The past two weeks were a bit of a slow-down for the project as our time was split between spring break and GDC. Nevertheless we managed to chug along. As we worked towards building a cohesive world we decided that we needed to adopt some motivation into the experience. Our hope was that we could have a naive guest step in the space and know how to interact with our world.
So, we began to look for ways to connect our three main interactions. The guest could make bass tones by taking steps with Vive tracked feet, play light plucking sounds with the Vive controller trigger, and move the controller through a “wall of sound” as a kind of playhead in a visualized buffer. We decided to lay the experience out into three steps. As the guest enters the world they see the sound wall begin to form before them. They take a step forward creating a bass tone from their feet. They take a second step and sound bubbles fly into the air, thrown up from the movement of their feet. These bubbles can be popped to make the higher plucks and the more melodic aspects of the music. Finally, the guest reaches the wall of sound and can begin to add a layer of texture to their experience.
This was the world we hoped to create for halves. Before half of the team departed for GDC they crunched hard and were able to get the major features working. What was left was a lot of tuning work on the sound design front. It is challenging a very free world sound musically cohesive. Our plan to tackle this was to make a note palette: the bass notes would determine a range of notes that could be played as a melody. We felt this would be a helpful constraint on the audio side. But, for playtesting, our major step was to get everything into one key.
At the end of the past week we were able to playtest. There were several key things that became clear.
- People needed more constraints and needed to understand how to make the world sound good. They could figure out how to make a lot of sound, but had no sense of how to make good sound.
- Our playtesters were also looking for depth. Although we often have more than one type of sound mapping per major interaction, people hope for finesse. They want the space to give them a lot of juicy diverse feedback, both audio and visual. A discovery I made while playing was that as a took a step, I could sustain and modulate the sound further by brushing my foot across the floor. It was the first time I had a sense that I was playing an instrument of sorts in this space. Sound to interaction mapping need to be rich.
- Several times people wanted to know if they had “won”. While this is not a game experience, and should feel free form, it will still have a beginning, middle and ending. We need to help our guest find a conclusion.
This was helpful feedback, as we progress forward, a major part of our work will be strengthening player motivation and adding structure to the experience.
An exciting develop on a production side was that our trusses and half of our speakers came in this past week. Dave Purta has been helping us to proof out the hardware components needed for this setup. He has been a major asset to this project team, and we are grateful for his assistance.