Shall We Try This Again?

Hey Everyone! Err, this is a little awkward after all this time…

First, here’s something fun. Last year I worked with a couple of guys from Koelstof (some of you may know Jarno Cordia, who works with Phoenix Fly) to produce a prototype for an arcade wingsuit game. We put something together in a couple of days, and the result looked like this:

You can try out a webplayer version as well! (Requires Unity browser plugin)

This thing has been lying around for a year, and none of us were really doing anything with it. Recently some kind folks contacted me to ask if I would help them build their game, or if they could use parts of the source code for it. The game has a different theme, but shares some of the core mechanics. I’m working out a deal with them right now, so with any luck you will see this thing come to life soon.

(Just to be clear, this is not Volo, nor is it related to it. Volo is very much on the simulation side of the spectrum, while this game is distinctly on the arcade side.)


So what about Volo?

I have spent the last year setting up my freelancing business. I started out as a complete newbie, and have been stumbling my way towards a vague sense of competence ever since. I’ve been meeting a lot of interesting people, and have been learning a lot. Scoping projects, not not biting of much more than I can chew, and getting work done in time. I renamed my business to Ramjet Anvil (an almost-anagram of my name), and I am looking forward to working under that banner.

But crucially, I burnt out on Volo big time last year. It’s very ambitious for a first game, and to think I could pull it off was at least a little naive. Perhaps I should have done a 2D platformer first, heh.

Progress ground to a halt. I kept staring at the Unity project for days on end until I was banging my head against the monitor in frustration (no joke there). It got to the point where I figured I should cut my losses and move on to a completely different project; something a little more suited to my skill level. I thought I couldn’t realize this game, and I did not want to make promises to you guys that I would not be able to keep.

Meanwhile, every day I received youtube and facebook comments along these lines: “Holy shit! I’m throwing money at the screen but nothing is happening!“, as well as: “Hey man, are you still working on this game? It’s so sad to not see any updates…” These comments are very heartwarming, and they slowly made me realize that I was onto something too big to just throw away.

So now I want to try it again!

The biggest problem that I faced was that I wasn’t able to handle the sheer complexity of the physical simulation. With so many moving (body-)parts, and without adequate tools, it took weeks to understand the consequences of even the tiniest gameplay tweak. Not instantly seeing the effect of your changes has a devastating effect on your productivity. Imagine trying to draw a picture, but you only see the lines you draw appear half an hour after you’ve drawn them! It’s not impossible to work that way, but it is extremely difficult. I only really realized this after watching this wonderful talk by Bret Victor, a designer/engineer with a resume so impressive you’ll fall of your chair. If you’re at all interested in the fields of design and engineering I highly encourage you to check this talk out:

(And read his article on the Ladder of Abstraction; it applies so much to my Volo troubles I almost cried.)

So, I’m picking things up again, but taking a different approach.

First, the focus is not on realism, but on gameplay. This is to avoid the pitfall of adding lots of complex stuff even though it isn’t needed for the play experience. For example, most players think there is a very complex wind model in the game. There isn’t; so why would I focus a lot of time on putting one in, at least early on? It’s good enough as it is.) I’m also looking for a stylized look for the graphics. Something simpler to produce, better at communicating the simulation state, and something that will not look old and ugly the day the game comes out. A stylized and slightly fictional look would also enable me to get away with not simulating some things. Just boring things though. πŸ˜‰

Second, I need to build adequate tools to deal with each bit of complexity I add to the simulation. Unity’s default tool set is great, but it will need significant additions if I am to tweak aerodynamics with it. I need wind tunnel testing with exquisite graphical readouts, and I need it now.

Third, multiplayer code needs to be in there right from the start.

With those things in mind I first plan to get some basic aircraft flyable on a multiplayer server. Once that is up and running add first/third person walking, getting in and out of vehicles, switching a character’s gear, and then finally wingsuit flight.


As always, let me know what you think!

And thank you for staying interested, it means much to me.


