Dane Wheaton

The Cleaner

My roles: Design, programming.

A commercial VR game developed at 321 Next Reality. Pressure-wash a filthy crime scene before the cops show up!

See it here. I really wish you could play it. I really, really wish you could play it. It’s good.

Whatever crime was committed here, I don’t think we want to know the details. The bathroom is full of entertaining (and enigmatic) little toys like this balloon. Its text reads “get well soon!”

MY CONTRIBUTIONS

I was the lead designer and gameplay programmer on the project, and was responsible for designing/implementing such things as:

  • physics
  • water VFX
  • interaction
  • the pressure washer’s adjustable spray
  • the game’s signature mechanic of cleaning grime off of various surfaces

I also led many playtest sessions. The game is meant to be simple and accessible, so our approach was very user-centric and a lot of our design decisions came as a response to playtest data.

Me, getting some help from our office pet, Feature – if you get the joke, you’re probably a dev.

I put a lot of energy into tweaking values and performing minor gameplay adjustments to further increase the visceral pleasure of cleaning surfaces, and to keep the gameplay feeling fresh. This was important to me, since the game’s concept depends so fundamentally on the player achieving a satisfying “flow state” while cleaning. I was adamant that player enjoyment must not peak too early and subsequently plateau; that the experience of cleaning must remain engaging and novel for at least ten minutes. I gave each surface an adjustable “cleanliness threshold” to reward spotlessness, and painstakingly modified these values to find each surface’s perfect “sweet spot” – the point at which the player feels like the surface is clean, and doesn’t feel like it’s worthwhile to continue cleaning it.

Some textures, like the stall door graffiti, are not fully transparent while being cleaned, to give the impression that the markings are more difficult to erase. In one iteration, a caustic chemical power-up was required to clean these surfaces.

THE PROCESS

Main menu, in its greybox stage.

The concept is based on “pressure-washing porn” – a genre of internet videos on YouTube and Reddit simply showing grime being cleaned off various surfaces with a pressure washer. Since this feeling of satisfaction was key to the gameplay experience, we decided to spend at least one month refining this mechanic until we were completely satisfied with it, before moving on to other gameplay features.

Playtesters!

Spray width adjustable via trigger pressure. I’m kicking myself for not making any gifs showing how the spray behaves/works. A video would have been even better, to showcase all the dynamic sound wizardry our audio engineer built. But even then, you’d still miss out on all the cool haptics… Just trust me, it’s like using a pressure washer. No, it’s better.

Research. I’m literally just getting paid to clean my boss’s fence. Our lead artist’s husband is recording audio reference.

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