Worlds On a Wire
I started collaborating with Terrick for our midtern, and so far we have a general geometrical sketch laid out of our world. We really want to work with videos and make an experience that’s on rails that slowly travels through a video corridor alongside a cat. At the end of the corridor, we want to push past a 360 video sphere into an actual skybox.
Of The Four Types of Stories in VR, this experience would be Ghost without Impact, as the user is led through this hallway with the ability to look around, but without any local or global agency.
In hindsight, we were likely inspired by Passage.
This week I started exploring different tools in tiltbrush to see if I could create dream-like structures to walk be able to walk through. I like the aesthetic of warm colors that pop and lights that are emitted in strange and captivating spaces; I’m very inspired by the works of artists such as Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno for their use of lighting, Pipilotti Rist for color and video textures, and Ryan Trecartin for general experimental narratives.
I want to explore what editing in VR means, by using a soundtrack as a base off which to create events, or perhaps reveal parts of the world to guide the experience. The goal would be to create an environment that doesn’t make much sense linearly, but evokes a chaotic hum with a playground feel, with objects and structures that emit nostalgic content.
I expanded on my world from last week, tweaking some of my design choices and adding interactive sound. I changed the material of the floor and walls to be all glass instead, as I found the Ocean material to be a bit too dark and distracting. I wanted to make different sound tracks start playing throughout different locations in the scene, so I added sound cues to the three different thresholds of the doors. I made sure the First Person pawn starts off facing these doors, which are aligned and meant to draw the user in, straight ahead. I personally don’t love when an experience starts off with crucial elements being in the “curiosity zone” (behind the user), so I also placed the pawn pretty far back against the front facing wall. Here’s my walkthrough of the scene!
Here’s a few stills from my floating Unreal nightclub!
Three women dance in absolute sync to the Donna Summer track, “I Feel Love” on a water dance floor under a series of doorways, while fireworks go off into the water ceiling and floating windows illuminate different colors through the thick fog.
Between the Starter Content and Example Content packages, I had a lot to play around with, and the only thing I made was my hip-hop dancing lady in Mixamo/Fuse. This was the first time I worked with particle systems, and I adjusted the smoke one to give it a more foggy effect, which helped bring out the lights more.
The Lab was extremely immersive physically, to the point where certain characters made me step back a bit, and one popped out in way that was too scary and real. The bow and arrow game was great with the haptic feedback, and I liked how the experience played with scale.
VRChat!!! completely blew my mind. Unlike The Lab, it was more emotionally immersive- it’s is a game-changer for me. I’ve always wanted to try social VR and have been really interested in its future applications, and the first time trying it was beyond everything I had imagined and hoped it’d be. My sense of embodiment wasn’t perfect, but good enough to feel present and lose track of time in this vortex. The subject of anonymity is particularly interesting, as it’s not actally truly anonymous with its use of real mics (although I’m sure users could blend their voices). It was jarring and somewhat terrifying at the beginning, but it started to feel somehow empowering in a strange way- encountering trolls and knowing that they could say whatever they wanted without being able to actually see me or physically affect me. I hear and read a lot about the potential harm and detrimental dynamics of social VR harassment, and yet I came out of the experience feeling more in control somehow. And then there were users who were actually great to talk to and explore other worlds with. Even in my memory, these experiences and encounters feel very real, and whether that’s something scary or exciting, it’s clear after trying VRChat that very soon, these virtual spaces will be exponentially populated with more and more users.
So happy I finally know how to set up the oculus on my own! This is something that I’ve seen done many times but have been too intimidated to try and seems like a breakthrough! The Rift was surprisingly easy to set up with Haiyi from class- we never got the remote to work, but the controllers were working fine. At one point, the MSI restarted without warning, and when we booted everything back up, I realized there was no way to skip ahead through the experience to get to the crash point, which would’ve been useful.
I tried a few experiences including, “Dear Angelica”, “Henry”, and Google Earth VR, which were all very different stylistically. The storyline in “Dear Angelica” was so heartfelt, with a subject matter that’s highly personal and relatable at the same time. The aesthetic reminds me of tiltbrush strokes and it was nice to float in space among words. The elements would also fade away if I got too close, which felt really elegant and natural. The tone reminds me of “Notes On Blindness”, both in its narration and illumination of certain parts of the scenes. “Henry”, on the other hand, felt a bit more like a kid’s film was adapted to a VR movie, and I didn’t leave the experience feeling like I fully understood why I was there. Google Earth VR seems like a natural extension of the browser version- soaring through the tops of buildings was really cool, and the point of view while floating felt hyperreal or game engine-like, especially with the sound effects. Scanning the Earth is conceptually a crazy idea, and beyond its entertainment value I’m sure there are a ton of practical applications for it. For me though, it holds up as an experience on its own, and the ability to click through to different cities felt like a narrative in its own way.
I read somewhere that VR experiences are stored and last in your memory in the same way that real memories are, and whether or not that’s true, “Dear Angelica” and Google Earth VR are definitely lasting in my mind in a visceral way. Overall, it was really nice to see a range of experiences, and I feel so much more excited about trying out more, now that setting it up isn’t such a scary thought!