There were at least 4 developers at SXSW showcasing their games using the Oculus Rift. One particularly busy booth was the development team for Classroom Aquatic. Remy Karns, designer and producer for the game, took some time away from their busy booth to answer a few questions about this underwater cheat ‘em up.
How would you describe Classroom Aquatic?
I describe it as the world’s first stealth trivia game. You play as a foreign exchange student in a school of dolphins. And you are going through an entire semester which you’re not prepared for, and you have to cheat through it all in order to become top of the class.
From what sources did you draw inspiration during development?
For the gameplay feel we really did go back to the old school stealth games - Metal Gear Solid and Thief - and what have you. As far as storyline goes, we were looking for storyline inspirations from the old school movies like Animal House or Porky’s or Fast Times at Ridgemont High. That sort of rebellious kind of high school or college experience as well as looking at fantastical, whimsical child-like stories of being under the sea: The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo, and what have you.
What sort of difficulties have you faced during development?
You know, a lot of difficulties come with really experimenting with the Oculus Rift. We’re trying to really design a game around VR. And it’s not been done before the way we’re trying to do it. So we don’t have a lot to back up on, but it’s a lot of fun trying to do that. I should point out, by the way, that our game is playable with or without the Oculus Rift.
Were there any specific "Aha!" moments that set the game in a new direction?
The biggest thing was that we had a lot of random elements in the game when we were first creating it. The professor would move around randomly. The students would react randomly to you when you looked at them. And so a lot of things weren’t being conveyed well, and you didn’t have a lot of control. The biggest “aha” moment came when we decided to add a new mechanic which was the Eraser Throw. It allowed you either to make the class a little more excitable when you do some sort of global thing like throw down the skeleton or the globe, and they’ll become a little less anxious and less likely to call on you. Or you can throw the eraser at one of the students, and the professor will go over there and berate them, which gives you a way to corral the professor. Giving people some control of over a very scary element, such as a professor or the students calling on you, really helped the game out a lot.
What aspects of the game did you want to implement but had to leave out?
Just from the early development, we wanted to add sort of a bigger world to it, but we just didn’t have the time or funding when we were doing the three week game jam. Now that we’ve reached our Kickstarter goal, we have a new sort of opportunity to add all this stuff we want to make this a real living and breathing world to make this experience that tells a great story.
What sort of things are you excited to implement?
I’m really excited about implementing a lot of the new game modes and trying them out. The School Dance, the way we’re thinking about how that is going to work out is going to be a lot of fun. Detention Mode is going to an interesting take on the multiple choice quiz structure that we have. Changing up all the other quizzes, [and] finding out how ESL or DSL (as we call it), or how an open book exam cheat is going to be a lot of fun. And just looking at different school scenarios that we hadn’t even thought of. It was just a couple of days ago we find out we really wanted to do a dodge thing you can cheat from. We’re still finding inspiration for a lot of stuff.
Tell us what the back of the box would say.
The back of the box? Oh my goodness! My mind is going blank. I actually wrote down a one paragraph description a couple of days ago... become a foreign exchange student in a school of dolphins. Cheat your way to an A like never before. It’s very smart to ace a test, but it’s even smarter to ace a test without ever having to study.