Pushing TrainingOps to the Limit: Redesigning Levels for the Vive

Hello! My name is Derek, a level designer here at Virtuix. I’ve been playing games all my life, but it wasn’t until I started college that I knew that I wanted to go a step further and start making games as a career. I studied architecture at Texas Tech University where I got a taste for design. More recently I graduated from the Guildhall at SMU where I received my Master’s Degree and specialized in Level Design. My experience in architecture helps me to understand the flow of people through a space. My experience at the Guildhall taught me how to engage players in exciting gameplay experiences.

I used these experiences when approaching the challenge of updating an existing level to take advantage of the Vive. The differences between the Oculus DK2 and the Vive go beyond simply a new headset and open up a world of new opportunities to me as a designer when it comes to creating content for the Omni. The Oculus is a more static experience in which a player can move and look around but aiming is inherently tied to where the player is looking. The Vive and its fully tracked hand controllers allows for a fully decoupled moving and aiming experience that puts you in the driver’s seat of your own action movie.

When we first began experimenting with the Vive, the most obvious way to take advantage of the hand controllers was to give the player two pistols and allow the player to run through TrainingOps guns blazing akimbo style. This however presents a problem because up to this point, all of the levels were created with the Oculus in mind and did not fully take advantage of this new method of shooting.

To compensate, I took one of our earlier levels that was already built out and set about creating new gameplay situations that take advantage of the dual pistols. To do this, I first looked at the advantages the Vive offers and attempt to translate this into situations in the level that utilize these advantages to create a fun experience.

The first advantage is the fully 360 degree head tracking available using the Lighthouse setup and the Vive. This head tracking, along with the Omni’s strafing capabilities is conducive to ducking in and out of cover. There were a number of locations in the original level that limited the player’s lateral movement and did not offer any opportunities for using cover.

As seen in the screenshot, I opened these areas up and added some cover barriers to allow the players to duck behind the barriers when the turrets begin firing at the player.

The second major advantage is the most obvious, the fully tracked hand controllers and dual wielding pistols. Without a lot of effort, the existing gameplay in the level automatically became more engaging and fun. This existing gameplay however did not take full advantage of the player looking in one direction, walking in another, while shooting somewhere else.

To accomplish this, a new round was added to the end of the existing level which would challenge all of the player’s senses. Upon entering the room, a turret attacks from the front while two flying drones patrol around the room to the left and right of the player. After the player deals with these foes, two more turrets activate on the second floor of the room. These turrets again, are on the left and right of the room encouraging the player to shoot at them independently with their pistols aimed at the turrets simultaneously. Once these turrets are dealt with, two more pop up in front of the player further reinforcing the player’s ability to look and aim in different directions. Finally, a group of lasers blocks the exit and can only be destroyed when the player shoots a series of power nodes. These nodes are spread across small rooms situated below the final set of turrets.

It feels really cool walking through the level while dual wielding pistols, and for the first time in VR you really are living out that fantasy of being the action movie hero. I hope you enjoyed this look into the mind of a level designer. Stay tuned for more!


  • GreyAcumenGreyAcumen Posts: 307
    I still find it far easier, faster, and more accurate to simply move around more and fire one gun at a time. Guns akimbo is a fun theory, but usually only because nobody actually has a chance to try it out for real. Our eyes don't move in different directions, so our ability to fire accurately in different directions at the same time is vastly hampered. To create situations that actually promote this style of gameplay, the philosophy of design itself needs to be carefully laid to work within the limitations of the player while still creating situations in which both tools(guns) MUST be used.

    What would really push the "guns akimbo" methodology is either having targets that are in the same general direction that must be hit simultaneously, or for the player to be giving a primary target that is difficult to hit and must be focused on, while simultaneously providing a secondary target that requires little concentration or focus to be able to hit accurately.

    To draw on the first option, you could have dual targets that need to be hit simultaneously in order to be brought down. This could easily be visually represented by a pair of green targets with an energy stream connecting them both to a central yellow/orange/red target. If either of the green targets is hit by themselves then an energy pulse will travel from the green target through the energy stream to the central target but then pass on to the other green target and dissipate harmlessly. If both are hit at the same time, they both will send out their own energy pulses towards the central target, and when they meet will react with each other and break all 3 targets.
    This could even support a scenario where there are many green targets with their energy streams overlapping in disjointed ways, making it difficult for the player to tell which two green targets are even connected to each other.
    To further increase the challenge, a purple target could function similarly, but if the player hits only one, the shot will be sent through the energy stream and redirected back at the player when it reaches the other target in its pair.

    For examples of the latter option. it would be nice to have a situation where firing at a stationary target would keep a shield lowered that is protecting a series of moving targets. This would require you to fire at offset intervals in order for the shot aimed at the moving targets to bypass the shield.
    What I frequently have seen in games are moving platforms that the player can be carried on that can be struck in order to change direction, or that need to be struck in order to move at all. A setup like this could be used where the player can use one gun to fire as large targets mounted to the platform they are standing on in order to move that platform, but also have enemies attacking that they can use their other gun to fire at.
  • GreyAcumenGreyAcumen Posts: 307
    I was going to edit my post, but it seems to be too late for that.

    The other benefit I see to "guns akimbo" is simply the ability to reload one gun while you fire the other, so by careful pacing of each gun you can generate a continuous stream of gunfire. A"combo" target would be the best way to push this concept; special targets can be hit multiple times in a row, but it will disappear as soon as you let up your firing. Obviously it would also disappear on its own eventually, but with enough time that you would need to reload both guns at least once. To keep points balanced, it might be set so that each shot only counts for 1/4th - 1/10th of a point, or that only every 4th,5th,...10th shot gives a point.

    More ideas: Turrets that attempt to shoot targets before you have a chance to shoot them yourself, you can't destroy them, but they will "duck" to avoid being shot at, which will also prevent them from taking shots at the targets you're aiming for.
  • sutekiBsutekiB Posts: 1,010
    Turrets that attempt to shoot targets before you have a chance to shoot them yourself, you can't destroy them, but they will "duck" to avoid being shot at, which will also prevent them from taking shots at the targets you're aiming for.
    Wow, that's a cool idea! If that happened I'd be like:

    Community Manager at Virtuix
  • DanteMDanteM Posts: 155

    More ideas: Turrets that attempt to shoot targets before you have a chance to shoot them yourself, you can't destroy them, but they will "duck" to avoid being shot at, which will also prevent them from taking shots at the targets you're aiming for.

    +1 to that idea !! that would be legit!

    @sutekiB HAHA your meme game is on point, nice!
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