Blog Post 4 – VR Experience Contextual Review

Class review:

It is fascinating about learning more about meaning full interaction in both gameplay design and general player experience. At first, I did not think too much about how a lot of experiences had interactions that were only added as fluff to fill out the world and to create the illusion of more player agency, vs interactions that had an actual impact on gameplay and narrative. After Karen introduced us to the interactive thriller, Erica, I feel more aware of the differences. Some interactions had an impact on how the plot played out and others, like wiping a bathroom mirror, felt like a showcase interaction. I find that although meaningless interaction may not make any resounding impact on the overall player and gameplay experience, it can be quite satisfying and immersive. I’m also very interested in learning more about the other interactive experiences that Karen mentioned, like Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch and Shibuya Crossing.

Contextual Review:

The first game I played was Land’s End on the Quest. Visually the game was stunning in its low poly simplicity, lighting, and calm atmosphere. The gameplay and mechanics were also very simple and calm. In the early levels, I played I had no real sense of urgency or anxiety to move from one level to the next. The gaze controls had to be and fortunately were very smooth and satisfying as it was the only gateway to interaction. It was used to navigate to predetermined parts of the map (there was little choice of where to go though)and was used to solve puzzles by connecting dots and move boulders in the scene. Overall, I think the gaze interactions did add to the peacefulness and casualness of the game.

The second game I played was Chrysalis and it felt messy confusing and slightly overwhelming. There seemed to be a lot of controls that did not add much to the experience. The movement controls of holding down on both grips and going towards the direction you were facing were sometimes jarring if you accidentally pressed the acceleration (which seemed to trigger even when I didn’t want to). Why did the developers choose to use grips to move forward? I felt that a control setup like this would make more sense if the player moved using noticeable propulsors.  Also, rotating the camera manually with the joystick was not smooth and made me nauseous when it skipped. Next, puzzles were not that intuitive, there was a cave “puzzle” of spheres you had to press down on, but it was not clear if you had to solve it. It did not seem to prevent you from moving forward in the story. In the lab a door was locked and there was a button that could be pressed that was disabled. One would think you could unlock it by finding a keycard or doing a puzzle, but in the end, the only way was to move forward was to hear a voice recording to complete the plot point. Finally, the visuals and interactions were confusing. The physics of some objects floating and others not floating made the supposed underwater environment unclear and Many objects that were once interactable (mainly grabbable) were not interactable later on. Overall, I found the game fairly frustrating and the annoying narration did not help.

The last game I played was Dead and Buried. I do not usually gravitate towards the first-person shooters, but I enjoyed this one.  In the target practice mode, it was satisfying to be able to change the environment and the way the targets were set up by cranking the crank, pressing the button, and pulling the lever. The reload mechanic was also fun as it used a flick of the wrist, although this did not feel too intuitive at first (to a shooter game newbie) when I played without the tutorial. It was also weird to have the cool shooting mechanic to select in the menu, but to then have to directly touch some of the buttons later on. I did not have time to play a game mode with movement, but from I looked up later, the arena mode paired with an oculus quest allows you to track your physical movement to your character in-game. Also, in the tutorial, It seemed that physically ducking with the headset was also an important mechanic in avoiding flying projectiles. It seems like the game is very open to fully utilizing player movement, which I find really interesting.