the player to create, especially because it can’t be fought, a sense of tension and horror.
The following galleries show different states and functions of the monster fish as well as how we designed enemy encounters ingame:
The main difference between the first game concept and the final game is that we used the monster fish way less often than planned.
We limited its appearance to only a few places, surrounded it with darkness and let it move very slowly.
It wasn’t an easy decision because much work went into the AI but in the end the game profited from it.
To avoid having only tube-shaped rooms, we made a room with different ways to go through, creating the illusion of having free choice where to go.
In the following pictures you can see an enemy encounter I designed and how it is implemented ingame:
This short video shows how the room works:
My work also included building levels in Unity with assets made by the 3D-artists.
Full game video:
Diana Knorn – Concept Art, 2D/3D-Art, Story, Dialogues
Eva-Kristin Beilmann – Game Design, Level Design, QA, Story
Ralf Benecke – Level Design, 3D-Art
Marina Wachowski – 3D-Art, Sound
Johannes Hoffmann –Programming (AI), Sound-Implementation
Dominik Haderer – Programming (Special Effects), Level Design, 3D-Art, Game Video
Sebastian Plesch – Programming (Physics, Game Logic), Controller-Implementation
Alexander Zigelski – Programming (UI), Sound-Implementation
Jonas Kunert – Narrator
Marcus Roese – Additional Narrator
Emanuel Arndt – Additional Game Design Input