A Team Project: Andromeda Initiative.

The online VR course I’m taking has option Virtual Reality team projects where you get to create VR content while working with other students from all over the world. For this teamworks project, the theme was ‘Patterns’. My team, Team Aech, of four consisted of Natalia Kaganovskaya(Ukraine), Diana Cristina Culincu (Romania) and Ahmed Chehab el Dine (Lebanon). I’m from Kenya so we’ve really got a lot of the world represented in our group!

We quickly decided that we’d do something with a space theme. We decided to create three mini puzzle games that could be accessed through a central spaceship scene called ‘Astrarium.’ The three games were ‘Escape the Planet’, ‘Corellia’ and ‘Escape the Ship’. To complete the game, you have to figure out each puzzle and return to the spaceship and complete a final star puzzle.

Title: Andromeda Initiative

Take a look at the video game play of our game here:

The Process

Persona:

Workflow:

The team divided up tasks with Ahmed Diana and myself each working on a puzzle scene and Natalia working on the main scene, Astrarium.

We created a collaborative project on Unity so that everyone could work on their scenes individually but also share assets and scripts and give live feedback on each other’s scenes.

The project took about a month to complete with our general structure as follows. Week 1: Brainstorming ideas and assigning roles for each team member. Week 2: Game development and Design. Week 3: User testing and team feedback. Week 4: Final edits and presentation.

The great thing about working with a team is that we are able to be each other’s User Tester’s for our individual scenes! We’re also from different backgrounds and so the diversity in perspective was definitely helpful. Here’s some of the feedback we got and how we used it to change the scene.

Astrarium by Natalia User Tests:

Tests for the Astrarium were generally very positive as Natalia put in a lot of work into design and creating movement and game state scripts. Feedback often came back saying that it wasn’t very clear where to click on the different portals. Natalia fixed this by including large floating magic objects that made it clear and easy for users to find the portals.

Escape The Planet by Michelle User Tests

Users generally found the Escape the Planet difficult to solve. I decided to add more instructions and some hints around my scene to help users navigate the scene. Generally, users were impressed by the design and once the hints were added, said that they had fun trying to solve the riddle!

Correlia by Diana User Tests:

Users came back with a lot of positive feedback about the scene design as it was very pretty. The game logic was simple to understand however users could not often tell if they had completed the scene or not. Diana fixed this by adding some audio feedback upon completion of the scene. There were some issues with scale of the UI and speed of the puzzle but those were easily resolved. After her updates, Users found this scene the most visually appealing!

Escape the Ship by Ahmed User Tests:

This scene got a lot of compliments for its audio feedback and general sound scape. User had problems identifying the puzzle because it blended in with the environment and knowing what to do with it. Ahmed made the puzzle larger and worked on including some instructions to give users a hint about where to start. Most users found it challenging but fun!

Breakdown of Final Piece:

The final piece is a space-based puzzle game with three different puzzle patterns to solve. Once the users enters Astrarium, they can navigate the spaceship using waypoints and click on any of the three portals to start a puzzle.

The main scene, Astrarium, is home base for the game. The scene included textures optimization, Scripts to connect several scenes and change state on main scene depending on user actions in other scenes, Integration of linear particles and text to speech voiceover. Users can only select one portal at a time and on completion of the three main puzzle games, get returned to the Astrarium where they have one more puzzle to solve. The puzzle is a matching game where the user must remember the order in which stars lit up (similar to a game you’ll see next!)

The first game is Diana’s Correlia.

Here’s her write up for it: For my pattern puzzle game (and in honor of the new Star Wars movie), I chose to design a rebel military base named Correlia. You are a traveller who lost his map and in order to find the way you need to solve the puzzle. The stars light up in a certain pattern and to win you must follow that pattern. After completing the challenge, the spaceship lands on the heliport to take you back to the Main scene, Astrarium.

The second game is Escape the Ship by Ahmed.

Here’s how he describes it: The game is starts with a UI instructing the player how to proceed, then solving the puzzle which was animated using coroutines in C#. In terms of waypoint navigation inside the space ship, the player was not given a lot of options to avoid confusion. Audio and sounds are an important factor in drawing the player’s attention and to set the mood of the game. For that purpose, voices and sound effects were added to instruct the player on how to proceed and to notify him/her whenever the puzzle is solved. On entering the scene, a voice will direct the user to a puzzle. To solve the puzzle, users must make three rotating objects match the displayed pattern. It’s not as easy as it sounds! Clicking on each object causes a different rotation to the object and/or a different object! When the user has finally matched the pattern, a voice will let them know that the puzzle has been solved and a door out of the space station will open leading user back to the Astrarium.

I created the last game, Escape the Planet, which is set on a decrepit space station in Mars.

The user has to figure out how to escape the planet by finding a hidden message. The hidden message says ‘To Leave the Planet, find the key and then click on the yellow barrel.’ Upon entering the scene, the User will see 6 colored orbs floating. When clicked, each color orb is linked to a number. That number represents what order in the phrase each color is linked to. Around the space station are objects that take on the color of one of the orbs. When you click on the colored object, a word that is part of the hidden phrase will appear. For example, the Red Orb had the number 1 hidden behind it. If a user clicked on a Red Object, the words ‘To Leave’ would appear. When the user has figured out the whole phrase, they must find the hidden key and then click on a yellow barrel. When clicked, the user can return to Astrarium.

Conclusion

The game was a lot of fun to make — especially because of such a dedicated and hardworking team. It’s amazing that we can make something this intricate when none of us have ever met and don’t live in the same country! I’d recommend over and over again working on team projects because you learn so many things from other people’s skill sets.

We all loved the design of the game but agree that, had we more time, we could have made more games within the Astrarium or added levels within each game. Overall though, it’s a really fun, interactive game that’s makes for an exciting VR experience.

Arwa Michelle Mboya

Written by

Virtual Reality Programmer; Storyteller; Feminist; Adrenaline Junkie; MIT Media Lab Graduate Researcher.; Sometimes I think I’m a pixie; virtuallyari.com.

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