Grave Call started as a student project and ended up as a showcase in the Alt. Controller section at GDC 2018.
I developed it together with six other students at the Game Design program at Uppsala University Campus Gotland, Sweden.
The game is played by two people, one person is "buried alive" in a wooden coffin, while the other takes the role of a police dispatcher.
Inside the coffin is a smartphone which is running an app that we have created. This app simulates an operating system where the buried player can navigate through text messages, pictures and memos, etc, and it's their job to look for clues that can give away their burial location.
The two players are talking to each other through a network call, and the buried must convey the information they can find on the phone to the dispatcher, who is stationed in front of a touch screen display. The display shows the second app that we created, which is a map of a city. Using the map, the dispatcher can manage police cars to search through specific locations, get reports from officers, search for persons of interest in the police database, as well as keep track of a triangulation system that can narrow down the perimeter.
The players have 10 minutes to find the right location before the app on the phone simulates the battery dying, and leaves the buried person alone in the dark.
To make the experience even more immersive we decided to put speakers inside the coffin that will occasionally play very muffled sounds from the surroundings of the current burial location.
Animals, ambiance, machines and weather will give increasingly more helpful sounds as the battery slowly drains. Some of my personal favorite moments during play sessions were when players have been very low on battery and then finally the buried hear a sound that connects all the dots from the rest of the clues, they yell what they can hear and the dispatcher rushes the closest police unit to the location, but the call breaks off just as the unit arrives, and all the buried player can hear is the muffled sound of shovels digging dirt that gets louder and louder, until a thump finally hits the wood, and voices outside scream that they have found the coffin.
Designing and creating this game has been a blast. Finding solutions for how to connect all the systems and apps that we are using, and on top of that build an actual coffin, has required us to be very creative and dedicated.
I was lead sound and assisting coder for this project. Most of my time was spend hunting down sound effects that we could use, and master them until they sounded like they were played "6 feet over".
My biggest challenge was to figure out a way to allow one computer, the computer connected to the dispatcher station, play sound for both the dispatcher and the coffin at the same time, separated from each other.
My solution was to use an external surround sound card so that we had several distinct stereo channels available, and the use a software called FMOD to manage which channels each sound should be played through.
This was very effective, but always a hassle to set up and configure for each play session. I'm currently working on changing the sound system by simply splitting the audio for each player to either only the left or only the right side. That way we can get rid of the surround card, play the sound through a simple stereo output, and hopefully have a more comprehensible setup that is much simpler to handle.
This turned into a very interesting project with a lot of fun, technical solutions, and I'm very happy to say that what started as a school project has now been officially accepted to the alt.ctrl.GDC conference in 2018!
I'm very proud of my team's effort. Everyone was being very dedicated and creative and I really feel like they deserve this!
This will be an adventure and an absolutely amazing opportunity for me to network with people who are already working in the gaming industry!
I'm hoping that this will lead to something even greater and I am making preparations to make the most out of this opportunity in terms of connecting with people and showing off what I have to offer!