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Adventure of Rowan

Completed: 2018

Genre: Action

Platform: Meta 2 (AR)

Description: Rowan, a young jungle boy, is being pursued by dangerous animals. To help him be safe, players must grow a giant tree for him to take refuge in.

Unusual elements:

 - Grabbing a moving object in Meta 2

 - Create something big and beautiful in your living room

 - "Aaaahhhhh help!"


 - Considered for the Building Virtual Worlds Festival.

My roles: 

 - Game designer

 - Lead programmer

 - Voice actor for Rowan

For this game, I really wanted to take advantage of the fact that the game was in AR as opposed to VR. Specifically, whatever this game was going to be, all the content wouldn't get to exist in a beautiful immersive world; it would exist in the player's personal space. So I had to think of ideas of games that would be better because they existed in someone's apartment instead of a beautiful, immersive, custom-made world. My main plan for that was to build a game that revolved around creating something big and beautiful, since creating something big and beautiful in a world that's already beautiful may be less rewarding, since the world is already beautiful, so who cares if there's one more big beautiful thing in it? But on the other hand, creating something big and beautiful in the most ordinary space imaginable feels rewarding and special. The team liked this idea, so we made a game about growing this big beautiful tree.

The main mechanic of the game revolves around catching these giant floating orbs that can be used to grow the big tree, which was a bit of a risk due to technological limitations; the grabbing mechanic of the Meta 2 was often not very reliable, but I was also very aware of the fact that one of the best ways to make a game fun is to incorporate quick movements on the player's part, so I wanted to add a catching mechanic. It required a lot of testing with a lot of different people to see how far I could push the technology. I realized that as long as the orbs were quite large, they could definitely be caught, but people often didn't think they could do it, so I had to work players up to it by having the orbs change speed as the tree grows. At the very beginning of the game, the orbs move very slowly (about two inches per second), more than anything to help players get comfortable with the act of grabbing orbs at all, especially since most of the players had never worn an AR headset before, let alone one that allowed grabbing with your real hands, and sometimes the technology is more reliable depending on the angle that one holds their hands at, so in the beginning players are allowed to take their time to find a method of grabbing that works for them and gain confidence in their catching ability before moving on. By the end of the game, the orbs are moving much faster, at about 2-3 feet per second, which is a fun challenge, and every player I've seen get that far is confident that they can catch orbs that are moving that fast and find it quite achievable and fun.

Another design challenge was that midway through the game, Rowan starts getting attacked by birds, and players have to hide him using clouds. We added this as a way to keep the game feeling fresh, but it also makes the game more complicated, since the player has two things they have to do instead of one. I had to introduce players to the birds slowly, so when the birds are introduced, the orbs actually slow down, so as to reduce the number of challenges the player has to deal with right away, especially since players may need to take a moment to figure out how to use the clouds effectively, and would need to take time away from the orbs to adjust to that. But also the orbs don't slow down to the point that it's very noticeable that they're moving slower, since we didn't want the players to feel like we were talking down to them. In the end, we were able to effectively introduce the birds in a way that was approachable to players and prepared them for the challenge of the rest of the game.

© 2020 by Matthew Bofenkamp. Created with