Building Escape Room In Virtual Reality
Building an escape room and the companion to escape with on Virtual Reality
Sketch, Unity, Photoshop, Blender, Oculus Rift
Researching and Designing (Group Project)
“Star Wars Escape” is a Virtual Reality room escape game built to explore the possibility of creating compassion for a Virtual Reality character and to introduce a new two-handed pick up mechanic.
A traditional room escape games have many rooms to explore and move around. With Oculus Rift which has limited walkable space and a wire connected to a computer, designing the space gets very tricky.
One other game element is touching and figuring out riddles from surrounding objects. Because Oculus Touch controllers have limited gestures controls, mimicking the natural interaction gets very limited.
Most importantly, bringing compassion to a virtual character within a short gameplay is going to be difficult.
Design a virtual space that moves players around to utilize the compact space.
Carefully pick riddle objects that use simple hand gestures to solve.
Introduce a companion at the very beginning of the game and get help during gameplay.
Our main objective for this game was to bring compassion to a virtual character within a 5-minute repayable game. Hence, our team worked on a compelling story to build upon.
My role was to brainstorm, offer ideas on puzzles, and design a storyline that fits our criteria:
building relationship with a companion
puzzle elements that utilizes natural hand behavior
providing adequate hints so everyone can figure out
offering possible three different endings
We thought BB-8, a cute and friendly robot, would be a great companion, which also helped us decide the theme for the environment.
Bringing Compassion through story
To overcome the limited space, we created four sections: jail cell, hall, exit capsule, and another hall closed by a door. Main areas are the cell and hall, and we added the additional hall that is not accessible but eventually brings enemies to add pressure to the player. This design made the overall space much larger while the moving area was within the limit.
I worked on designing visual assets, finding 3D assets online, and testing interactions as our programmers built features.
We wanted players to interact with companions to build compassion for the end. Hence, every puzzle is connected to the companion. starting from fixing BB-8, we created interactions involving both hands to solve puzzles. When lifting BB-8, players can only lift the companion using both hands. Otherwise, we implemented the controllers to vibrate hard to mimic the weight of him.
During our design and development, we performed the usability testing on eight participants. Using ten-minute session for each, a participant spent five minutes playing the game using a “Thinking Aloud” method. As they play, we observed their behavior and helped them when they got stuck as we jot down notes. after the gameplay, we asked questions like these:
How was the experience of assembling BB-8?
Was it clear that you had to pick up BB-8 to destroy the control panel and escape?
Did you understand what BB-8 was doing after escaping the cell?
What do you think about BB-8's sound?
We gathered the feedback and used it to improve the gameplay and storytelling.
After a few iterations, this is the final work of our “Star Wars Space.” Our goal was to bring compassion to BB-8 throughout the game, create the space that utilized physical and limited space, and place puzzles that felt natural even with Oculus Touch controllers.
Our project was selected to showcase at the Oculus campus in Menlo Park, CA in April 2018. Two team members, including myself went there and interacted with Oculus employees and other students and professors who shared a similar interest in Virtual Reality.
Our finished project was also featured during the Georgia Tech’s GVU Center Research Showcase an April, demoed out finished project to the audience, and received the positive feedback.
Reflecting on Project
During the extensive four-month research and design, I learned how to cooperate with other designers and developers as a team, use Unity for VR development, and VR design for gaming. If I have more time and resource, I would want to expand the map and add more puzzles to build deeper compassion between players and companion robot.