Owlchemy developer Alex Schwartz played through all of the HTC Vive game Job Simulator on his knees to make sure the new option, called "Smaller Human Mode," was functional.
"We've been getting a ton of requests from players who have told us that either they themselves, or their smaller loved ones, have been unable to reach items that are placed high up in Job Simulator," he said.
"The issue for us was not if we wanted to address the situation but simply how. The issue for us is that we wanted our first-time play experience to be simple, understandable, and clear and we spent so much time making the first few minutes of the game as smooth as humanly possible," he continued.
Every option has to fit into the game in some way; they didn't want to begin to start putting standard menus and options into an experience that was already designed so elegantly for VR. If they wanted to add the mode, they had to find a place for it that made sense.
"The thought of adding some menu options to scroll through was completely contrary to all of our design decisions to date," Schwartz explained. "We sure as hell wouldn't put a flat 2D menu in our game and revert back to the "olden days" of interaction. Everything we do is tactile and hands-on, so we needed to figure out a way to put in some actual switch into the world without clogging up the cleanliness of the intro Museum world. It's like having a house where you literally have no more shelf space to put any new items. So we eventually came up with the idea of an unobtrusive panel near the ground level of the museum kiosk."
Besides, if you're a smaller human, that's about where you'd look anyway, right?
You can see me turn the option on below. Smaller Human Mode doesn't make everything smaller, but instead increases the size of the player. The way it looks to the player in the game is much different than how it looks in third person. I see everything getting smaller. You see me getting larger.
This stuff is weird.
"If you'll notice, we are specifically avoiding labeling this as a 'kid mode' as there are restrictions around the minimum safe age to use VR hardware and while you can't necessarily stop people from putting their kids in VR, we certainly don't want to outright condone it by labeling our feature as a kid mode," Schwartz said said. "It's a mode for shorter humans."
In practice it makes the game more accessible for either children or simply those of smaller stature. But for someone of a more "average" height, I'm around five foot nine inches tall, it made it feel like I was playing around in my children's Fisher-Price kitchen playset. You feel huge!
Buy hey, now more people can enjoy Job Simulator! Plus, the game adjusts the size of everything in the world, including your hands.
"We instantly noticed that having normal-sized hands felt very strange, and so we ended up experimenting with tiny hands," Schwartz said. "This made our testers squeal with joy, and it's hard to state the feeling of 'adorable-ness' that having tiny hands in VR gives you. With Smaller Human Mode, we ended up finding a middle ground where your hands are smaller to match the smaller world."
And now, here's a look at what it looks like when you remove the Vive headset in the middle of a game and walk away.