GeistNet
Justin Camden's Digital Portfolio
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EMPATH

EMPATH is an experimental virtual reality action game for Oculus Rift that I created for my senior capstone project at the University of Southern California. Its core concept was casting spells through martial-arts inspired movements in the manner of Dragonball Z or Avatar: The Last Airbender. The idea behind the game was that martial-arts style movements are simpler and easier for a player to perform in combat situations, and also feel more natural than the more complex movements often used by gesture-based games. Thus, martial-arts based gestures would offer an improvement of the genre while playing to the aesthetic of a power fantasy.

As the director of the project, I formulated the initial idea and created a proof-of-concept prototype. Afterward, I recruited and led a team of approximately 30 student developers to create a more polished demo. Much of my time was spent in designing the player abilities to feel rewarding and natural, while also balancing the mechanics of their effects with those of the enemy characters. In particular, I focused on making sure that each power fulfilled a different role, and that different enemies would reinforce different the use of different powers, in order to allow the player a breadth of gameplay options, while also encouraging them to vary their strategy.

In addition, I worked with our level design design team to lay out the space of the level in such a way that it supported the desired effect of the individual combat encounters, while also fitting the requirements of the game’s story. For drafting and implementing said story, I corresponded with a number of professional writers and voice-actors, before arriving at the version presented in the final game.

You can read more about the game here, and download a demo here. You can also view a full play-through of the demo in the video below.