Fans of robots, chaos, and mini-games—rejoice! Today, we’re excited to share that Fail Factory! is coming to Gear VR on December 7.
Just in time for the holidays, you’ll be able to work your way up the corporate ladder at a whimsical robot factory as hilarity and failure ensues. We sat down with Armature Studios Executive Producer Gregory John to get a taste of what’s in store.
What was the initial inspiration behind Fail Factory!? How does it differentiate itself from similar titles on the market?
Gregory John: We were inspired by the classic comedy episode of I Love Lucy, “Job Switching” from 1952, where Lucy and her best friend, Ethel, go work at a candy factory wrapping chocolates that are coming down a conveyor belt. The belt starts off slow and easy but then speeds up to a crazy rate. We built our game around the concept of operating on various assembly lines that all speed up to become a comedy of errors.
We noticed a lot of Gear VR titles were pushing towards the horror arenas, and we wanted to provide a unique environment and context that would feel fresh to both enthusiasts and players new to Gear VR. By making a physics-based game in a robot factory with a myriad of mini-games, we deliver a brand-new experience.
What motivated you to get into the VR space?
GJ: We believed both VR and AR would be a new way to expand upon our skill sets as developers, and we thought we could really play to the studio’s strengths by developing in the VR space. In particular, we wanted to apply our strong creative vision to a VR game. That vision comes through in how we set up the tasks for the player so that, as things inevitably speed up, they’re still having fun and laughing while frantically trying (and probably progressively failing) to achieve the goals of the mini-games.
What best practices and lessons learned did you draw upon from your previous game development experience while working on Fail Factory!?
GJ: Iteration, iteration, iteration. We scheduled extensive time after the game was fully functional and the content was complete to focus on polishing the gameplay. We checked our progress by doing a lot of focus testing—many of the players had never experienced VR. As one example, polish went into making sure the objectives for the mini-games were completely clear to the player.
Did you encounter any technical challenges while transitioning your development pipeline to VR? How did you overcome those obstacles?
GJ: We spent a good portion of the development time at the beginning just getting the art and design pipelines set up and working efficiently. Midway through, we brought on a graphics engineer and an engineer with mobile experience to optimize and get that smooth framerate necessary for a good VR experience.
How did you balance mechanics while ensuring a truly deep gameplay experience?
GJ: We experimented with a bunch of mechanics and ended up settling on the three most fun and interesting: sorting, assembling, and controlling the massive robot. These were the mechanics that gave players the most satisfaction in doing the tasks and challenged them to think and react quickly to the increasing pace. For each mechanic, we built and tested a host of mini-games, play-testing and internally focus-testing them to select the best ones that delivered a challenge that, when hilariously failed and finally overcome, was most gratifying to the player. In the end, we came up with 39 solid mini-games.
Additionally, once we had our Co-Workers implemented and animating, the personality of the game really came alive. We were then able to wrap the inherent fun of the gameplay’s escalating chaos with lighthearted humor and quirky characters to create a wacky spectacle.
What’s your favorite part of the game?
GJ: My favorites are the QAP (Quality Assurance Protocol) mini-games where the player controls the massive robot. It seems to also be a favorite for many of our focus testers, since it’s so gratifying and unique to move the arms, legs, and torso to navigate the 3D space and execute specific actions to fulfill the goals of those mini-games.
At its heart, it’s a puzzle game where the player has to figure out the best way to accomplish each task, so there are a lot of “a-ha!” moments when we see the player realize a better way to accomplish the goals of the mini-games. And there are a lot of smiles when things get fast, robots are falling down, you’re throwing your Co-Workers around, and piles of boxes are exploding from impacts.
If there’s one thing gamers take away from Fail Factory!, what would you like it to be?
GJ: We hope gamers will laugh out loud. If they experience that I Love Lucy feel, that feeling of imminent and lighthearted escalating failure, then we’ve hit it out of the park.
What’s next for you? Any exciting projects in the works?
GJ: We’re going to build on this development experience, especially from what we learned about using physics-based gameplay elements—for example, figuring out the amount that we help the player (by gently nudging the physics in the player’s favor) to keep the action from being frustrating while still feeling natural and correct. We’re very much looking forward to bringing another fun and engaging game to VR players.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Gregory. We can’t wait to share Fail Factory! with the Gear VR community next month.