Puzzler VR

As part of the Udacity VR Nanodegree program, I created a project to focus on the process of designing a mobile VR game starting from initial sketches and continuing through user testing iterations to reach a final product.


Process

Statement of Purpose: Puzzler is a mobile VR game set in a dim dungeon that requires the player to solve a memorization puzzle, similar to ‘Simon’, before being able to exit the room.

Persona

Persona Portrait
Name: Mitya
Age: 30s
Occupation: Engineer
Quote: “I don’t have a ton of time, so I like casual games that can be played in a shorter sitting.”
What motivates them: Mitya works long days solving tough problems. When he comes home, he wants to play short casual games. He has a little experience with VR.

Sketches

Sketches were created to plan out the layout of the game environment and to evaluate possible UI designs.

Concept for the game environment
Concept for the puzzle room interior

UI designs were kept simple with contrasting colors and bold fonts to ensure the best readability in mobile VR.

UI panel designs

User Testing

User Test: Scale

The first user test was to evaluate how the user felt about the scale of the scene. First, the scene was viewed before the UI elements were added. The user reported that the size of the door and the room seemed reasonable. Since the feedback was good, no changes were made.

The second scale test was focused on the scale and readability of the UI elements. The user reported that the UI panels were huge and that he had to rotate his head to read the full board. As a result, the size of the UI panels was reduced and retested. The user reported that they could now be viewed without turning his head and that the text was clearly readable so no additional changes were made.

UI Panel after scaling it down

User Test: Transition Speed

The second user test evaluated if the user was comfortable with the speed used to move through the game scene. The game moves the user from the start location, into the puzzle room, and out of the room if the puzzle is completed. The user felt that the speed was fine and didn’t make him sick. He mentioned that the timing of the UI panels appearing/disappearing while the user is moving could probably be improved. Since the main objective of acceptable motion recieved positive feedback, no changes were made at this time.

User Test: Intuitiveness

In the third user test, I evaluated if the user found the game intuitive from start to finish. The user had no problem starting the game and was able to understand that a pattern puzzle had to be solved using the orbs. After moving his head to aim the reticle, it became clear that just looking at an orb made a selection, but the feedback was that ‘clicking’ on the orb for selection may be better. This feedback wasn’t incorporated into this revision of Puzzler, but I plan to use that feedback when I port Puzzler over to the Daydream controller. The user had no problems playing the game without instruction, so no changes were made.

Breakdown of the Final Piece

The user begins the game viewing a UI panel instructing them to press the start button. Once the button is pressed, the player is moved into the puzzle room. Lighting and a change of audio cues sets the ominous mood of the dungeon. The orbs in front of the player begin to light up and play a sound one by one in a pattern that the player must repeat in order to exit the room. The player uses the gaze recticle to select each orb in the order they were presented previously. If the sequence is incorrect, a ‘false’ audio cue is played and the puzzle restarts. If the sequence is correct, the player is moved outside and presented with a congratulations UI with the option to restart the game.

Screen recording of Puzzler VR

Conclusion

The Puzzler VR game is a good short introduction to VR games for those with less experience. As a developer, it was a good exercise for making iterations based on user feedback. I learned that user feedback was particularly important for VR products because different users have different reactions to aspects of VR experiences, such as scale and motion, that can actually make them physically uncomfortable.

Next Steps

The next step I would like to take for Puzzler would be porting it over to Daydream for a better interaction experience for users to select their solutions with a handheld controller. I would also like to place the puzzle in a different environment and extend it to additional levels.

Link to Additional Work

More of my VR work can be found on GitHub and I will be posting future projects here on Medium.