Based on the award-winning tabletop card game Lost Cities by world-renowned board game designer Reiner Knizia, Lost Cities VR is a two-player strategy game that transports you to unexplored regions and mythical realms. Can you outwit your opponent and make the most profit as you compete to be the first to discover the ancient lost cities?

Designing the Desert Sands table for Lost Cities VR

- by Rachael Hosein

Our Desert Sands environment is almost complete and we're now testing out an early alpha version of the game, which we've brought to Oculus Connect 2.

The major component to all of the Lost Cities environments is the playing area. We can make the most awesome environments to sit it, but if we don't nail the game table then it will be all for naught.

Once we had the basic table top interface set, we moved onto developing the actual models.

1. Create reference materials

Sam developed our concept art, so we created a document with reference materials and a table layout diagram to help inform the design concepts.

We also gave her a visual of Les' interface concept.

2. Develop initial concepts

From there, Sam created three concepts for the team to review.

We loved them all.

3. Finalize the concept

Once we narrowed down the concept we wanted to move forward with, we put together a document that detailed some minor edits to polish it off.

Once the edits were incorporated, we finalized the concept.

4. Set the starting dimensions

Getting the scale right is critical. We based the tabletop interface on 6cm x 6cm cards that are about 1m off the ground, so this was the starting point for setting out our table dimensions.

5. Develop the 3D model

Once we had our starting dimensions set, Liem started modelling a detailed version of the table in ZBrush.

This version was almost there, but we needed to change the position of the player cards from flat to sitting up at an angle. The main reason for this was to avoid neck strain and increase legibility of the cards. Keeping the cards viewable at a natural head position would make for the most comfortable experience.

Since the player will be mostly focused on their own hand, it was important that we raised the position of the cards to a comfortable height. We also needed to angle the cards in the expedition areas so that the player doesn't want to try to lean closer to see the cards at the back. The Gear VR doesn't have positional tracking, so everything needed to be set up in a way that wouldn't frustrate the players.

6. Check in VR

Once we had the first draft of the table, we put it in our pre-alpha build (which is our playable version that contains just the cards using developer graphics). We went through quite a number of iterations to get things feeling just right.

One other thing you'll also notice in the image above is that there's now a shelf under the player's hand. Once we had the cards positioned correctly for player comfort and visibility, we realized the table would feel unnaturally far away from the player's own position. To compensate for this, we added a shelf or extension to the table that makes it feel closer to the player.

This was one of those little tricks you sometimes have to employ in VR to make things feel right. Feel is the most important thing. You can get away with a lot in other areas, just as long as it feels right.

7. Add in texture, lighting, and effects

Once we had the model set, Sam created the texture map, then Graham came in to add in some lighting and effects!

As part of the texture map, we added hieroglyphs to connect the table with the other ancient Egyptian elements of the scene, including Anubis, the god of the afterlife.

We're now testing the game out with as many people as possible to polish up any of the remaining elements. Once we've made our final set of tweaks, we'll move onto creating the environment for the Himalayan Mountains!

Thanks for reading about the development process of our game's table. Stay tuned for updates about artwork, music, and more!