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  • Writer's pictureManex Darceles

Developing Finger Gun: On the Fringes of Innovation

Hi there, I am Manex Darceles, Founder & CEO of Miru Studio, creators of Finger Gun, a built-for-hand-tracking wave shooter. I helped to found Miru Studio in 2020 with the explicit purpose of exploring the seemingly unlimited possibilities offered by virtual reality, ultimately seeking to revolutionise the way people interact with technology and enjoy video games.

We all know how hard developing in this constantly changing landscape can be; well, developing for finger tracking while it was still being developed was like building in a landscape that hadn't been terraformed yet, an exhilarating challenge to say the least. Now that Finger Gun is out on the VIVE XR Elite, we want to share some of the things we learned from developing Finger Gun and hopefully help those thinking about developing immersive experiences or hoping to work on the fringes of an industry paradigm shift as pioneers.

1 - Understand your goal

Back in 2019 my childhood friend (Eneko Barandiaran, Co-Founder & COO of Miru Studio) and I kicked off a venture that would later be named Miru Studio. We have always enjoyed crafting things together and when we saw an opportunity in the VR gaming market, we didn’t think twice. Games and technology have always been our passion and we were ready to take risks.

Manex Darceles and Eneko Barandiaran

The first thing we had to take care of was understanding what we wanted to do. We wanted to make breathtaking games, sure. But how? What would make our games different from others? That’s when we started to dig into the consumer market and understood a new paradigm was beginning to emerge - hand-tracking technology. Hand-tracking technology is a game changer when it comes to human-computer interaction. Common VR controllers use joysticks, triggers and buttons to build the interactions - just like in every other old platform. But hand tracking was born to be different, just like Miru.

2 - Understand the technology

Joysticks and triggers are not always friendly for a wider audience - my mother could never move around with a joystick, but she knows how her hands work! Everyone knows how to use their hands! Hand tracking enhances what a real pair of hands can do in the most frictionless way possible. Let’s use Finger Gun as an example of this. Children all over the world play with fingerguns every single day. Kids don’t put real-world baggage into the gesture and thus finger guns can mean anything within their imagination. Finger guns are the connectors with the real world - what channels their imagination into the real world. It is their imagination, their creativity, that enhances the meaning of finger guns.

We actively pursued bringing back those memories to the player. We wanted them to feel like a kid playing around, being a hero, immersing themselves into a product of a child's imagination. Hand tracking allowed us to make this possible for the first time. Players could literally pose their bare hands like finger guns and see them transform into real cartoon guns.

Finger Gun Concept Art 1

Eventually, we understood that being super user-centric was critical to designing and developing a unique experience. The user is the one that owns their action. They decide how and when to act upon a challenge in the game. Sometimes reactions can be fast, sometimes they can be thorough.

3 - Understand the user

Traditional controllers were born to solve critical problems of the past and some of the problems were solved in such a brilliant way that nowadays we still use the very same solutions to the very same problems. The ability to jump in any platformer being triggered by a simple press of a button seems so trivial nowadays, but it was a huge deal back in 1981 when Donkey Kong implemented it for the first time - becoming a huge standard for any platformer to come. Well, hand tracking is in its early stages today and a lot of things need to be discovered and standardized. We had to make our own way! We didn’t know of any other reference in VR that had tried to implement a shooting mechanic using hand-tracking technology. We had to think outside the box and devise the most exciting and fun way to shoot with our hands. To do this, it was critical that we paid special attention to player interactions. We had to understand the player - how they interacted, how they wanted to interact and how they thought they were interacting were key to correctly steer the design of the interactions. Let me give a couple of examples:

  • The feeling of any interaction

Feedback is essential in video games. Specifically haptic feedback has had an enormous impact on the immersiveness and this is precisely one of the biggest challenges of hand tracking technology - how to replace haptics.

This was a question that we tried to answer from a very early stage. We implemented strong visual and audio feedback to try and replace haptics, but that was not enough. Touch could not be replaced with just seeing and hearing, but we didn’t have to replace touch - we just had to replace haptics! The players’ feeling remained intact - and we could take advantage of it! We designed the main mechanics around this idea. The players touch their own hand every time they shoot.

  • Turning constraints into design elements

We saw early on that some people really struggled to hit enemies. Players would try to accurately aim at each enemy, but this was in direct contradiction with the inaccuracy of the hand tracking itself. We decided to have auto-aiming in the game and take accuracy out of the equation. This was a brilliant design decision for many reasons, but mostly because it led the player to forget about accuracy and empowered them as the actual heroes of the game, thus truly bringing back childhood memories. We ended up having a much better experience through smart, user-centred design.

Finger Gun screenshot

This is exactly what thinking outside the box is and I am extremely proud of our team for doing so. This is what innovation looks like, this is the way to achieve unique and differentiated experiences. And the true way of pursuing it is by understanding your opportunities.

4 - Understand your opportunities.

And that’s exactly what we do! Understand the opportunities that we have and try to take advantage of them. Right now, we have the opportunity to push the boundaries of what our studio can do. We are taking all the learnings from Finger Gun and putting them to work towards new horizons for our studio. We are building a name using the knowledge we’ve generated developing for hand tracking and I can’t wait to see how far our team can go. Hope to see you on the road!


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