Handi Shen, Art Director
Yuyang Chen, Lead Programmer
Qian Luo, UE4 Expert
Benchao Hua, Lead QA Engineer
Yichen Li, UI Designer
Product Requirement Documents
Promotion Pictures and Videos
HYPEROOM is a VR multiplayer social space in which users can create their own avatars, chat and even play games with each other. For example, you can change your appearance with the wardrobe, chat with friends in voice and gesture. This project originates from our web-based player community. In order to reach the full potential of our VR devices, we build a VR social space to connect the web-based community, and it has been released at HYPEREAL's App Store.
Far from creating user-generated content like selfies or panoramic videos in the VR environment, HYPEROOM needs to build up its infrastructure which allows users to do something interesting in the VR space. At the first step of the project, we mainly construct the avatar system and the room system. The former emphasizes the individual experience which takes the user from the real world to the virtual world, and the latter focuses on how several users access to each other and stay together.
The avatar system is a key feature which can distinguish different users and allow users to simulate real-world behavior in VR. More than changing appearance or sending voice message like most social games, locomotion and collision can help you perceive more in the spatial environment, and gestures can deliver more social emotion.
Like most of online game lobbies, users can use the room list to create a room, visit others' rooms or go back home. Besides users' virtual homes, there are also other interesting playrooms like the werewolf playroom or the VR art studio. With the concept of playrooms, social scenarios in VR can be potentially extended.
The company leader intends to build a VR game platform as same as Steam, so that he has started to build a player community bound by HYPEREAL's App Store. However, Steam has not only built a web community, but also launched SteamVR Home, a VR social space as the launcher of SteamVR, in which users can customize their avatars and environments as well as gather their Steam friends to explore the scenes. Due to the strategic objectives of the VR platform and ecosystem, the company leader also wanted to build HYPEROOM as HYPEREAL's VR social space.
For the infrastructure, especially the systems of rooms, friends and objects, HYPEROOM has learned a lot from SteamVR Home, while the avatar system is mainly from Facebook Spaces and Oculus Avatar. In addtion, to figure out how to improve user retention and stimulate growth is also important. We found that the number of concurrent users in SteamVR Home is not satisfied, although it has some features of user-generated content. Therefore, we need to find other competitive products which have stronger growth potentials.
Rec Room is a VR public space integrated with various kinds of role-play games or combat shooting games, and its operation strategy is to launch new games or activity rooms by Rec Room's developers. Although the half-life period of growth is short in each release, the active players keep growing in general (2017). In addition, players tend to record the gameplay videos as UGC.
AltspaceVR is a VR meeting product featured by its event system. Users can choose several types of events to create such as meetup, party and music. The operational events are mainly talk shows of celebrities, and the activity content tends to be serious topics. After acquired by Microsoft in Oct 2017, AltspaceVR is likely to hold meetings for commercial use.
Bigscreen is a screen sharing product in the VR environment, and it allows four users to share their Windows' screens simultaneously in the same room. With this feature, users can customize the scenarios with the change of the screen content. The developers focus on optimize the performance of the product, and sometimes they provide free movie watching in Bigscreen.
VRChat is a VR social community providing with a SDK which allows users to import any avatars and scenes they want. The modification covers from avatar appearances and animations to environments to even interaction logic. Therefore, VRChat's operational strategy is to encourage young people especially youtubers to create virus videos with their own avatars and stories in VR.
Finally, Strategy One has been adopted due to the lowest cost in the short term, and the game Werewolves has been chosen as the next expansion because its gameplay videos can be good sources of UGC in recent years. The following two points are the conclusion of the project goals:
1. Adapt the mature solutions of the avatar and room system to our devices in order to develop the infrastructure at the lowest cost.
2. Release Werewolves Playroom and launch user-generated gameplay videos as marketing campaigns in order to increase HYPEREAL's awareness.
The structure of the scene mainly depends on the trade-off between efficiency and attractiveness. For our competitive products, they tend to place the avatar system and the room system in a universal menu, and in this way, users can change their appearances and orient themselves anywhere. For HYPEROOM, we have decided to objectify the avatar system into a wardrobe and the room system into a billboard. Although this solution is short in expansibility of scenes, the forms of the avatar system and the room system are intuitive and interesting to use.
This structure can be considered as a minimal viable product. But in the future work, the watch menu system should be completed and improved so as to deal with more complicated scenarios.
As the form of the avatar system was confirmed, the user flow of costume change should be designed. Lilian Warner (2017) indicated: "designers working in mixed reality aren't creating a screen-based experience but scene-based experiences." For this issue, I have integrated Warner's method with another method, Interaction Flows by Havana Nguyen (2017). In this way, not only can the context of the scene be vividly described, but also the interaction details can be clarified. The diagram below is the scene-based user flow.
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In order to reduce the development workload to a minimum, our strategy for the flow of Werewolves is to keep the game rules run by players instead of the game program as people play Werewolves in the real world, and the game program just offers cards and the discard pile. At first, I came up with a general solution for any card games, and then I refined it into a detailed solution for Werewolves.
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HYPEROOM generally runs on HYPEREAL Pano, including a HMD, a pair of Sens (6DOF motion controllers) and a pair of tracking cameras. The benefit of our devices is that you are allowed to perform body motions to express your emotions, especially the hand gestures. It enables you to interact with and feel connected to the world outside your physical bodies, or in other word, you will receive the feeling of presence according to Christophe Tauziet (2017). But the drawback is also obvious that the tracking range of the cameras is smaller than that of HTC Vive's Lighthouse, and therefore the avatar's actions should be designed in consideration of the limited field.
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For the avatar's actions, three typical actions, including locomotion, selection and picking something up respectively, were refined from some cases of excellent products and the VR Book written by Jason Jerald (2016), which can cover most of the interaction between the avatar and the VR environment. However, the avatar is not allowed to turn the back to the cameras as well as to stretch too high or too low. For this issue, some special actions need to be added such as fixed rotation and object telekinesis.
Teleportation, translation and rotation are the main patterns for the avatar to change the position, while the tunneling pattern is to reduce the motion sickness.
HYPEROOM supports Pointing pattern and Hand Direct Manipulation pattern. Users can use pointing ray to seclect objects on a distant panel or use pointing finger to seclect objects within the range of motion.
Telekinesis can be used to fetch objects on the ground. Invisible rays spring from your hands and it can change the border color of the object, which helps you to perceive whether you can pick it up.
HYPEROOM is a social product first, which requires continual operation to ensure lasting growth of users. And then HYPEROOM is a VR social product, which presence and immersion play an important role in. Above all, I have summarized the following two points:
1. For social product, there are two strategies which are effective at stimulating user growth. One strategy is to release premium content, and entertaining content such as new games or game expansions and videos are common used in VR industries. The other is to lower the threshold of UGC from the technical perspective and encourage creation from the operational perspective.
2. For VR social product, the avatar system is the most important element, for which users are willing to social in VR other than in traditional media. To further improve presence and immersion, body languages such as hand gestures, facial expressions, lipsync and eye gaze need to be emphasized as well as the capacity to customize one's appearance.
Lillian Warner (2017). Mixed Reality User Flows: A New Kind of Template. Medium.
Havana Nguyen (2107). An Introduction to Interaction Flows. Medium.
Christophe Tauziet (2017). Designing Facebook Spaces (Part 3) — Connecting With Friends. Medium.
Jerald, J. (2015). The VR book: human-centered design for virtual reality. Morgan & Claypool.
Copyright © 2017 Junyu Liu. All Rights Reserved.