Much of what makes Hololens unique from other AR devices on the market is it’s ability to scan your environment and create a 3d map of the user’s room for interacting with and placing holograms into that environment, so that the experience for the user seems real. For example if your application utilizes props like a book or a poster, it makes sense to place the book on a table or fireplace mantle and not just hanging in the air. A poster probably feels right to the user when its placed on the wall and not the floor or over a couch. The hololens toolkit (https://github.com/Microsoft/HoloToolkit-Unity) comes with some very good examples and code to help make this possible in your application. But that doesn’t mean that you have to always use spatial awareness in your application. In many cases you can still create a very engaging user experience without having to add spatial understanding to your app.
Our goal with Galaxy Defender for Hololens was to conceptually bring our successful 2d Galaxy Defender game into the 3d world. It was also going to be our first application built for Hololens using the Unity game engine. One of the things that helped to make the original Galaxy Defender game a success was that it was designed as an endless shooter arcade game. A game where you try to go as far as you can for as long as you can for the amount of time you have. A player who was waiting for a bus or standing in line at Disney could fire up the game and begin playing immediately and get lots of enjoyment shooting and blasting things and collecting power ups. If the user had a few hours to kill they could continue on trying to beat their last high score. We wanted to bring that same experience into Galaxy Defender for Hololens so a user with only a few minutes could play it or someone who had a much longer amount of time.
Galaxy Defender for Hololens places the experience 2 meters in front of where the user is looking when the scene first starts. It’s a game that is just as fun to play sitting on your couch or chair or if you want to get up and walk around the game and experience it from different views. In the original Galaxy Defender game you controlled a space ship and shot alien ships and asteroids that were trying to invade your galaxy. This experience itself would have been difficult and awkward to try and reproduce for the user in a Hololens. We did not want the user to have to work hard at trying to control a ship, aim and shoot. Something that would have only been possible if we connected a controller to the application. So we settled on the idea that you were wearing some advanced hardware device from the future that allowed you to control your lazer (that is how lazer should be spelled in my opinion) and target your enemies simply by looking at them. Your gun will track whichever enemy you are looking at and all you have to do is click (air tap or use the clicker) to fire. Instead of defending the whole galaxy you are defending one planet at a time. You have a shield just like in the original. There are powerups in the form of ‘Orbs’ of different colors that provide you with bonuses and powerups. The game takes place in space but this special device brings that space into your living room and scales everything so that you feel like you are part of the game. The enemies get more challenging as you advance in the game.
We are very excited with how the game turned out for our first project in this new reality. Certainly there are many things we can improve on and many new ideas we can add to make the experience even better.
Over the next few weeks we will be writing a series of blogs detailing many of the features of this game and what it took to build them. We will include code samples and walkthroughs to help you if you are new to developing for Hololens and are not sure where or how to get started once you have completed the Microsoft Holographic Academy (https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/holographic/academy).