Crafting a literary VR game part 4) Room layout + atmosphere testing!

Crafting a literary VR game, part 1: Concepting + Story Design

Crafting a literary VR game, part 2) from Concept to Narrative Timeline to Script to Set Design!

Crafting a literary VR game, part 3) Nailing down the story / Design document drafting!

Greetings world!

When last we checked in, I'd been working on the story for this crazy game involving inter-dimensional gods who eat happiness, 70's and 80's retro decor, and a grizzled Midwestern cop who's forced to investigate the disappearance of his estranged father.

Next on my design/development schedule for this game was supposed to be mocking up all the interactions with code. But I was having trouble persuading myself to get back into development, so I decided to take a few hours to focus on something simpler than prototyping the player interactions. And something a bit more immediately rewarding: environment design.

So I went on Sketchfab and the Unity Asset Store to find models to populate the estranged father's apartment. This is about a lot more than just decorating though: environment design is about finding visual elements and creating a space that heightens immersion, resonates back the game's primary themes and tones, and supports way-finding (navigation) and the player journey.

You can see, first of all, the color palette of muted greens, yellows, and blues, with a flair of orange/red for the kitchen for contrast.

Through this design experience, I encountered a few challenges / learned some new things:

1) The estranged father (who went missing) was an emotionally remote and repressed man for most of his life, but in the past couple months went through a dramatic personal blossoming. Figuring out how to reflect that in his space is challenging. I'll have to add some elements that are in blatant contrast with each-other, yet are still in keeping with the overall ethos of the game.

2) Almost any color, when used throughout a scene, has the effect of being depressing. Color tone variation alone is enough to spice up the composition to help the player feel that the environment is energized, rather than subdued.

3) It sounds  stupid, but homes have a lot of things in them. That's a huge opportunity for storytelling, and a major challenge / timesink as well. Sure, you can always place cabinets with closed doors, but the space will still feel empty.

NEXT UP: Interaction prototyping for the main scene!