Vacation Simulator: Embracing Chaos with Emergent Gameplay

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Vacation Simulator: Embracing Chaos with Emergent Gameplay

The recipe for a memorable vacation includes chaos, self-expression, and waffles!

Hello, VR explorers! I’m Chris and I do design, programming, and art at Owlchemy Labs. We’re counting down the days until Vacation Simulator comes to PlayStation VR and I’m writing this to share what I’m most excited about from the project: Emergent Gameplay!

Emergent gameplay is when mechanics combine together in complementary ways, often making a new experience that is greater than the sum of its parts. Building a game this way is awesome, because it helps players create unique and memorable moments and adds lasting depth. We’ve experimented with these concepts in our earlier titles: facilitating mayhem with loads of interactable physics items to play with in Job Simulator and Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality. (Did you know there are more than 30,000 first-order item combinations possible in our Combinator?)

In Vacation Simulator, we dug even deeper and filled our open world with tons of interactive objects and connected systems to encourage emergent gameplay. You’ll see all these surprising and delightful mechanics when you play this summer, but I’m excited to share two examples from our Vacation Forest destination.

First, let’s look at the Waffler, which lets you turn any object in the game into a delicious waffle:

The waffles you make in this machine aren’t just for eating. You can stack them in sandwiches, feed them to fish to change their color, or even give them to hungry Bots. We made sure waffles seamlessly integrated with other systems in the game to give you those magic moments where “it just works!” Maybe you need a pink fish but can’t find any pink food around — but there is that pink flamingo statue by the garden. With a bit of creativity, you can use the waffler to turn that pink flamingo statue into an edible pink waffle, and voila… pink fish! Encouraging this kind of exploration is key to making our world a place where you’ll want to keep coming back for more.

Interconnected systems also help you tell your own vacation story in our game. Are you the type of person who wants to create the perfect authentic breakfast, or would you prefer a waffle made of twigs you found floating downstream? Whether it’s a buttery waffle covered in jam and honey or sprinkled with trail mix and a dash of coolant, the waffler makes it possible and gives everyone who plays their own unique experience.

Next up is the Shrubafier, a machine that lets you turn any item in the game into a shrub for your garden:

By comparison, turning things into waffles was easy: objects were flattened, made edible, and lost all of their prior properties besides color. Building the Shrubafier brought up so many tough questions that the entire thing was almost cut — multiple times! What happens if you shrub an edible item? A watering can? A wearable hat? Ultimately, we decided to double down and embrace chaos instead of playing it safe, and we’re happy with the result.

The key with this feature was meeting expectations. Would you expect food to be edible, hats to be wearable, and a mug to still hold liquid after being shrubbed? Of course you would! So we had to make that work. VR experiences are unique and powerful — you aren’t just pressing buttons and looking at a screen, you’re in the world and using your own hands to manipulate objects. This makes it all the more disappointing when things don’t respond the way you expect. We met as many expectations as we could, and when we couldn’t, we relied on our other tried and true Owlchemy strategy: jokes!

These are just two examples of emergent systems, but you can already imagine a world of shrubbed hats with purple flowers being waffled into food for picky bots, hungry fish, or even your own avatar. There’s a lot more interconnected chaos where that came from, and I hope you’ll check out the game and explore the rest of Vacation Island this summer.

Mark your calendars, Vacation Simulator comes to PlayStation VR on June 18!

Chris @ Owlchemy Labs

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