Log entry 3: BVW Round 2

A test of naivety!

The second round was the 'Naive Guest' round. The rules were very straightforward:

  1. A member from the audience who hasn't interacted with the world at any point will play through the experience.
  2. We cannot provide any explicit instructions both inside and outside the game / world.

After a lot of deliberation we decided to create a forced perspective game. The guest had to stand at a specific spot in the world for the random scattered objects to come together and make sense as a whole. The idea was exciting on paper but we ran into several problems during implementation. I'll talk about some of these challenges below:

Challenge #1: Disparity in models between Maya and Unity

  • One of the earliest hurdles we faced was how the models appeared within the game when exported into Unity. Based on the screenshots below you can see that the artists' vision on the left didn't entirely match up with the game asset within Unity.
Maya Unity
Tree in Maya
Tree in Unity
Maya Unity
Hawk in Maya
Hawk in Unity
Maya Unity
Pavilion in Maya
Pavilion in Unity
  • We ran into trouble with the camera in Maya not aligning with the guest's vision within the game. Thus, I had to manually place the camera at each view point and individually adjust bits and pieces of the model to line up in the way that we wanted to display them.

  • Furthermore, the actual display in the Oculus HMD was even more distorted and so we had to sacrifice detail for larger individual pieces to create something easily recognizable

Challenge #2: Indirect control and spatial awareness

  • Our world was all about exploration and discovery. However, we could not provide them any instructions, which included the basic mechanism to move with the Leap Motion sensor. Thus, as soon as the guest enters the world, we show them an animated hand moving forward.

GIF of hand motion

  • Instinctively, most guests raised their hand and discovered the relationship with movement. Some were able to grasp the acceleration quickly while others took some time getting used to it. Overall, most guests were able to move out of the start position.

  • The other point we wanted to emphasize was that the focus of this game was forced perspective. Thus, designed the logo of the game (Haiku) to be broken into several pieces as well so that the guest understood what they were looking for. Initially, you had to walk up to the pedestal and look up but that didn't feel intuitive, especially inside an HMD. We decided to move it to the opening scene so that as soon as the guest starts moving, they can see the effect and ponder over it as they fall down.

GIF of title

Challenge #3: Leading the guest

  • The next challenge was to lead the guest to our objectives without too much hand-holding. Our world was relatively blank with a lot of white space. The view points were all within a pond like area and each of these ponds was connected via a stream of water which would guide them to it. Even though the guest was free to wander anywhere, these were the only objects on the ground and would draw the guest back to them once they were done exploring.

  • After several changes, our level design put all the objectives at the vertices of a square and the guest would essential complete a lap around it. Also, when the guest would finish viewing one object, the next one would trigger in the distance just on the edge of their view so they knew where to head next.

Stream Square View

Challenge #4: Setting the boundaries

  • After implementing all the details mentioned above, our play-tests and the final presentation proved that it was still hard for guests to know when to stop along a path. Since the world was mostly white space, some would wander off and then lose their way. Though we took extra care in creating a comfortable experience - no rotation, slowing down falls before impact - guests were still getting disorientated. After a discussion with a friend, I had put rocks and other flora around the pond to act as 'soft' obstacles but they were not sufficient to stop the guests. Thus, I added colliders to them and added some objects to the streams themselves to prevent too much deviation. I also added an effect of glowing particles around the world area so that it felt more alive and the guest would know when they had wandered away too far.

Pond + particle

Overall, there were a lot of learnings from this world. It was interesting to learn how too much freedom can backfire and how humans instinctively require some sort of guidance or objective to keep them engaged. We also tend to be biased when creating a world since we see it from our perspective and take certain actions and interactions for granted. If your game / world can survive the test of a naive guest, you have truly created a well designed environment!