DUNGEON PUZZLER

This article details my development process for the Dungeon Puzzler, the 4th course in Udacity’s VR-nano degree. The course focuses on design considerations in a virtual reality environment, addressing issues of comfort, lighting, audio, movement, interface, and interaction. The final target platform was a mobile device.

Below is a walk through of the final dungeon puzzle game.

Gameplay of Dungeon Puzzler
Starting the dungeon puzzler
Moving towards the dungeon puzzle
The mysterious orbs floating in the room

PROCESS

Statement of Purpose: 
The objective of Dungeon Puzzler is to present a familiar puzzle in a new way. Through familiarization with new tech, users would be willing to try more involved experiences in the future.

Persona
The intended user of this app is: (1) someone who has an interest in mobile games which require low levels of commitment, (2) has little to no experience using VR apps, (3) is interested in VR but doesn’t know how or where to start.

“Ready to jump into VR, but how?”

Sketches
Initial space designs had the game movement as a straight shot down the center. After some user testing an L shape was settled upon. The L created some mystery as to where you were going to escape from. Moving the threshold served a second purpose of allowing the player to focus specifically at the Puzzle Orbs.

Sketch of descending into the dungeon and exiting the other side
Plan view of 2nd dungeon iteration
Perspective view approaching puzzle orbs

There is an assumption that the user knows they are entering a puzzle.
 I moved away from being too descriptive with the text, as it became slightly redundant, and instead used the space for building a simple backstory narrative to set the stage for the player.

Start and End UI screen sketches
Final start screen for Dungeon Puzzler

USER TESTING

USER TESTING ROUND 1

Questions/Answers
(1) Can you describe the space you are in. 
The space looks like a basement or something, but it’s weird that I can see the light sky on the other side. The space is definitely creepy though.
(2) What does the space make you feel. 
The space feels too small, like I’m really big, but I’m still close to the ground for some reason. Like a head with legs. 
(3) How does the lighting make you feel. 
Like I said before, the lighting on the outside doesn’t fit, why am I seeing blue skies if I’m in a basement. The purple light looks out of place, but I really like the torches.

Feedback edits: 
Taking into consideration the users comments on scale and camera position, the space was scaled up and the camera was moved up to a comfortable eye level. The lighting in the space was reconsidered and redone by changing the skybox into something more appropriate and replacing the spot light to fit into the space’s colour scheme.

USER TESTING ROUND 2

Questions/Answers: 
(1) What is your response to the “Start” screen and “End” screen. 
They’re fairly straightforward and right there in my face, I can’t ignore them. I’m going to press the big Begin button. Last screen is just like the first one, pretty straightforward and big, can’t miss it.
(2) Describe the movement. 
I expected to feel a little weirder, don’t people get sick playing these things? It’s a little quicker than I would expect, like I’m just zipping through in the beginning. At the end there’s this weird part where I crash into one of the balls. 
(3) What do you think of the puzzle. 
The colour on the balls is nice, I like the red highlights as well. 5 steps is a good number for the puzzle.

Feedback edits: 
The movement speed between “Start” and “Play” was reduced to give the player a chance to look around the space as they were making their way down the hall. The balls were rearranged to keep the user from running into them when going between “Play” and “End”.

Orbs from entrance

BREAKDOWN OF FINAL PIECE

The final game is experienced as follows:

  1. The user is presented with a message “The Dungeon Puzzler requires all of your skill and wit…Far better travelers have tried and failed”. Once the user clicks the “Begin” button they are moved into the dungeon.
  2. As the user makes their way down the hall the puzzles start flashing in a random sequence.
  3. If the user selects the orbs in the incorrect sequence an error sound is played and the sequence is played again in the same order.
  4. If the user is able to replicate the sequence correctly the user is then taken to the exit.
  5. At the exit the user is presented with another message “You have proven your worthiness, you are a god among men…hone your skills, complete the puzzle quicker” If the user selects “Restart” it brings them back to the first position.
Mysterious Orbs playing through their “Simon Says” puzzle sequence

CONCLUSION

The mechanism for movement as waypoints works well for the game, subtler details such as footsteps would go a long way to enhance the experience. In a future iteration it would also be nice to be presented with a character that serves as the dungeon master/narrator, or if the architecture itself is the antagonist it should respond accordingly to failure or success of the puzzle. 
A little back story, complex rooms and puzzles, with more balls, and faster gameplay would turn this into something that I could spend a considerable amount of time in.

NEXT STEPS

The design considerations from the course were very eye opening. More experimenting with UI, HMDs, and interactions are in my near future.

Link to additional work

You can find more of my work here: https://michaelapeguero.myportfolio.com/

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