ABSTRACT
A virtual reality experience that encourages users to participate in nonviolent interaction and communication. The experience gives users the opportunity to expand their view of the world by meeting people from different places and different cultures. Maybe they’ll even make some new friends at the same time.

THE PROBLEM
On January 24th, 2017, UploadVR published an article talking about the current “Fastest Selling VR Game,” Arizona Sunshine, which is a first-person zombie shooter. (http://uploadvr.com/vertigo-arizona-sunshine-fastest-selling/) VR has incredible potential in terms of immersion and interactivity, so it’s really unfortunate that the current “peak” of VR is based around shooting something with a gun. Another article, published in August, laments the bloat of VR shooters. Many users chime in, wishing for more meaningful experiences. (https://uploadvr.com/community-download-tired-zombie-vr-games/)
VR as an industry is currently in a somewhat cooled state (https://www.vrfocus.com/2017/08/cliff-bleszinski-talk-about-vrs-killer-app-problem/), meaning that people are unsure of where it’s going, and if it’s going anywhere. My project aims to introduce something new to the VR space that is only possible through Virtual Reality, while also encouraging users to engage in interactions not found in many violence-focused experiences.

OTHER SOLUTIONS
Altspace VR – Also focuses on social VR, but has a wider scope than my project. Altspace simulates a public space, while I will be simulating a private space. Altspace is also less game-oriented.

SportsBar VR – This VR social space allows users to interact with each other, rewards them for playing games together, and gives them freedom to mess around if they choose. All of these are great aspects that I also want to achieve, but by adding some restrictions, such as limiting voice chat, I hope to give a more directed experience.

Google Earth VR – While this isn’t social at all, it does give users an incredible sense of wonder regarding how huge and varied the world is. Google Earth reminds users that there are people who live in places that they couldn’t even imagine. I hope to be able to express the same feeling with my project.

YOUR SOLUTION

I am building a virtual reality (VR) experience for my capstone and honors thesis that encourages users to participate in nonviolent interaction and communication. The project is being built for VR due to its many affordances that traditional interactive media does not have. The affordances that I am focusing on for this project are body language and heightened sense of presence. The purpose of my project is to give users the opportunity to expand their view of the world by meeting people from different places and different cultures. Maybe they’ll even make some new friends at the same time.
My project is a social VR experience, where users will meet another person from another part of the world. They will communicate to solve puzzles using only gestures and body language. Once the two people have had the opportunity to grow closer by working together, they will “unlock” the ability to speak with each other verbally. They will each then have the opportunity to share something about their lives with the other person, such as the reason they like or dislike their hometown, or what their best friend is like. By learning small, intimate details about another person’s life, users will get to see glimpses of what it’s like to live in entirely different parts of the world, or cultures that they are unfamiliar with.

TASKS

  • Designing for VR
    • Prototype physical interactions that feel good in VR – pulling levers, pressing buttons etc.
    • Create interfaces and menus that feel intuitive in VR.
    • Experiment with various movement mechanics and accessibility options to prevent VR sickness.
    • Create areas that are easy to navigate using this locomotion system.
    • Account for added freedom that VR brings, make sure the game can’t be “broken.”
  • Networking Players
    • Determine the best way to playtest a multiplayer VR game.
    • Establish a stable online environment for two VR players.
    • Design interactions between players (Fist bump? Handshake? Audio signal?)
    • Support voice chat (when needed)
    • Ensure world state changes are synchronized (puzzle solutions, level loads etc.)
  • Sharing System
    • Determine how information can be shared. Can photos be shared? How are the photos curated?
    • How much (and how little) can a user share about themselves?
    • Design rewards for sharing. (Progression?)
  • Trophy System
    • Allow users to save “memories” of players that they have met somehow.
    • Build a place for the player to store these memories.
    • Puzzle Design
    • Create puzzles that are satisfying to solve in VR.
    • Design puzzles that require two people, but are not frustrating if one person cannot figure them out.
    • Design puzzles to be repeatable.
  • Onboarding
    • Design intuitive tutorial that explains how sharing works.
    • Design first time user setup process that has them build up their “profile”

NEEDS
Access to a VR Headset with motion controllers (Oculus Rift + Touch cheapest option, $499)
Access to a VR ready PC (Undetermined as of yet, $500-$1,000 range)
Some access to a second VR setup for testing (not worth putting in budget since I can probably find this on campus.)

 

FEEDBACK

While talking in class about the project, I got some really good feedback about the importance of a personal space. I really like the idea of each user having their own space, and got some good ideas about how that space could be utilized in multiplayer, and how the personal space could be tied to user progression, in the sense of decorations and customization.