  • Elliott

    I’m one person who is really looking forward to your game. Im a skydiver and working my way to using a wing-suit. I love games and i am disappointed there are no good wingsuit games out. your’s looks the most promising and realistic. just hope it would have multiplayer and customizable wingsuits and be on xbox and not just a computer game. keep up the hard work.

  • Isaac

    New post!

  • I’m ecstatic you’ve decided to tackle this again, Martijn.

    I can fully understand the conundrum you were in as I have recently been working on a project that was and still is a little too large and complicated for my skill level.

    Will you be continuing from where you left off, or starting from the ground up?

    Please keep posting on your blog and if you ever need help or motivation come back to the forums and we’ll do our best to help you out.

  • admin

    Hey Murcuseo, thanks! I’m salvaging what I can from the old code, but a lot of it will be done from the ground up. I’ll stop by the forums some time, if only to check out what those guys are doing with that Vertical Rush project. πŸ™‚

  • Jeff

    Amazing that you decided to have another go at this, I’m very happy for you.
    Please know that I completely support your ideas and decisions.

    Looking forward to the next update!


  • Mihawkler

    I’m really glad to hear this! I’ve secretly been hoping that you’re still interested in making Volo πŸ™‚ Good luck! and keep us updated!! πŸ˜€
    ps: I very much enjoy playing the little arcade game! πŸ™‚

  • jsn

    I want to thank you for all your hard work. I really am enjoying Volo

  • Hey Tin man, Really glad your picking it back up again too. Also wishing you luck with the development!
    And I hope your freelance work takes off in a big way as that will provide you with not only the cash to develop but maybe even additional developers too!
    And also thanks for the arcade demo, It’s really quite fun! (especially the rag doll when you crash)
    I’m sure it would sell in the app store too ;D

  • Nano

    Great to hear. Looking forward to the game very much.

  • First of all, I love what I’ve seen so far of Volo, and I’m really looking forward to playing it. I love the concept that you use simple controls, and the AI interprets them and navigates the complex physics of the situation that it may OBEY AS A SERVANT MUST. Keep going; you’re making something beautiful.

    Also, I was blown away by the Bret Victor talk you linked to. That talk just helped me to clarify what I want to do with my life and, more importantly, why.

    Having said that, I’m only slightly embarrassed to discover that he’s famous as one of the Apple stable of designers. There’s this “Steve Jobs’ biography changed my life!” feeling to the way that talk inspired me, and it may take me a while to shake it. Maybe it’s because he lured me in with sexy designer interfaces and then blindsided me into wanting to be a better person. Bastard.

  • Is there a stand alone version of the game we can download?

    I can’t see any links and it would be awesome to be able to play it in HD.

  • nicart

    Can’t wait to see a playable version ! The design is amazing, lights, textures, the island, wow! this is great, keep working man, it’s a wonderful work !

  • I love that arcarde game but the map gets boring after hours of playing.. lol

    Good Luck with Volo πŸ™‚

  • I was with you right until the end:

    “With those things in mind I first plan to get some basic aircraft flyable on a multiplayer server. Once that is up and running add first/third person walking, getting in and out of vehicles, switching a character’s gear, and then finally wingsuit flight.”

    That’s your definition of focus and simplifying? πŸ˜€ Instead of just one model performing one action (a fixed humanoid falling down) you’re looking at multitudes (vehicles, character gear that alters falling characteristics, powered flight, walking, running, and multiplayer netcode)? I … well, good luck. I’ll check in in a few months. It should be interesting.

  • Arex

    Dude, Kickstart ( your game ! You could raise A DAMN LOT of money to create an even more awesome game than what you game already is and focus on it only !

    And I would be a backer for sure !

  • I’m just waiting for a good wingsuit game, so please don’t give up! and I’m waiting for an alpha version or someting more than the web version πŸ™‚

  • Harry

    Is there anywhere I can play the original arcade version, as the link on this page seems to have stopped working?