Two Flew Over the Nursing Home
Entertainment Technology Center of Carnegie Mellon
Instructor: Dave Culyba
Platform: PC + Arduino
Duration: 2 weeks
Team Size: 5
Responsible for: Interface Design & Implementation, Prop Making, Sound Design, Production
Two Flew Over the Nursing Home is a 2v2 racing game where each team plays as grannies and grandpas trying to escape their nursing home on a wheelchair built for two. Players need to spin the physical wheels to drive the avatar, avoid nurses and barriers and flee before the opponents.
During the 2 weeks, I collaborated with the team on the creative direction of the game mechanics and art style. I made the physical wheel prototype and assisted with Arduino input. I designed all the SFX. As co-producer, I am responsible for keeping the team on the same page and maintaining high morale.
This project was showcased in ETC Program's Annual Festival and won The First Penguin Award (only one project per year from the legacy of Randy Pausch). It was also well-received in the livestream.
Ideation & Trial and Error
The goal of this project is for people to have fun playing it during the festival. Considering the timeframe, I decided to make a 2v2 party game that allows players to experience the fun fellowship and challenge. To add flavor, I wrote a ridiculous setting which is 2 pairs of grannies and grandpas are trying to escape the nursing home on a wheelchair built for two. While escaping, they need to avoid nurses (I pictured nurse Noakes in the Cloud Atlas in my head) and beat their opponents. Every group member is on board with the idea, so we started developing.
First Iteration Input Device: Myo armband
Because we wanted the player to use the physical wheel as the controller, we chose the Myo armband as the input device as they are already available at ETC. I cut out some physical wheels and assembled 4 temporary "wheelchair" for playtest.
Data Flow of the Initial Design
The good news in the playtest was the game is a highly engaging party game like we designed. However, the bad news was that the Myo armband is not a reliable interface as we only used the moving speed of the player’s arm. There’s no way we could be precise and give players the feeling of control. Also, we couldn’t sense if the player was trying to reverse spin the wheel to head back.
We had to start over designing our interface.
1st Iteration Footage
We researched which input device fits our purpose better and finally decided to use Arduino Nano BLE. It has a built-in gyroscope, so we could directly use the angular velocity and use it as input. And it is relatively small and light, so we can hide it better and don’t have to worry about the sensor getting thrown out when players are spinning the wheels.
Arduino Nano BLE
(image source: Arduino Blog)
We tested the new interface, and it worked well above our expectations. It could detect even slight spinning of the wheel and also stopped precisely. So we successfully solved the interface data reliability problem.
Data Flow of New Design
All that is left for the interface is durability, as we expect a lot of guests to play the game during the festival night. So I continued to improve the durability of the props by using wood, steel and power tools to reinforce them.
Working in Wood Workshop
After being voted for showcasing the festival, we started designing the festival experience. We designed decorations and costumes to match the game. And we designated some areas for players to wait, watch and play. Unfortunately, because of Covid-19, there weren’t any guests other than faculties and students of ETC. And we cut most of the decorations and tried to reuse the already available decorations at ETC.