VR Art- no place for happy mediums

When choosing between two options, be they solutions or styles, a natural impulse can be to compromise. This is often smart- compromising can mitigate the weaknesses of either option, leading to something more refined and efficient. Interestingly, when modeling for virtual reality, this is not quite the case. In many cases, the most successful games have attempted either hyper-realism or an aesthetically pleasing yet unrealistic low-polygon style. To understand this, it is important to recognize two important factors that contribute to a VR experience. Firstly, immersion is far easier to achieve, and can make or break the experience. Many designers set out to maximize immersion by making their games incredibly detailed and realistic (see games like The Climb). This can be extraordinarily effective, allowing the user to get lost in their own living room. However, such high-fidelity graphics can be taxing, and when coupled with twice the necessary rendering and a demanding 60 frame per second minimum rate, can be too much for smaller studios to take on. Some designers simply do the best they could, but in my opinion, create a phenomenon reminiscent of the Uncanny Valley, where it approaches realism, but is not quite there, forcing our brains to focus on all the little things wrong and making the whole experience a bit jarring. The most elegant solution to this problem seems to lie backward. Designers of games like Land’s End and Darknet specifically create low-polygon art with the intention of suspending reality as opposed to mimicking it. By completely removing the pretense of realism, these games allow users to stop worrying about it and instead simply enjoy the aesthetic.

For this reason, I am attempting to use simple but modern low-polygon art for my project. This has proved to be difficult, as I am by no means an expert modeler. I ended up working through four iterations of a drone concept, and after finishing the modeling, am still unsure if I like the style. The next big challenge will be texturing, as low-polygon textures are completely different from the normal materials with which I am used to working. After texturing my model, I will be able to determine if I have created something adequately minimalist, or if I will have to rethink and remodel.

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