Puzzler VR Project —Design Process

Introduction

Puzzler is a simple mobile VR application, that I created as a part of my VR Nanodegree course by Udacity. Puzzler is an interactive VR game, where the player should solve the puzzle: correctly repeat sequence by clicking of glowing spheres and then exit the building. This game provides me a great opportunity to introduce VR World to my friends and family. It is also a great way for people to make their first experience in VR.

Puzzler VR

The following video shows the final version of application Puzzler VR. Below is the documentation, that describes design process using initial sketches, development, user testing, feedback and iterations.

Designing process

Statement of Purpose Puzzler is a mobile VR application for new VR users, which challenges them to solve a familiar type of puzzle in a new way.

Persona
For this project, I have created a person, who represent a targeted audience for this game.

Lilly, 11, middle school student

Name: Lilly, age: 11, occupation: middle school student
She is most of the time in school, so she has not much time to play computer games. She has little experience in computer games. In her spare time, she would like to play, not to learn more. For her, virtual games are very interesting, because this is a completely new sphere. She is used to use smartphone.

Sketches

Sketches are the basis that helped me to imagine the environment of the game, the location of objects, determine where the player will be located and how the movement will occur.

Initial sketch

The initial UI sketch gives an idea of the positioning and size of text and buttons

User interface sketch

Building scene

The environment was created with the aim of transferring an atmosphere of an abandoned building, for instance an old chapel. The atmosphere should not be terrible, oppressive, frightening, rather a bit mystical, magical. 
The scale in VR affects the user’s perception of his size. To create an appropriate scaling of the building I used the door of dungeon in VR, as a reference, and adjusted it by comparing with a real door in my apartment. The room in App was scaled to be larger than my living room.
I placed pillars under spheres in the middle of the room, so that they would block the way for the player, until the puzzle is solved.

Puzzler was developed using Unity3D and scripted using C#

User testing outcomes and iteration

Development process included user testing, which helped me to determine, whether the designed features work as planned, and iterations, which included improvements based on information received from test persons.

Number of respondents: 3

Test 1 — Scene and atmosphere

Scale: all users find that they feel themselves normal height. The building seems very big. Scale feels appropriate. 
Comfort: Users reported feeling themselves comfortable. Barrels in the rear part of the building are not very visible and torches on the pillars are not very noticeable.
Mood: The atmosphere of the environment is rather pleasant, not frightening. The mood is peaceful. The atmosphere stirs interest: there is something mysterious, like in the movies where treasure is sought. According to one user building can be a small church.
Conclusions: I decided not to change the atmosphere of the scene to more dark and creepy. Barrels should be moved to another place. Fire in the torches will make them more noticeable.

Test 2 — Graphical User Interface

For legibility of user interface, for starting and restarting UI I have used contrast colors, bold fonts, and large font size.
Based on users feedback I have changed color, transparency, and size of UI panels.

Test 3 — Movement
To avoid simulator sickness, movement between waypoint was made predictable, short, linear. In “play”-position player remains stationary but can turn around. 
After user testing I changed the speed between waypoints for slower.
Movement is done using iTween.

Final testing and improvements

Final user test showed me, that I should add more instructions for users, so that they can easer understand, how to play the puzzle. I have changed text in the start UI.
I used different sound for each sphere, to make game more entertaining.
Finally, I added fire to the torches (used Particle Systems) to complete medieval atmosphere.

Breakdown of final piece

At the start, player finds himself in a desolate landscape and can see the greeting panel with instruction, how to play the game and the “Start”-button, placed before the building.

After clicking “Start” user moves into the building and sees 5 spheres hanging above the pillars blocking the path.

The spheres begin to light up and tinkle. At first, they indicate a sequence that the user should repeat to solve the puzzle, to be able to exit the building. 
When showcase is plaid, player can click any sphere to repeat the pattern. If the player chooses the sphere wrong he hears a failure-signal. After that a pattern sequence will be repeated, and a player has a new chance to repeat it.

Once the sequence is completed in the right order, spheres disappear, pillars go down freeing the passage, and the player moves out of the room. Outside the building player hears a success-sound and sees a “Congratulations”-panel, which offers him the possibility to restart the game.

Conclusions

The Puzzler Project was an interesting and useful learning experience. The main things I have learned are:
- how important user testing to VR is, how important are improvement iterations based on users’ feedback 
- how to consider a human factors and ergonomics to create a comfortable feeling for users in VR space
- how to mitigate simulator sickness and make physical experience pleasant for users
- pay attention to documentation process, because it is crucial for design process and for presentation of work done.
Acquired knowledge allowed me to create an intuitive, entertaining VR application, that looks and feels great for the user.

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