Narrative VR — The City
Personify a City and narrate her story
My initial idea is to personify a city and narrate a story about a city’s life. In this VR experience, the city has her own body. She is a giant and also the spirit of the city. This city used to be very prosperous and have tons of commercial activities. However, now she is no longer young and energetic. All the prosperous scenes in the film are her memory.
How to interact with the City’s memory
First of all, before getting into her memory, the giant will start a conversation with the player and asks the player if he/she can help her find her best memory back. The player can have a conversation with her by pressing the controller. If the player answer with yes, the interaction will start and bring them back to her memory.
When they go back to her best memory which is the city’s most prosperous time, the player can start to take “best shots”. After the exploration, they can give the memory to the giant and all the memory will be shown on the televisions.
First of all, I thought of: what’s the experience that I would like to see in a virtual world? What’s the most engaging experience in VR that I ever tried? Then I thought of Ghost in the Shell which has the incredible sci-fi scenes and the VR roller coaster experience. Here are all the elements that I am interested in.
MoodBoard & Storyline
The first scene is about the city’s current situation. She is old and nearly dying. Players can use teleport to approach the woman and there will be only one television on her head still working. Viewers can touch the television and enter her memory. I did not finish this scene this time, but I plan to complete this part in my final project.
The second scene is about the city’s memory which depicts the most prosperous time in her life and it is also the scene that I created this time. I applied hologram effect to some ads and short video to make it looks more sci-fi and commercial. This idea was inspired by Ghost in Shell which also has giant hologram ads in the scenes.
Other than hologram, I tried to apply point cloud effect in the scene. In the city, all the residents used particle animal as their vehicles. The effect is also used on the texts in the city. After viewers run through the tunnel, they can see a welcome message which is composed of glowing points. The only one problem of this particle system is that it can only be applied to static meshes which means I cannot apply the effect to animated models.
The third scene is actually the same scene as the first one. After viewing her memory, viewers come back to the current time and see the last television , which also symbolizes her life, running out of power and turning off.
How did the medium and it’s tools shape how your told the story? How did it facilitate / How did it hinder the story?
Originally, I want to use Tilt Brush to create the character since I was totally into the art style in Dear Angelica. However, after I tried to paint her in Tilt Brush, I found it looked so different and the style was not what I imagined, so I give up to use it as painting medium.
Instead, I tried to use 3ds Max to create the character. I found a free 3D model as the city’s body and tried to add some wires and metal on her head so she looks more like a cyborg. I also collected 5 different types of televisions and put them one her head.
After finish the mesh, I started to do some research and learn about how to put textures on her body. It is probably the most difficult part in the project. I tried several softwares like Photoshop(yeah, surprisingly it has the 3D painting function), Paint 3D, ZBrush and Substance painter. Finally, I decided to use Substance painter which is much simpler for me to export normal maps and color maps to Unreal.
After I import the model to Unreal, I put some screens on her head to make the TVs look more realistic. Also, I created several particle system(the blue rings) to make the city more sci-fi.
During this iteration, I mainly focused on the scene and the character design and only finished the second scene because it is the most important part of the whole VR experience. I tested this with some people and they told me that they like the experience but it seems like it is lack of interaction. Also, some of them told me that the exploration might be too fast for them. And the camera transition got them dizzy sometimes.
This time, I finished all the scenes in the storyline and also add interactions: have the conversation with giant and take pictures aka collecting memory pieces. This time, most of them can understand the story. Also, they like the interaction of taking pictures which make them feel more involved in the experience.
Where would you take this project if you had more time/resources?
I would do rigging and add animation to the city. Originally, I want her to turn her head around and open her mouth, but I don’t have enough time to finish it. Secondly, I would make the interaction more complete and give players more choices which allow them to explore different storylines.