Building an impossible structure in Virtual Reality.

A VR puzzle game where players could walk into an optical illusion

Carina Yu
Carina Yu
Sep 24, 2019 · 3 min read
Famous optical illusion structures by M.C. Escher

There’s something enticing about the way optical illusions plays with the blind spots of human perception. It is a fun and magical game with our own minds.

Many architects attempted to recreate the structures in physical space, but a lot of them had failed because it’s difficult control the way the visitor interact with the piece.

Monument Valley is beautiful mobile game that use the allure of optical illusion to create an interactive game dynamic.

As amazing as the installations and Monument valley are, they still couldn’t quite scratch the itch of actually walking into an illusion, like how Ariadne and Arthur did in Inception.

In the scene, you can hear Arthur says,

“In a dream we can cheat architecture into impossible shapes.”

This led me to think,

What if we bring the optical illusion experience in virtual reality?

Virtual reality is that dream. It is a platform with the best of both worlds. Designers could manipulate the space without any constraints of the physical world; while the 3D perspective could create a more immersive experience.

To test whether VR is in fact a better platform for optical illusion puzzles, I decided to design a game around that theme and test out the logistics.

Prototyping the game in Cinema 4D

Proof of concept

I worked with a graduate Architecture student, Mamdouh, to create a proof of concept of the game in Unity. The goal is to show that isometric view could work in a 3D perspective as well.


We were concerned that players would feel dizzy when the game switch into an isometric view. So we tested looking at the structure though Oculus.

It works. It was not nausea inducing at all, but it is slightly weird to see that the surroundings would not change when you look around the space.

Final thoughts

Putting optical illusion structures in a VR space is not as seamless nor satisfying as I thought it would be. Since the illusion could only work at a certain angle, the first person perspective would break into a third-person view, making the experience less immersive. An elaborate effort on animation need to made in order for the optical illusion structure to feel realistic.

Nevertheless, it has been a fun ride. I have learnt so much about manipulating perspectives within a 3D space and the constraints. My next design goal would be learning to design more complex objects with 3D modelling.

If you want to work together, mail me at I’m happy to connect!

Carina’s Laboratory

A collection of Carina’s design experiments

Carina’s Laboratory

A collection of Carina’s design experiments

Carina Yu

Written by

Carina Yu

I have too many interests and it shows

Carina’s Laboratory

A collection of Carina’s design experiments