LaserBlast Shooting Gallery


ITP Thesis 2022
A little bit of tinkering, sweat and swearing




BACKGROUND

As an avid theme park fan, I have been on a lot of theme park rides. That means I've interacted with a wide variety of attraction ride systems. Some of those ride systems are great! Other ride systems are bad, and one such bad ride system is that of Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, an attraction that hasn't been heavily updated since it opened in 1998. With my thesis, I explore how to rebuild the interaction system on this ride using a more modern approach than in 1998.

Throughout my thesis journey I took inspiration from a multitude of places. I talked with friends and family about their theme park experiences, and even ventured to Orlando twice while constructing this project. I also thought a lot about toys/games that I played with as a child. Particularly arcade shooting games such as Time Crisis, which I also played at Dave & Buster’s in Times Square as part of my research. 






Right around that same time I was also learning a lot of Unreal blueprinting, so I tried to think of ways that I could use Unreal to pull this off. Luckily for me, Victor Morales, my professor for a class called “Noodles all the way”, had demoed a system that uses Unreal and the HTC Vive wands without the need for the HTC Vive headset. After seeing Victor demo this system, I knew immediately that it could be used for this project. I quickly turned Victor's demo into a disappearing paint gun that I used for my final project in his class.

The physical space that players step into has been recreated inside the game engine. Inside the scene, there is a camera pointed at the wall from which the targets spawn. That camera feed is being pumped into MadMapper where it is being cropped and sent out to the projector. The Vive controllers are being tracked using the lighthouse boxes that are typical for a Vive setup.






At the endpoint of the laser is another particle system covered in a collision box.  The targets are particle systems that have a collision box around them to detect when they have been hit by the laser impact collision box.

With gameplay finally in a working state, I then took every opportunity to user test the gameplay mechanics. After an initial batch of testing, the response I got was positive, but players asked for more interesting gameplay mechanics. This feedback resulted in the addition of a new color target that was worth bonus points, and mechanic for point deduction if the incorrect color target was hit by a player. Additional testing proved that this enhanced gameplay was just what players were lookinasg for! As I continued iterating I also realized the need for a score UI, player instructions, and a game over screen; so these items were quickly added to add more polish to the experience.






FUTURE

As of writing this, the experience is a simple shooting gallery game that puts you head to head with a friend to see who can shoot more targets. Throughout this process, I also did a lot of brainstorming about the story that I want to tell in the a future version of this experience. What I came up with was ultimately inspired by a TV show that I have been watching recently called Ancient Aliens. My story centers around the “NYU Special Gems Collection”, which is a made-up entity that has recently come into possession of an otherworldly crystal. In the final version of this experience, players would be ushered into a museum exhibition, where something would go horribly wrong and they would have to help defend NYC from mysterious evil energy. I am looking forward to working on this project further by adding more complex gameplay mechanics as well as a fully fleshed-out narrative!



PROCESS

Early iterations of this project used a mobile Augmented Reality app as the method of interaction. Part of the way through developing the project I came to the realization that developing a mobile AR application is really hard! Specifically, I ran into a multitude of issues running physics simulations while using Apple’s multi-peer AR frameworks. In addition, I could not figure out how to best integrate physical sets while still using mobile AR. The final nail in the coffin was that I also felt that I could not justify the use of mobile AR within a theme park context. Since mobile AR requires a mobile device, I felt that it was hard to integrate the actual device into whatever story I would want to tell.







The atypical part is that I have set up the Vive controllers to run without the need for a VR headset. After play testing the disappearing paint gun, I realized that I needed a standardized way for people to hold the controllers, since each new person seemed to hold them differently. Rather than just have players hold a Vive controller, I 3D printed a set of blasters that make gameplay much more enjoyable and immersive!

The rest of the technical details for this project relate specifically to the gameplay mechanics. The laser system that spawns from the controllers is a particle system that has its visibility set each time a player presses the trigger. The shooting system was specifically designed to prohibit rapid-fire as the trigger must be released after each shot in order to shoot again.







With an iterative spirit already coursing through my veins, I didn’t stop there. For my Amusement Park Prototyping course, my group-mates (Michael & Jiyun) and I further enhanced the system I had already built. We had been designing a prototype amusement park ride and decided to take the shooting system I had built and insert it into the Unreal scene we had built for the ride. This meant that we could take the virtual camera from the shooting system and move it around an environment, allowing players to shoot targets while the ride was “moving”. We didn’t stop there, and even added some additional physical elements that reacted to the player interaction. I even incorporated the physical elements into the final version that was on display at the ITP Spring 2022 Show! 









PRESENTATION VIDEO