Ziheng Xiao

©2019 by Ziheng Xiao.

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HOOKED

Experience Designed for Virtual Reality

This experience is an academic project made by 5 people in two weeks. I was the level designer on this project. This game is made for HTC VIVE and made with Unity.

 

Hooked:

Ziheng Xiao: Level Designer.

Ram Iyer: Programmer.

Yifan Deng: Artist.

Ruchi Sanjay Hendre: Artist.

Chuhan Wu: Sound Designer/Producer.

 

MY WORK

  • Designed the grappling hook mechanism by using add force on each frame to make the movement feel realistic.

  • Designed trees in specific locations to make sure that players will always have bushes to hook up to.

  • Build the world by using 3D models in Unity by implemented interest curve and learning curve.

  • Made the cloud model by using MAYA.

  • Collaborated with the other four team members during the project by divide work clearly and help each other resolve their problems.

 

DESIGN PROCESS

This experience is designed for naive guests, which means for people who never used VR before. And we are not allowed to use text or verbal instructions in the whole experience.

We inspired by the game called Windland. But after we dive into that game, we find out that this game is not designed for naive guests. And players will feel strong motion sickness when they play the game. But that game is a good reference.


So our goal for this experience was focusing on providing excellent guest comfort, a good learning curve, and a good interest curve.


For the guest comfort part, our major challenge is motion sickness, because the movement for grappling hooks is non-linear with complicate acceleration and de-acceleration. We tried multiple ways to avoid motion sickness. 

The first try was to make the movement linear with constant speed. When the player hooks up something, we disable the gravity and translate their position to that point. But it doesn't go very well, because when the players reach the point, they are going to fall down, which makes the experience super dizzy.


The second try was to add an impulse force to the players every time they hook up something. So they are traveling super fast and very easy to lose control. Which increases the frustration level to the players. So it doesn't work well too.

The final try was to stick to reality. We add force in each frame to the player so it feels like they are actually flying in the environment. And we add a vignette to the camera, which minimizes the field of view in the experience. Surprisingly, this is the most comfortable one. It has a weird movement, but players will always have a focusing point when they are traveling, which really helps to reduce motion sickness. And since hanging over trees in real life gives people a strange feeling, even you feel a little bit weird, you won't consider it as motion sickness. And it worked out pretty well. We did broad playtests and over 90% playtesters agree that motion sickness level is pretty low.

 
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I only have twelve models when I start to build the world. So I resize them and turn them into prefabs then build the scene.

At this stage, the world is disoriented. Players are easily getting lost during the path, even I put gates and particle effects to lead the direction, and also pave a trail for them. So I changed the trees into different colors, from red to green which indicates the change of the season, also gives a reference to players to know their positions.

 

After the mountain, I find out the interest curve is pretty flat. Because the mountain builds up the anticipation, players are expecting something cool after it. If they find out that everything is pretty much the same, they are going to disappointed. So I build a waterfall after the mountain and give the player a chance to free fall to bring up some variations. However, when we doing playtest, we found out that players are only focusing on the trees and never pay attention to the environment. So it's hard for them to notice the waterfall and follow the waterfall to go down the hill. Because they can see nothing at the top point of the mountain.

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So, instead of continuing building trees and mountains, I started to build ancient temples to bring up variations, and elevate the interest curve. After the waterfall level, the hook becomes easy so the player can switch their focus from trees to the environment. And I build a huge statue and place it at the endpoint of the journey, also players can see it just when they get to the top of the mountain.

 

Finally, it turns out like this!

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