My VR work continues to focus on creating content augmenting 360 video, but there is a lot of insight to gather from simple VR games. As a part of coursework for my VR Nanodegree, I created a simple, immersive puzzle game from scratch, using visual, audio and movement interactions.
This documentation is intended to generally show I can transfer an idea from the back of a napkin to a functional app-based game on iOS using Google Cardboard.
Goals were set to the following:
Simple, visual pleasing game in my style that takes about 3 minutes to play
Introduce low input movement mechanics (“flying” rails system) to allow user to play the game seated or standing without much head movement
To keep focused on the audience I would deliver this work to, I created the following sample persona to continually reference while creating the puzzle game.
Mary, 40, Female, Medical Doctor
“It is time to relax and have some fun after work, and leave it all behind”
Mary is a hard working doctor that comes home to relax on the couch after dinner. She wants to play simple, entertaining and immersive games and doesn’t mind trying new things. She is definitely not interested in complex issues or bringing her work, or the stress involved, with her into her free time or living room. She stays up with technology, has tried Google Cardboard once or twice, and is excited to learn more and play more games or interactive content with the system.
The general look was sketched on paper to show a basic, yet mysterious igloo ice setting in a barren flat area, with a mountainous landscape in the background as the setting for the puzzle.
I started to develop this landscape first by using a white, “snow” covered terrain, then placing an inverted sphere to serve as the igloo base, allowing the insides to be flipped. I wanted to create an outer-worldly feeling to the scene, so I only textured the inside of the sphere, allowing the player to view inside the puzzle igloo at any angle - and create a unique VR experience.
However, the gate entry, circular floor and inside elements keeps the shape and idea of a dome, retaining 3D perspective for the player.
The game orbs (used to solve the puzzle), lighting and audio were added with a feeling that a player would be attracted to the warm, yet spooky igloo dome in the mddle of the harsh, cold landscape.
Simplistic graphical user interface signs were added to welcome the player, direct the their focus, and move without too much effort.
They also served to congratulate the player for completing the game, and restart as needed.
An absolute minimal text prompt and click approach was taken, allowing the user to use their intuition to play the game and simple use movements that make VR fun and unique as a medium.
Finally, I used a simple, medium paced movement system between three points in the game to allow the user to grasp the beginning in grand isolation, moving to the warm playfulness and mystery of the igloo and finally ascending magically above the igloo to bask in the glory of the view, upon completion of the puzzle.
Using people that generally fell in to the persona mentioned above, I conducted short, question based user tests while players used the snow puzzle game at three test points in the development;
View of puzzle from entry way, no movement, game not active
Presentation of welcome and end GUI screens
Near final revision of entire game experience
While the focus was slightly different at each test point, I asked users to give feed back on;
Scale of objects, environment
Movement, ease of looking around, general feeling
lighting, ambiance, and audio
After reviewing notes from responses, I then made slight adjustments based on feedback to make a more enjoyable experience and achieve the desired outcome stated in the goals and purpose. Changes made include sizing of GUI signs, color adjustments, orb size and location adjustments, particle system (orbs) alterations and movement speed changes.
While simple and quick for this project, these user tests proved to be very effective in allowing me to iterate effectively on my puzzle game with real world feedback.
The result is visible in the following video or text walkthrough below.
After opening the application, putting on the Google Cardboard headset, the player begins their game in a white flat view of the side of a mountain, then turns towards a GUI screen asking to begin the game. After a simple click selection, the player is moved into a distant mysterious igloo, warmly lit by torches, where they are placed in front of 5 orbs. These orbs play out a simple pattern, that the player can repeat, through trail and error, and is usually figured out intuitively. After successful completion, the user is transported up and above the igloo to enjoy the view and allow for replay of the game.
A fun, interesting game can be created using simple elements over a weekend to showcase various design motivations in VR. This does some take some knowledge of movement mechanics, camera angles, lighting, audio elements and production skills that I have learned in my years of working on video production sets.
Games allow for the freedom of bending the rules or real life, and allowing users to suspend belief, and escape reality - virtually. Instead of replicating “real life” areas to an exquisite detail, using game techniques allow for a more interesting application adapted to the strengths of VR.
with a dedicaded team of friends, and a bunch of support from a kickstarter campaign, I spent over a year photographing people meditation in public around the world as an experimental video and performance project... and witnessing the beautiful results
available for on location and commission work