Hats as game controllers – or, ‘why our game jam involved hot glue and zipties’.
October 20th, 2014
During our last game jam (http://www.stlscatterjam.com/) our team began with little clue as to what to make, but we all agreed on one thing up front – it was going to be controlled by a hat.
I love game jams for the constraints they put on the design process. Limited time, limited resources, and adherence to theme. I also like the idea of adding in your own constraints to further hone the frenzied design beam. We liked the idea of creating some kind of physical controller because none of us had ever done that. It also seemed really silly.
We figured a hat controller should definitely have some kind of motion tracking, so we stuck an accelerometer on it. As the game began to take shape, we programmed it to control the player’s left and right movement by nodding your head left or right.
The game became ‘Gouda Chompin’, a strange amalgamate of weirdness born out of a theme, a controller, and our team’s propensity for “Yes, and…”. Players control a chomping set of teeth in a field of cheese. In this endless runner, you must consume cheese, dodge bacon fences, and collect grapes to summon the magical spring that transports you to the next level of cheese.
In addition to an accelerometer, we also had a spring loaded potentiometer (similar to that used in ROFLPILLAR) that we wanted to play with.
We thought about a chin strap, forcing the player to chomp constantly to move forward. That proved to be annoying, and also technically difficult to detect. Instead we decided that the teeth should fly, but only if the player flapped their wings in real life! This led to a strap extending from that hat attached to the players wrist, measuring the amount of flap. The result is a game that’s as fun to watch as it is to play, and also made for a great conversation piece as we wore the hat controller to the game jam demo.
The experience of designing around a physical controller was interesting and enlightening, but maybe even more so to play. We’re so used to conventional joysticks and buttons that the learning curve is simply learning where they are and what they control. With a physical controller, the learning curve has a lot more to do with your own body, figuring out how to refine your own movements for ultimate precision when the movement itself is anything but precise.
Game: Gouda Chompin’
- Unity Pro / Blender
- Mobile (coming soon)
- 2 Hats (glued together)
- Arduino and breadboard
- Spring-loaded Potentiometer (ripped from GameTrak golf game)