A musical VR experience where the guest brings the barren world around him to life by playing musical melodies. [Made as part of the course Building Virtual Worlds]

Team Size : 5 [Programmers -2 | Artists – 2 | Sound Designer – 1]
My Role : Programmer (Primary), Producer and Designer

Theme : Naive Guest
Constraints :
1. Platform choice – HTC Vive with trackers.
2. To design an experience for a guest that may not be accustomed to using similar systems beforehand. No explicit instructions should be given to the guest, be it in-game or outside.

Development Summary:

I was the producer and programmer for this project. As with all the BVW projects, the entire team contributes to design. The biggest challenge was to design an experience that a guest can play without having to be given any directions to complete their tasks. There was also another caveat – the guest must feel that they made meaningful choices in the world. They had to believe that they had a sufficiently high level of freedom. We employed Jesse Schell’s method of Indirect Control in order to achieve this.

We added another challenge to the set by picking a music game that expected the guest to repeat sequences of notes that were played to him. We play-tested the experience extensively to observe that there was a lack of understanding of musical notes for some (5%) people (that were “tone-deaf”). We bit the bullet and went forward with the development. Visual cues and color coded effects were added to the notes while they were played back so that the guest would understand what they had to do in order to progress. If the guest chose to not perform the sequence, they were also free to play their own set of notes.

Snapshot of Trell board

Design Decisions:
1. Type of game play – “Simon says”, a sequence is played back which the guest has to repeat.
2. Choice of song – Mary Had a Little Lamb, easy enough to be recognized by the guest.
3. Notes – One full octave of whole notes starting from Low C to High B. [C D E F G A B].
4. Visual cues – Progress depicted by restoring the color saturation of the world for each note played. When the song was completed, a ring of lambs appeared and orbited the guest.

Due to music requiring the guest to have a predisposition to note recognition, we had a tough time settling on the visual representation of the notes and effects. There were blob like creatures that were color coded to represent the notes. We used a color palette that sufficiently differentiated the note blobs. The biggest challenge was that of gratification. A game that requires the guest to follow a pattern does not allow much freedom. So we experimented by replacing the notes with a set of 5 notes from the Pentatonic scale. We did this to account for the unfamiliarity of the guest with music. So any sequence played by the guest would yield acceptable music. However, this meant that there was no longer a purpose to the experience. So we bit the bullet and reverted back to our initial concept.