Puzzler is a mobile VR application for new VR users which challenges them to solve a familiar Simon Says game type in a new way.
This is a VR project I made as part of the Udacity VR Developer Nanodegree. Developed in Unity, puzzler uses the Google VR SDK to create an immersive experience in which you enter a dungeon and are challenged to solve a puzzle. The game incorporates mobile movement mechanics, spatial audio, game mechanics and feedback.
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
Puzzler is a mobile VR application for new VR users which challenges them to solve a familiar type of puzzle in a new way.
It is important to understand the primary end-user before we start building an application. The end users for Puzzler are people who are new to VR, but who have already experienced various 2D and 3D games in their life or people who are already interested in VR. They are probably going to be in their mid-twenties and own a next-gen smartphone.
This is an early sketch of the VR experience, it shows the basic elements of the interaction. The idea is that a user is standing outside, then enters the room, solves the puzzle and exits the room using the backdoor.
When designing VR content it’s critical to go into the VR experience early and often. Scale, movement, stereoscopic rendering, spatial audio, and color need to be tested on the VR device as a flat screen can’t convey all the information you need to test and experience.
USER TEST 1: THE INTERFACE
For my first user test, I focused on the goals of Scale, Lightning, Distance, and Comfort. Which were represented in the following questions:
Does the scale feel appropriate?
Is the experience comfortable?
Is the mood well established?
The findings of this first test were:
People describe the scale as appropriate and comfortable.
The mood is magical and dark.
People don’t understand the orbs, they think are distracting from the scene.
USER TEST 2: MOTION MECHANICS
VR requires a lot of user testing to ensure the users a comfortable experience. Because people are actually moving around in a physical space, ergonomics and physical comfort are a real factor.
Due to the pixel density of the screen, text can often be difficult to read. So For this test, I also asked the user about text distances and legibility to ensure a correct treatment, scale, and distance.
The following questions were used in this test:
How do you feel about the start screen?
How do you feel about the speed of the movement?
Would you describe yourself as feeling sick in any way?
Did you notice anything disorienting from the movement?
The findings of this test were:
The text was easy to read and legible on the computer screen, but when viewing it on the device during the tests, the users reported that the text was to close and hard to read.
People felt the speed was appropriate and didn’t feel sick or disoriented.
Based on the user test conducted, I integrated the feedback received on the app. The text was positioned further away until it was at a comfortable reading distance.
USER TEST 3: FINAL USER TEST AND ITERATION
In VR you do not have control over user attention, so you need to test to make sure that the experience works well. For this user test, I asked users to go through the experience end to end, from start to finish.
One of the bugs that we found was that the camera was not positioned correctly, so I went back to Unity and set its position to 0,0,0 so it matched the experience correctly.
BREAKDOWN OF THE FINAL PIECE
SCENE SETTING, MOOD AND LIGHTING
The environment created helps establish the mood for the scene and in turn, helps get the users to feel a certain way. For this scene I wanted the users to feel a mysterious mood with a touch of magic. I started accomplishing this with the use of lighting.
MOBILE MOVEMENT MECHANIC
For Puzzler I used a hybrid of Waypoint movement and On Rails movement. This allows us to control where the player will be when solving the puzzle and is unlikely to induce simulator sickness. The movement is activated when the player hits the start button, completes the puzzle or restarts the experience.
AUDIO, GAME MECHANICS AND FEEDBACK
In this final stage, I sat up the mood with audio, implemented the Simon Says game mechanic, and created audiovisual feedback. I also added a ground and a fence outside the dungeon as finishing touches.
Making a VR app is exciting but can be perceived as intimidating as it requires special skills and hardware. Getting familiar with the tools, as well as experimenting with mobile movement mechanics, spatial audio, game mechanics, feedback, and testing, was a great way to learn more about the process of VR content creation.
If I wanted to take this experience further, I would add more rooms, more levels of puzzles and additional challenges. But for now, this brings the Puzzler project to a close.