Odyssey VR

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Description

This virtual reality experience is an extraterrestrial exploration game which was developed by my senior project team with Unreal Engine 4 during our senior year. In the game, the player must explore, then escape a large extraterrestrial planet using a vehicle scaled to our HTC Vive interaction space. The player’s primary objective is to use the vehicle to escape the planet while repairing and maintaining the ship. Concurrently, the ship is being attacked by the planet’s hostile inhabitants. They encounter environmental events, enemy attacks, and some equipment failures that hinder their progress along the way. Specific repairs are required for equipment failures – failing to perform these repairs will cause the player to lose the game. To win the game the player has to get to a specified extraction point without destroying the ship. The ship is scaled to match our usable Vive space which has 3 floors for vertical space expansion, and will travel on a semi fixed path through our environment. “Semi fixed” refers to the spline system that is being used to steer the ship. If the player doesn’t repair a direction-altering ship component, the spline begins to generate as if it were going off-course. The player is required to make the necessary repair to recover ship movement or lose by falling off of a cliff or by hitting off-course objects such as trees and rocks until the ship is irreparable.

Marketing poster for “Odyssey”.

Mixed reality poster.

Synopsis

The player is a maintenance robot in training for an earth based exploration company called ARC. ARC’s business revolves around finding habitable planets for their mediocre three star hotels. ARC sends scout ships to map out different planets to determine the most suitable locations for building. Each ship has an onboard maintenance robot and an onboard AI called D.A.V.E. (Digital Assistant for Vehicular Exploration). The maintenance robot that the player is controlling is participating in a training simulation which puts them in the middle of a high intensity mission.

Characters

Player (Maintenance Robot)
The player, who’s assumed the role of the maintenance robot is working for the international hotel corporation; ARC. Their job is to protect and repair the ARC ship while it map the planet, looking for the best spots to build hotels. The player is still in training, so we’ve created our experience to emulate a training simulation. The player is represented by two multipurpose “claws”. Because selection and manipulation will be related in some way to every interaction in our game, we wanted a very clear affordance to show.

Urks
Urks are the antagonists in our game and will be the source of most damage causing events. The player is tasked with defending against the Urks. The Urks are alien inhabitants of the planet where the game takes place. They are a reptilian species who live in dark caves in volcanoes to keep warm as they are extremely cold blooded. Their technology is relatively crude compared to the futuristic technology of humans. When we designed the Urks, we used the folowing criteria:
-Reptilian skin
-Effect of darkness on eyes (eg Goggles, big eyes, glowing eyes etc )
-Brutish build
-Relatively crude clothing and technology

D.A.V.E (Digital Assistant for Vehicular Exploration)
In the game world D.A.V.E is an AI that helps maintenance robots by giving them information on the surrounding environment, and state of the vehicle. For the users D.A.V.E.’s purpose is to provide the player additional context for tasks and events that are happening in the game. D.A.V.E. also projects visual and auditory cues on ship components to show the user the affordances and how to interact with components. These cues would be paired with dialogue to ensure the users fully understand what’s happening. The visual cues are animated overlays for interactive objects that can be scaled or highlighted based on player location.

Early concept art for “Urks”, alien enemy encountered in game.

Early drawings of ship layout, turret, propulsion system, and console.

Original environment layout.

User Testing

Throughout the development of “Odyssey”, we hosted user testing session’s in which we recorded and observed test subjects. The subjects provided valuable feedback which we used as justification for some design decisions. For example, we originally had two turrets; one which locked both players hands to the gun, and one that allowed the player to have a gun in each hand. After observing the testing of these turrets, we noticed the players were able to accurately target and shoot the enemies quicker with two individual guns, rather than one.