Breach - A Multiplayer VR Experience
Breach - a Multiplayer VR Experience
Summary: “Breach" is an asymmetrical multiplayer VR experience, where two players must rely on each other to navigate a Tron-inspired maze environment. The players have unique roles: Player 1 must walk through the environment, collect tokens and avoid being caught by robot enemies before time runs out, while Player 2 uses their birds-eye view of the environment to guide Player 1.
"Breach" was built as part of VR Lab, a selective program that empowers creative technologists to build VR/AR/MR prototypes and explore immersive new media formats. I collaborated with 3 other developers to create "Breach" for Samsung Gear VR, using Unity and C#.
We started with a blue-sky brainstorming exercise to help us think big and come up with compelling multiplayer VR concepts.
Once we landed on our idea, we identified important themes we wanted to explore in the design of this experience:
- Interactivity - For us it was important to ensure that our VR game was highly interactive, to take advantage of the unique strengths of virtual reality as a medium. We chose to use a game controller as an input, to allow players an intuitive method for engaging with the world around them.
- Scale - One person sees & interacts with things at an intimate scale, and the other at a birds-eye, high level scale. This can translate into interesting gameplay, where the first person player can see and interact with smaller objects, while the third person player cannot, but has the power of a unique perspective.
- Voice - We believed that voice would be an important way to create a strong sense of presence and interactive gameplay between the two players.
From there we began a very iterative process of trying things and seeing what works, focusing on interaction over pixel-perfect UI design.
- We created a 3D model extrapolated from a Google image of a floor plan of an office building to prototype the maze experience and get the proper scale of the maze relative to the player.
- Once we determined the proper structure of the maze and determined the flow we wanted the user to take, we added furniture and decals, a neon trim on the floors and walls, and ambient lighting to bring the scene to life.
- We constantly created builds to test on our Samsung S6's, to get feedback on every little change we pushed. This helped us to move quickly and build a solid UX.
Results & Learnings
We presented the game at the VR Lab demo day, and it was very well received. Here are a few things we learned:
- The collaborative dynamic between the two players made the experience compelling. When the first-person player wearing the headset didn't have good guidance from the third-person player, they didn't have as much fun in the game.
- The third person player helped the other player to navigate by viewing the maze from a laptop screen. This was a bit unwieldy - an iPad would have been easier to use.
- Audio is very important to creating a sense of presence.
- Many people mentioned that they could have spent much more time in the game. This was a good sign for us, that we built an experience that was compelling, interesting & comfortable to use. Many VR demos were nausea-inducing, but we were able to optimize our performance to eliminate this effect.
In the end, I think this asymmetrical gameplay serves as a unique interaction model for collaborative interactive experiences where people can come together from anywhere in the world, to accomplish something meaningful together in VR. I learned a lot from this project!