Over the next several weeks, we’re spotlighting the top 20 3D Jam experiences chosen by the jury and community votes. These spotlights will focus on game design, interaction design, and the big ideas driving our community forward.
Prefrontal Cortex are a prolific Leap Motion development team with two apps in our App Store: Veil, a digital musical instrument, and How Does That Move? This 3D Jam semi-final app opens up a menagerie of animals for you to move around with your hands and fingers. (They also created FireHands, a small demo that gives you pyrotechnic superpowers.)
What was your development process, especially in modelling the animal movements?
The whole project is based on my observation that people are very good at imitating movements and actions. As I found out, the scientific name for that is “mimic gestures,” and I thought that it should be somehow possible to extract those gestures and turn them back into control schemes.
A big part in modelling animal gestures thus was talking to as many people as possible and letting them make silly gestures by asking silly questions – “Well, could you show me how a spider moves?” – and then analyzing the similarities and differences between these “mental models”. In the end, I had to find a compromise between realistic animal locomotion and human expectations. For example, the spider moves forward depending on how much you move your fingers, which is in no way realistic, but is what people expect a spider to do.
Early in development, the animals were blocky and looked like toys, but later you made them appear more lifelike.
The box animals were the direct product of finding the basic building blocks of the respective animal’s locomotion. However, I found that they in a way revealed too much about their inner workings and thus partly took away the magic. I tried a number of different visual styles, from low-poly abstraction to skeuomorphic materiality, and found that an illustrative style works best to convey the feeling of motion breathing life into the animals.
What role does music play in setting the tone of a game?
An immense role – music is nearly always underestimated. My first experiments for the sound of How Does That Move were going into the direction of actual sounds that the animals make while moving. For example, a snake crawling through whistling grass, or the hummingbird humming when it moves.
However, I found that these sounds kind of already happen in the heads of people – or they actually make them themselves while playing – and so decided to give a little reference to early slapstick and silent movies, where the movements were exaggerated to work without sounds. People connect this kind of music with frantic and silly movement, so I found it to be quite fitting!
What’s the secret to developing experiences with the ability to delight anyone, of any age?
You have to find ways to tease as many of the reasons of delight as possible: surprise, empowerment, curiosity, learning and mastering something, being entertained and challenged. This might seem very generic, but it is important to constantly check whether these things apply to the thing you are designing and developing. In experiences that should be delightful for a wide audience, everyone has to find a point that is particularly interesting, no matter what age or gaming skills.
What UX design tips do you have for developers starting to work with motion controls?
Do not try to replace the mouse and keyboard. I found that is the single biggest mistake people do when developing for motion controls of any kind. Think about experiences that can only done on the device you are targeting, and then you are on the right track for doing something unique. Motion controls can be exciting and magical if used in the proper way, don’t let people feel that technology is standing in their way.
Want to follow Prefrontal Cortex’s latest projects? Crawl, slither, fly or swim to their Facebook page.