Week 16

Last week! We did our final presentation for about 40 guests and they tried our demo after all 4 teams’ presentation.
We are very excited to see that all of our change works perfectly!

Here is the answer for some really great questions Mike Christel(ETC faculty) asked and we really want to share our thought with you.
1. Advantages and disadvantages
Comparing with other VR platform, the biggest disadvantage of Oculus is the moving limitation. Basically you cannot move and perform some moving actions which will limit your design. We did think about teleporting mechanism to give player more freedom but we did not think that is a good way to take the advantages of VR platform. A good part of Oculus is the touch controller. It works very well with two cameras capturing the movement and you have a lot of freedom when you try to design the mechanism with touch controllers.
2. Three elements
We think we did pretty good at designing environment because most of people mentioned they like the environment a lot. It is very beautiful and those particles, lights work really good and player enjoy looking at the environment.
However, we definitely need a lot of time to improve our story design skills. It took us A LOT OF time to figure out how to design the good story with a understandable mechanism. We felt very struggle designing these two part together and changed many stuff just because the story is not strong enough or the mechanism does not make any sense. Actually I think this is the biggest challenge of this project – how to design the good story with a good mechanism to let the player feel the emotion we want to invoke. If we have more time, we will definitely want to explore the story design area more.
3. Emotions change from satisfy to fear
At beginning we want to design a story with very complex emotions like satisfied and we think we can finish it with a high quality experience. But with the development process moving forward, we feel very struggle at different points such as designing story and mechanisms, teaching mechanism, designing and implementing indirect control and all other big challenges. We thought we need to change our scope and try to finish at lease a high quality experience instead of spending more time on designing and testing storyline. We really want to invoke complex emotions because it is quite challenging and definitely interesting, but I will be very honestly to say at that time we do not have many choices. If we have more experience in designing story and interactive products like this, we can definitely do better. I feel there exists a big skill hole working on storytelling project but we learned a lot of stuff through whole semester and we are really proud of what we eventually accomplished!
4. Hand Model and Gesture
One of the biggest lessons we learned in this semester! Actually before we implemented this, I personally have a strong doubt about this decision because I can hardly imagine what it will look like and player may easily get lost. But after we completely removed the hand model, I tried it immediately and it works perfectly! I think the reason we think it may not work is because you can never imagine how a computer could work without mouse and keyboard. But in VR, when you wear a big headset with controllers in your hand, you will not feel that you are using a machine. You will want to explore the new world and try everything new. You will not feel weird even if you cannot see your hand. Actually that enforce the relation between player and the fish because player will not look at the weird hand model and thinking what that is. And I think that is why people will not miss hand model in the storytelling experience like our demo.
As for hand gesture, the algorithm we have allows user to control the fish by either directing fish with a big arm movement or pulling and dragging fish like controlling water wave. The reason we did this is not because we want them to choose the one they like, they will choose the way they feel comfortable to control the fish at the first time they try our demo. We do not teach them because we hope our mechanism is natural enough so that they can focus more on the story emotion part. And we simply do not want to limit the arm moving freedom that players have since they cannot move already. For the tutorial, we want them to get used to the control by themselves and figure out the light up mechanism. And actually watching people playing our demo after final presentations, we found out that although many of players at beginning do not know how to control, they can figure it by themselves and use the way they think correct to finish our experience. So we think the algorithm we have really helps a lot.
5. Shark comes reaction
When we did playtest, most player will feel scared and try to control the fish the run away from the shark although at that time we disable the control. We think although there is a very short time for players to know their fish friends, when dark comes their first instinct is to protect the fish. We feel a little surprised about this point actually but we are very glad that when dangerous come, players know what is the right thing they should do. Some of players did mention that they thought they lost at that point, but after the cute leading fish comes again, they immediately know that they should do.
6. Do players feel they are controlling the fish
Before we added the light bulb on head of the fish, they feel very struggle about how to control and what they can do. But that light bulb changes A LOT! That is a very straightforward feedback for the player and it works very well at teaching player how to control the fish and lead the fish to the right places. We did not imagine such a small change can make a really big influence but it did!
7. VR actions vs PC games
We think this really depends on what kinds of VR experience we are making. If we need to make a VR games, you can use a lot of entertainment elements and design a really interesting mechanism. However, you need to pay a attention to motion sickness and spend a lot of time to make sure players are looking at the right stuff which means you need to focus more on the designing part. If we just talk about the controlling part, I will not say that is a big advantage using VR because wearing a headset like Oculus or Vive you will easily get tired and definitely do not want to play really intense game that may cause motion sickness. But if it is a well-designed experience, VR can really bring you into it and make you be a part of the experience. That feeling is the one that PC games can never give.
8. Audio and playtest
Audio is extremely important in a storytelling experience like ours!! It can easily bring you into the environment and help you feel the emotion. Without audio, it will be really challenging to invoke emotions or even guide player to the next step. Although we do not have a sound designer in our team, we ask Emre – first year student for help and the sound he gave us made projects complete and bring our demo to a new level. As for playtest, we did ask them at different stage what feeling they have. But a better way I think is to let them talk about the feeling, frustrated thing and possible improvements when they played demo. It is very helpful to know what people are thinking and record it at that time. Otherwise they may easily forget some really valuable feedback!

After such a busy semester, we are very glad that we can finish our interactive storytelling experience we would like to invite everyone to try our demo. Please send us any feedback you have to improve our experience! Thanks everyone who has been helping us this semester. We can never achieve this without your help!

About the author: mystique