The Keys to Engaging & Believable VR
Aldin was founded in 2013 with a very specific goal in mind: to create believable worlds that take full advantage of VR, focusing the new possibilities that it has to offer beyond conventional mediums. To us this meant focusing on the physical presence of users within the virtual world.
In 2013 we designed and deployed the world’s first VR narrative experiences with interactive characters, Trial of the Rift Drifter and Asunder. They were entirely built around the concept of catering to the physical presence of users inside the world; an interactive experience where the story was driven forward by the player’s physical behavior.
We created systems that let characters understand natural body language, allowing them to respond to head gestures such as when players nodded and shook their head. We added gaze tracking to also enable the characters to do things like instantly stop talking and get angry if players weren’t paying attention to them. Natural interactions and interruptible characters — just as you would expect in the real world.
The reception of these experiences went well beyond our expectations, eventually leading to a formal content partnership with Oculus and setting the stage for our continued work in VR. We were psyched to see users appreciate the effort and lengths we went to in polishing the experience and ensuring that every minute felt as believable as possible. To this day we still regularly receive requests for these original experiences to be updated to work with modern VR platforms.
Creating Believable Worlds is Challenging
A key thing we learned from our early productions is that creating fully-interactive virtual realities that respond believably to your presence is an enormous undertaking. It’s not like designing conventional software — it’s more like designing a real-life themepark. We came to the conclusion that if we were ever going to fully realize a virtual reality that truly feels like a believable reality, then we were going to need better tools to do it.
This is how the concept of Ghostline was born — an advanced analytics suite that would help us understand the complex relationship between user behavior, world design and VR hardware setups. Initially it was an in-house tool for ourselves, but over time we realized that this could even bring value to the industry at large.
What is Ghostline?
Ghostline, at its core, is an analytics solution. Another way to describe it is a suite to analyze the user experience. It’s a tool that enables quantitative analysis as well as qualitative evaluation of the user experience in virtual reality, helping address the new VR production challenges and metrics which conventional analytics solutions are not designed for.
We first used Ghostline in the production of Waltz of the Wizard, significantly accelerating and improving our production process by targeting our efforts and helping ensure that the user experience is of highest quality possible for the broadest range of users. We are extremely proud and humbled by the reception that Waltz has received to date — over 200,000 downloads on Steam and resting firmly among the top 3 highest rated VR apps since 2016, alongside The Lab and Rec Room.
A part of this success was applying Ghostline in the production process. We improved everything from visual design, timing of events and polishing intuitive user interactions.
Helping the Industry Create More Sophisticated and Polished VR
Some months ago we worked in partnership with leading studios such as Cloudhead Games and Superhot, who were kind enough to give us their expert opinions on our core feature set as they applied the tools in their own production.
We look forward to sharing more details about our work in VR here on this new development blog. It is our hope that the industry at large benefits from our efforts and that we will be able to help usher in new generations of interactive VR content that fully delivers on the massive potential of the VR medium.