The story of a father and son presented as a VR experience. The guest plays the role of a father who journeys to the imaginary land of Slumber Island to get his son to go to bed. [Made as part of the course Building Virtual Worlds. Also showcased in the ETC Festival ’19]

Team Size : 5 [Programmers -2 | Artists – 2 | Sound Designer – 1]
Duration : 2 weeks
My Role : Programmer (Primary), Co-producer

Theme : Story
Constraints :
1. Create a story-driven experience.
2. Experience should last a maximum of 6-7 minutes.
3. Guests should perform meaningful actions that affect the experience.

Development summary :

We were introduced to the Story Stack as a guideline to design our experiences. According to it, there are 5 elements that play a major role in designing an experience. The elements at the top of the stack are more flexible than the ones below them. When designing a game, one usually starts at the bottom of the stack. Instead, we were supposed to start at the top and move downwards. Hence it was paramount that we fleshed out the actions and fantasy of the experience sooner and lesser.

Once we decided the actions, we drafted the first iteration of the script in the first week. In the second week, we refined it and re-recorded all the voice over dialog with voices that fit the narrative better. The music composition was integral in accentuating the narrative. The voice over and music were meticulously mixed to provide the right mood at each step of the story.

My Contributions:

The entire game was built using Unity’s Timeline. So I wrote a rudimentary state machine that would help with switching states based on the interactable objects in the scene. This let us configure the scenes through the visual editor, while writing minimal code.

I also added a slicing mechanic using a plugin EzySlice. This was later polished by my teammate.

Design decisions :

  1. Game play – Story driven experience where the guest played as the father of a child.
  2. Interaction map served as a blueprint for the execution of the experience.
  3. Sound Design played a vital role as the experience is dialog-heavy.
  4. We chose a flat, paper/crayon art style to complement the semi-realistic 3D art style to depict the fantasy of enacting the boy’s imagination.
  5. 3 major interactions
    1. Grab > Pick up > Release.
    2. Slicing mechanism for the paper models.
    3. Coloring of the drawing

Challenges :
Our biggest challenge was finalizing the story as we had to work backwards from the top of the stack to the bottom. After brainstorming for hours, we decided to create a skeletal story structure and then focus on the fantasy. Arriving at the fantasy of a perplexed father was the break we needed. We let the story dictate the actions that the guest would make. This proved to be useful as the script was also revised by then. We quickly integrated the actions and play tested the experience. We found the experience to be dialog intensive, and it was detrimental to the guest’s interest in the experience. Fortunately, we ensured that the experience interspersed with sufficient interactions so that the guest was not left waiting too long.

For the showcase

We discovered that the experience was interesting even while viewed on a screen. So, while one guest played through the VR headset, an audience could watch the experience through a TV screen. We added subtitles to that screen so that the audience could easily follow the dialog.

Script written by Brendan Valley

Snapshot of Trello Board