Building Virtual Worlds is no easy feat to overcome. Imagine being given the task of creating a virtual world or experience which exhibits and invokes certain information and emotions in the players. That in itself is difficult. But, it doesn’t end there. Add onto that the fact of only having two weeks to complete the project in groups of three to four people whom you barely know, are from different cultures, all at the same time also having different perspectives, and desires for the projects end-state. It is an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable journey to be a part of, but that doesn’t take away from its level of difficulty.
This is the way Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center(ETC) arranges one of their classes for first semester graduate students. Building Virtual Worlds is part of a four class curriculum called “The Immersion Semester” where we learn all of the skills the school deems are necessary to succeed in the following years.
BVW consists of five two week rounds in interdisciplinary teams, making games and experiences in Virtual Reality and Digital Spaces with specific constraints. We have had the privilege of working with The Oculus and Leap Motion, HTC Vive, Makey-Makey, Playstation Move, Microsoft Kinect, The Microsoft Hololens, The Jam-o-drum, Cozmo Robots, Google Tango, and The Cave.
We recently just finished the fourth round of BVW. This round was referred to as “Story Round” and was considered to be the hardest of the rounds. Using a new platform (The Microsoft Hololens) which was not necessarily designed for games, my team discovered a little difficulty in telling a story. Iterations of the game started out with a simple interface displaying the FBI UI/UX.
The guest, or player had to analyze each suspect’s profile to find out who intended to kill the mayor who was backstage preparing to speak. At the same time the player was tasked with finding clues in the speech the speaker was giving to introduce the backstory and why the mayor was about to speak. My team discovered, through much play testing that most people found it difficult to listen to the speech and go through the information at the same time.
So our second and final iteration we came up with was reducing the amount of information displayed all at once and instead having information display itself over time which gave the guest or player enough time to process the information. We also removed the speech and put dialogue straight into the characters of the game. We made it a point for the player to interact directly with the characters.
We felt that if we put the player in the game, rather than an observer of the game, the experience would be more enjoyable as well as the player would understand the presented information more accurately, and quickly in turn assisting them in their ability to play.