Over the break, I got a privilege to participate in The Project expo at AUT. People came to talk, listen and discuss the various topics of digital disruption.
I was there to showcase Warp, an Oculus VR demo we created at Frogshark (before it was officially formed). We showcased the demo at DigitalnatioNZ expo in 2013, and it hasn’t changed since, as we went onto working on Swordy. The event however wanted to have a VR demo on display, so it was an opportunity for me to see reactions of a different kind of audience to VR tech.
There was mostly mature audience. The highlight of the event for me was seeing people who never played video games, never experience anything like VR, some never even held a controller in their hands, try something like this for the first time.
I couldn’t hook up the sound to the TV, so it was mute, however there was a good number of people who were making their own “pew pew pew” sounds to compensate.
Majority of people who tried, at first stared straight ahead like they’re used to on a normal screen. I would have to prompt people to look around actively. No one noticed they had no legs until I pointed that out.
It was evident again how important it was for the controls to be minimal. Only the left stick and the trigger were required. Majority never used an xbox controller, and would get lost to find the left analogue, but eventually would get everything within seconds.
One particular lady (pictured above) claimed to never have held a controller before (she was also one of those that made their own sounds, and duck and lean with their body in response to VR), have totally engaged with the game. She instantly got the head look aim mechanic, understood the ship controls the moment she touched the analogue sticks, shot all the enemies within seconds as they appeared, and trialed the rest of the buttons on the controller to discover the barrel rolls, which she also accompanied with body movement and vocal sound effects. That lady was awesome.
There was also only one person who insisted that inverted Y is the right way, and he was a young gamer (I would agree if I was playing with an actual joystick, in a free-flight mode, not an on-rails 2.5D Starfox VR hybrid).
Other than that, it was great to see the responses from an older audience to something this unfamiliar.
In fact, the engagement didn’t begin just the time from when they put the headset on, but also the whole ritual that begins way before that. The inquisitive gaze from the distance, the careful approach, the childlike expression of curiosity and the internal battle of excitement vs. unfamiliar.
Something very natal is expressed in that ritual, as if like cavemen themselves, gazing upon fire for the first time. The careful danger dance, the curious courageous touch and the satisfied retreat, to tell the others they have done it.
We went in with mentality that getting a mention is good, and any exposure is good exposure, and indeed, we were able to show both Warp and Swordy, which is great.
We knew however that this wasn’t about us. This was about VR, and portraying New Zealand as a place for innovative new technology, which is also a worthy pitch that I was more than willing to participate in.
It is interesting however to see the final result. We spent around 1hr with David’s team, filming, doing interviews. Fascinating to see how condensed the final edit is, what was used and what wasn’t and how everything was conducted behind the scenes.
We weren’t aware for example, of what stream of material we were going to be among in the edit. We only knew about our direct particular involvement and the roller-coaster playtest with an elderly gentleman, which happened in the same room as us. That, I think could feel less distilled and set up, if it was more genuine in the approach of getting an emotional response out of him, but still worked out fine and everyone had fun.
I think overall, this was a great opportunity and it worked out really well. Swordy is on the national TV, score!
During VRjam we only had 1 week to put together the demo, hence most of it was assets salvaged from other projects. This plane in particular was a model I built for fun, which temporarily got to be a hero vehicle. Now I am retiring it to serve as a placeholder for enemy ships, while a new hero model is being implemented.