Vertigo: The epic journey

By Zach Tsiakalis-Brown

Vertigo has been constantly growing in scope since its conception. It was the first Vive application I every created, I made it before I even got my vive. I was so excited I build a bridge over a bottomless pit in unity, wrote some code, and then tried it when my Vive finally arrived. Of course, the code was broken, but once fixed it did all it was meant to: drop metal spheres.

This was in November of 2015.

Obviously this was not the most expansive game. Still, it was a nice first experience for me as a developer, and for my various friends and family members who I forced over the precipice.

I soon wanted to take it further. It was compelling at the moment, but a bit bland. I added waves of enemies flying out of the pit and a simple objective of fending them off long enough to open the door on the other side.

Interestingly, some things are still being used from this initial demo. The bullet models, some sound effects, and a bunch of code for shooting and taking damage is still being used in the full game. It's all in the same unity project, in fact. I should open up this original scene sometime and see if it works at all. I'm guessing not. 

Anyway, I realized this was super fun, but wave shooters were already becoming numerous. I wanted an adventure game. But since that is hard, I settled on a wave shooter where you progress through different levels with a story (a la Brookhaven Experiment). I set aside a few weeks for finishing Vertigo, and got to work.

I wrote some music, and Origins, the first song I wrote for Vertigo, is still my favorite piece to date (Abyss taking second place).

At about the same time, I created the first trailer. Some modular level design, a single basic enemy, and simple locomotion was enough for me to feel ready to publicly represent the work I'd been doing. 

Lots of things created at this point still exist, like the iconic modular hallways and spherical drone (Called the Mk. 2 Security drone, or Orboid, did you know?). The boss pictured in the trailer also still exists in a modified form. 

"Why are you telling me all of the things that are still here?" you might ask. "Isn't it a given that things you create will still be here later on?"

Vertigo has changed so much since the early days, it's almost a completely different game. It's interesting for me to look back and see how much has shifted, and how much has not.

Chronologically, we're now around the end of February 2016. Things are ramping up, and I'm getting more excited about the larger game Vertigo's becoming. Soon (months of work later), we've got a demo out!

The Vertigo demo was a big hit, even though, looking back on it, it was complete garbage. I suppose people saw its potential to grow into a less-garbage game, which it has. Hopefully? The demo really marked the point in which we set our sights on a much larger scope. We now aimed to have an hour or two of single-player story driven exploratory gameplay. Lots of mechanics were tightened for a while, and soon we felt ready to start working on the real content. 

Level one is short and sweet. It has an introduction to the mechanics and first weapon, some simple combat, and then a disproportionately difficult boss fight. I like it. 

As we continued working on content, George and I realized two things. One was that each level was taking much longer to make than we anticipated. Another was that each level took much longer to play than we thought. This was good, as we were going to meet our goal of gameplay length at about the same time as planned, but if we released when we had 2 hours of gameplay we would have been about a tenth of the way through the story. This wasn't good. We expanded our scope again.

Vertigo would have multiple chapters, two or three, we aren't sure, and they would be cut like a series of books. Each one would be a full, proud game, but together they make the full story arc. The first one, with 5 levels corresponding to the five floors you explore in the game, was last reported at about 4 or 5 hours long by our testers. This was when it only had about 3 levels! It now has all 5 levels in a very close to finished state, and we're just working on more puzzles, more challenges, more decoration, making the level design a bit more engaging, and the like.

We're almost done. Recently, we let out the final release trailer, with an optimistic estimate about release date. 

Yeah, we're not meeting that. Our new plan is releasing sometime in October, but we can't be 100% certain about that either. It's definitely more likely than September 30th though.


Thanks for reading!