At the end of the last blog post, I mentioned that we were really excited about where this semester would take us… what I did not mention was that I meant that literally.
We kicked off Week 2 with a big team field trip to research the seated VR experience space and the Pittsburgh food space. On Monday, we went to Dave & Buster’s to experience their new VR experiences. Using Vives and a big mechanical rig with four networked chairs, guests could fly through space on the Enterprise, join the Men in Black, fly on a dragon through a snowy war or tag dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. The seats tilt and rumble and bounce and it was a great deal of fun.
Fun was not our primary objective, though.
As we rode three of the different experiences, we took turns breaking down what we did and did not like – from both a physical sensation standpoint and an experience journey one. We highlighted positives like putting guests in more open and expansive environments as the experience progresses, using 4D effects like wind to emphasize various pivotal moments or motions, and being able to see other guests in the experience. We also tried to pinpoint negatives, like relying on shooting mechanics, disconnects between guests’ actions and world reactions, and confusing narration. Along with other research we had done about the VR chair space, we felt much more equipped to design for the medium because of this trip.
After Dave & Busters, we journeyed downtown for a team dinner at Meat & Potatoes. We can confirm that the meat and potatoes and everything else on the menu, especially the mussels and desserts, were quite delicious. Both portions of this field trip gave our team shared experiences, in both “professional” and personal settings – something that will help us push our collaborative design process forward.
Back at the ETC, the rest of the week focused on developing small prototypes using the chairs. We wanted to focus little tests on certain mechanisms that the chair can accomplish (like spinning, tilting, bouncing, etc.) that we can objectively test with guests and playtesters in the coming weeks as we solidify our story direction. This act of prototyping, and getting everyone involved in each aspect of the pipeline, has also brought the team closer together because we all have a better sense of the entire development pipeline that we will be following over the course of the semester.
In addition to prototyping, we have gotten advice from various ETC faculty members and guests as to how and where to start on real development. They applauded our initial mission to figure out what our weird and wonderful piece of hardware does well and have pushed us to lean into whatever we learn and to also think of how we can abstract those ideas and do something no one else has ever thought of.
With all of this new information and some encouragement from our clients, we are on our way to finish out first round of prototypes in the upcoming week and start thinking of ways to combine these mechanisms and themes into a more engaging and coherent experience narrative.
Things are moving fast in our rooms and that applies to more than just the chairs. Check back next week to hear more about how our prototypes finished up, what people thought of them, and where we will go next.