The Puzzler Project
UX Designer, VR Puzzle Builder Extraordinaire, and Innovative Thinker
I’m a software developer who is learning to design 3D applications that leverage the new and exciting world of Virtual Reality (VR). The platform I’m currently expanding my skills on is Unity. I have a background in Information Technology project management that I’m using to increase my probability of success with projects and I am confident that my skills will meet your requirements for developing gaming, simulation, or business-related solutions.
Unity 5.51, C# Coding (3 months experience), 3D Mesh Rendering with Blender (3 months experience), IT Project Management (3 years’ experience).
The Puzzler Project
The Puzzler VR game was developed as part of the Udacity VR Developer Course. The 3D assets used in the game were stock as provided by the course program. The project is meant to demonstrate development of both a simplistic game and an ability to follow VR design principles including; ergonomics, graphic user interfaces, game mechanics, testing, and presentation.
The game takes place while in dungeon scene where the user must solve a puzzle by correctly replicating the order in which eerie dungeon orbs are highlighted. The game uses both visual and audio queues to ensure the player understands what is being presented and then receives feedback needed to solve the puzzle. A quick demonstration video and screenshot follows:
The process utilized included classic software development methods including: sketching, user testing, and iterations. The idea is to give the project the best possibility of being successful when it is provided to other people. Personal experience, user testing, metrics, and device performance were all considered when following the design iterative process. Technical features such as; scale, movement, stereoscopic rendering, spatial audio, and color were all considered as the design was iteratively reviewed and improved. User testing was key to ensuring that the final Puzzler design would be acceptable to as wide an audience as possible. “The user is not me” is a philosophy that I followed for this as well as all my projects. I find it difficult to successfully design and build a software application based upon intuition alone and must utilize frequent feedback from users within my target audience. Finally, I recorded my efforts by retaining my initial sketches as references as well as capturing user test feedback, including recording the sessions.
Meet Velma Dinkley (of Scooby Doo fame), the persona I choose as the typical user of The Puzzler. While she isn’t a real person, her character represents a real demographic.
Occupation: High School Student
Favorite phrase: “Jinkies! My glasses, I can’t see without my glasses!”
What motivates her: Has highly specific interests in science which could lead to a career as a NASA research scientist. Is very well read on obscure fields, such as Viking writing. Loves a good mystery.
Her VR Experience: Due to her nearsightedness, she’s been wary of VR and hasn’t tried it yet.
Initial Design Sketch
The initial design concept was thumbnailed as a sketch using an open creative thought process. What would Velma Dinkley be interested in? What kind of puzzles might she enjoy? What graphic layout or theme might be most interesting? Here’s an example of an initial sketch:
User Testing — Outcomes and Iteration
User Test 1
For user test 1, five users tested with the initial Puzzler design. The design was just a layout, there was no game to play just yet. This test was important because it was to help me understand that the size and colors used were appropriate and that the mood was having the correct affect. Each user was informed with the same background information. In general, they were instructed; “This is a test of the user experience and not a test of you. There are no wrong answers to the questions I’m about to ask you. Please peer into the headset. Look around. You should be able to see a VR scene.”
Each user was asked four questions:
- How would you describe the environment that you are in?
- Is there a mood that you feel?
- Please tell me how big you think you are within the scene?
- Is there anything that you’d like to look at that you cannot see or that appears difficult for you to see?
Results of this initial test were very similar from user to user.
Responses and actions to question 1 included: “brick hut”, “underground brick place”, “cell block”, “tunnel under ground’, “dungeon”. No changes were deemed needed due to these responses.
Responses and actions to question 2 included: “No”, “claustrophobic”, “grim”, “light effects are happy”, “disco lights”. “Happy” and “disco lights” were deemed to be indications that color and lighting were not quite where they should be. The lighting color over the orbs (purple) was reduced and the brightness of the lighting over the orbs was adjusted so that color and lighting were subtler.
Responses and actions to question 3 included: “normal”, “normal”, “normal”, “normal”, “a little bigger”. No changes were deemed needed due to these responses.
Responses to question 4 included: “no”, “no”, “dungeon orbs”, “barrels are a little bit too shiny”. The changes made due to ques tion 2 responses were also deemed appropriate to address question 4.
User Test 2
User test 2 involved two individuals who were close to the projected persona demographic (one was male, one was female). The following video was recorded of one of the tests:
Both tests indicated that The Puzzler application was ready to have the game logic inserted.
User Test 3
Upon finalizing the game logic, a final round of testing was conducted. These tests were done by simply bringing my cardboard viewer along with me and randomly testing the game with friends and acquaintances. Two individuals volunteered and both tests were positive without complaints or concerns.
Breakdown of final piece
The build of final design varied only slightly from the original concept. The assets provided for the project created an eerie environment that should appeal to the target persona, who is naturally inquisitive and “likes a good mystery”. The rocket ship launch that was envisioned as part of the original design was deemed to be not critical to achieving a satisfactory game and was not included in the current version. This feature could easily be added at a future date.
The final design of the dungeon involved making some adjustments to lighting, outside scenery, and audio queues. The outside (directional) light was reduced in color intensity as the yellow color was adding a distracting tint to the barrels at the exit. The color of the orbs created a “disco” look that was subsequently reduced in intensity (see snapshot below of overly purple lighting). This was necessary to keep the player focused on the orbs and solving the puzzle. Mountains were added to the outside landscape to give the dungeon a place in which to exist.
Ergonomics. During testing, the size of the viewer was determined to be satisfactory, so no changes to the size of the dungeon itself were needed. Audio queues were considered adequate, however a tester noted that the ‘error sound’ wasn’t very loud, so that audio queue was slightly increased in volume.
Graphic User Interfaces. The canvas signage received no comments during testing and were deemed to be appropriate for the final design.
Game Mechanics. Testing indicated that the game was intuitive, however instructions to the user were verbally provided at the time of testing and further text instruction may be required.
The Puzzler project has met the original design intent for the persona and target audience. While some adjustments were needed because of testing, the testing conducted is considered to have considered enough of the design elements to have successfully reduced risk.
It is important to continue the iterative process started with this project. While the developer considers the project to be ready for a wider deployment within the target community, receiving feedback will be critical to ensuring the game continues to delight users. A trial period of 60 days will be used to ensure users no that this is the first version. Then a final version will be posted. Careful observance of feedback received from Google Play comments. An iPhone version of the game will also be developed and deployed to the Apple Store as well. Adding a visual, such as the originally envisioned rocket launch, could also add interest in the game.