Virtual Reality is slowly becoming a physical reality in the new generation of gaming. Although many question whether the market for it exists yet.
While it’s more common in VR games for the player to use his/her hands to control the virtual environment, a Denmark-based, six-person team, which came together for Nordic Game Jam 2015, has opted for a single elephant trunk. The Nordic Game Jam takes place every February and brings together industry veterans, indie developers and students to create a game in 48 hours. It wasn’t the first time participating in a game jam for five of the team members who made Awkward Ellie.
“Come to think of it, our game at Exile Game Jam  also had a named animal as the protagonist,” Jesper Fogh, one of the game’s developers, told CGM. “I guess we like animals.”
Awkward Ellie is a game starring an elephant who has been invited to her first ever human tea party. Through the use of an Oculus Rift unit and PlayStation Move controllers jury rigged together on the head, the player becomes a nervous Ellie and must do the best they can not to embarrass themselves with poor manners and etiquette. You can imagine it’s quite difficult not to spill your tea or knock anything over with the use of only your trunk to hold, move and consume things.
The team started brainstorming ideas together as a group, while some other teams focused on only one person’s idea, said Fogh.
“The keywords ‘elephant in a china shop’ and ‘Oculus Rift and PlayStation Move’ came up. And before we knew it, Michail had put two Move controllers into Nina’s backup pantyhose and attached them to his face while wearing an Oculus Rift. And the rest, as they say, is history,” he said.
The website suggests, “For maximum fun, add tusks, ears and a snout to your Move/Oculus gadget extravaganza” and has a short Game Jam trailer that shows players cupping and wobbling around a fabric trunk on their face.
“You had to wear this ridiculous looking mask-thing, which not only put a smile on the player’s face, but also the spectator’s,” said Fogh. “That’s one of the great things about Awkward Ellie. It’s that the spectators can get a kick out of watching people play as well,” he said.
Awkward Ellie is the first VR game the team has made and it managed to combat what Fogh said is one of VR’s biggest challenges.
“As I see it, one of the biggest challenges of VR tech as of now is that spectating is not nearly as fun as playing.”
The virtual tea party environment is eye-poppingly colourful and consists of simple low-poly graphics. Ellie’s box-headed hosts stare at her unmoving and unblinking while she struggles to eat sweets and wash them down with tea, all the while trying not to cause a domino effect of knocked over bottles, sandwich trays and candle holders.
The team responsible for Awkward Ellie is focusing on how to make the game a more fleshed out experience. At the same time, Fogh recognizes some difficulties involved with a game like Awkward Ellie.
“There’s some obvious difficulties in actually releasing the game in a commercial manner,” he said. “For one, most people don’t have an Oculus Rift as well as a PS Move. So right now we’re just polishing up the game so that we can hopefully bring it to some game festivals and get some feedback on what works and what doesn’t.”