A Gravity-Defying, Fusion Reactor-Defusing VR Adventure.
GROUND:ZERO Combines two of the most important childhood interests that I've been always fond of: Space, and total immersion. As a culmination of all skills acquired in the University of Washington design program, GROUND:ZERO is a 10 week project that combines 2D graphics and brand identity with 3D modelling, animation, and programming to create Tim Chong's Magnum Opus of his design career. University of Washington Capstone Project Game Engine: Unreal Engine 4
Level Design for VR...In VR
Meta Quest 2 with Link.
-Infinite Screens With new technology such as Oculus Link and powerful new NVIDIA graphics cards, designing a game for VR never has been easier. Instead of having to switch between real-world, tutorial screens, and in VR, Oculus link showing the desktop solves every one of these problems at once.
-Sense of Space Real-world scale is a huge issue with most VR games in terms of believability. Object size, lighting, and textures are all better measured for game assets.
-Framing/Composition Sometimes, directionality or level flow that may seem intuitive on the desktop can be confusing and disorienting in VR. By mitigating this problem with the help of realtime level design and playthrough, rapid iterations of player directions, paths, and gameplay hints can be prototyped.
Porsche 911 Interior.
Porsche 911 Interior.
Programming VR Mechanics from the Ground Up
VR Locomotion Currently, several major design challenges surround the concept of moving around in 3D space. Through extensive studies, there was a consensus that different types of locomotion could influence varying difficulties and levels of comfort with moving around in VR. Being comfortable with the VR Headset, I chose to develop for continuous motion in order to provide an entertaining, yet fast-paced experience that further added to the tempo and urgency of the game.
Climbing Mechanics While there are several known ways to handle vertical locomotion, teleport and shift mechanics are immersion-breaking, especially when it comes to speedruns. This led me to develop my own climbing mechanism, as expressed by this logic:
-Equal Exchange The VR Character is basically parented to an object that is below the player, which then can effectively "pick up" the character as a physics object. This transfers velocity when grabbing and throwing yourself off ledges, which is further experienced when in zero gravity.
-Anti-Motion Sickness By having the player coupled as a physics object to the invisible point, movement priority is still given to the head, which is independent of the grab transform. This allows the player to look around freely when climbing, which prevents motion sickness.
-Immersive Solution Since the player is coupled to the object by a physics constraint, collision is also taken into account when up against walls. While grabbing an object, the player can be influenced by gravity, heavy objects, and walls and effectively be "pushed" off when the force exceeds their grip strength. Head movement is then taken into account and added to an offset as to prevent motion sickness.
VR Object Interaction
Real-World Design Affordances Just because an object is in VR doesn't mean that the same intuitive design principles from the real world get thrown to the wind. Rather, designers should try and imitate real-world products to ease the user into future interaction. This skeuomorphism can often help transfer players from interactions that they are used to and couple them with a virtual, interactive object.
Real-World Affordances Sliders, buttons, and pull/push levers are highlighted in orange-yellow to symbolize interactive capabilities. In addition, floating objects in zero gravity beckon the player to pull, push, and grab these unique objects that give an otherworldly experience.
Modelling and Brand Identity
VCD for a Fictional Brand Throughout University of Washington's Visual Communications Design program, students were taught how to establish a consistent branding to ensure that consistent themes and motifs were subconsciously emphasized throughout an experience. GROUND:ZERO pushed this concept to new heights.
Thematic Color Throughout the game, consistent colors and their meanings help to subconsciously guide the user through the space. Blue means stable, nominal, and consistent. Orange grabs attention; An interactable or a new possibility opening up for the player. Finally, Red depicts objects with negative effects to the player.
Example of Thematic Interactibles In-Game.
Hands & Sense of Self
An Out-of-Body Experience As human beings, the persona that we see the most every day are our hands. Hand models in VR personify the character, give a mental foothold to empathize with, and provide crucial information to the player.
Hand demonstrating information.
-Materials and Distress Texturing In order to further personify the character, minute details such as scratches, blemishes, bumps, and discolorations were added to the original glove texture to tell a story in itself about the player's past experiences through the lifespan of the gloves.
-Information Focal Point Having an HUD may be the best way to deliver information in traditional screen-based games, but for VR, it can induce motion sickness and confusion as where to focus. The hands are therefore the only object that grounds the player in their local space, and can be the center hub for all essential information.
-Locomotion Mechanics In addition to attaching useful information to the hands, the focus and process of locomotion can be attached to the hands in order to reduce points that the player needs to focus on. in GROUND:ZERO, the player's movement thrusters and fuel cartridges are attached to the player's gloves as well to simplify the mental model of how zero-gravity locomotion works.
A sense of weight in VR and Limits of Locomotion By making the player Superman, the challenge of zero-gravity movement becomes almost nonexistent. In order to document the struggles of navigating in zero gravity, each hand has it's own physics tied behind locomotion. From grab and push-off points to slapping fire extinguishers out of the way, the player gets a sense that each object has its own heft and weight.
Multi-Angle Surface Gripping Ability to grip onto different surfaces via the magnetic thruster component offers an additional movement method while extending the immersive ability for players to forge their own path.
Weight System To feel a sense of weight and inertia, certain objects can affect the rate at which the hands would snap on to the VR Controller positions. This works in all gravities, where the inertia carries over to the player's movement as well.
-Skeuomorphism in VR is crucial to bridging a player's mental model. Similar to the first couple iOS iterations, mimicking real life is crucial to couple an interactible's affordances to an real-world counterpart.
-A user's comfort takes priority above all else. No matter how immersive a game gets, if the player begins to get nauseous, it immediately becomes world-breaking and a negative experience. Although initially more work, safeguards to protect the user's sense of balance and comfort need to be first priority. -VR games are the culmination of art, science, and technology. Throughout the many hats I had to wear when creating this capstone project, every single skill from previous projects came into play when creating this experience. From programming the hands to designing every rivet and structure on the wall, a structure's design and brand identity permeate through both the visuals and the backend code.
Project Context VR, Motion Design, 3D Design, Design Visualization, Brand Identity Client Senior Capstone Project for University of Washington Design Program Duration 10 weeks Programs used Cinema 4D, Octane Render, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Illustrator, Unreal Engine 4, Adobe XD, Quixel Mixer