Assignment 2: Indirect Control
World Title: The Mine
Platform: Virtual Reality
Project Length: Two Weeks
Producer/Modeler/Painter/Props: TJ Jackson
Sound: Dan Sorge
Modeler: Val Kaplan
The goal of this assignment was to build a world that anyone could get into and know what to do without explicit instructions. It sounds simple, but it is surprisingly difficult, especially since the VR headsets we used are so blurry that guests are effectively legally blind while wearing them. The result was the very successful VR world The Mine. This project was unique for me because it was my only project to use VR and my only non-game. I'm not sure how that happened because most projects in the class are on VR and are not games, but that's just how life is sometimes.
The Mine was an experience conceived by TJ, who has background in theatre productions. The idea was simple; we put the guest in an elevator, and find a reason to make it fall. When it falls in the virtual world, we pull out a platform built by TJ that the guest stands on making the guest fall in reality nearly 2 inches. That sensation tricks the guest into thinking that he really fell 60 feet. After discussion with faculty we chose the mine setting because it was the best way to get the sense of distance during the fall.
We had to predict three of the guests actions in our world in order. Our initial predictions were that the guest would pull a lever, look over the edge (when told not to over the intercom), and push the emergency button when the elevator halts. In our testing the first two things went well. In fact, we never had a guest who didn't look over the edge when told not to. But getting guests to push the big red flashing button was a problem. It seems that when in VR guests know that they are not in any real danger, so don't think anything is an emergency. Running out of time, our solution was to take the button out of our list of predictions, and include a shortcut key that would allow us to bypass that event if necessary. Ironically enough, when it came time to show the piece the guest did everything exactly as we'd planned it.
The success of this project was really due to TJ. Not only did he build the mechanism, do all of the animations, and most of the modeling, but he also found great source images for the textures, and made one of the most realistic-looking BVW worlds to date. One great touch that most guests missed is that he prerendered the shadows cast by the lights in the shaft, which I was able to turn into an animated texture on the floor of the elevator. The effect was that as the elevator moved, the lighting and shadows stayed consistent.
The project was prized as one of the best of the round, and was demoed several times. The best time was to Tony DeRose from Pixar. Not only did he do everything right, but he had a great reaction, including immediately reaching for the emergency button after the elevator fell and repeatedly pressing it. Either he really believed it, or figured out the trick and was hamming it up for our benefit. Either way, it was fun to watch.
themine-live.avi (9.1MB), the performance for the end of the round.
themine-fraps.avi (4.4MB), a differnt recording that shows the view from the head-mounted display.
These movies require the Divx codec to play.