‘Return to Grindelind’ a world-scale VR prototype for Vive Focus

‘Return to Grindelind’ is a first person worldscale RPG set in medieval England. You play a petty lord who returns from a religious pilgrimage to find his village deserted. You must discover why and collect 3 keys to unlock the chest that contains your sword and shield.

Although, yes, Worldscale VR games require the player has access to a large open space, the user experience and ‘feel’ is transformatively different than conventional 6DoF. Walking tetherlessly is more than just a mechanical capability. Through our prototyping, we’ve identified that exploration games are a great fit for the medium. The ability to see a far off thing and simply go toward it makes the virtual feel all the more real. When you take off the headset, you almost feel that the virtual environment is still there, albeit invisible. As long as the playspace is empty, playing a well-designed worldscale VR game on a soccer field is no more dangerous than playing roomscale at home.

SpaceFrog VR: an active game for HTC Vive (hitting Steam in October!)

Alex is project manager, 3D modeler, game designer, musician, and more on SpaceFrog, a VR game for HTC Vive coming to Steam in September. His partner in crime on the project is Charlie Van Norman.

SpaceFrog is a VR active game, a new term we coined to refer to games that center around the joy of physical movement in a true roomscale environs. Minimum capture zone is 3×2 meters. The story centers around a race of sentient space-faring frogs; you play as their warrior princess, in an epic quest to rescue your prince from the clutches of the evil, insectoid Klurxons.

The story and gameplay resembles a full-body take on the classic N64 game Starfox. SpaceFrog is composed of 6 levels, each of which features a performance rating out of 5 stars, leading to increased replayability. SpaceFrog is also designed to be watched and played socially.

In SpaceFrog, you play the whole game without pressing a single button. Everything is gestural and movement oriented.

SIMTAINER: An Immersive VR Futures Narrative (at the United Nations)

Simtainer is a VR experience I built about the importance of adaptable infrastructure, specifically underutilized shipping containers. When users put on the headset, they are taken on a journey through shipping containers repurposed as housing, medical clinics, and farms to meet our ever-changing infrastructure needs. Simtainer will be showcased at the United Nations General Assembly during October.


SIMTAINER@TYF17 (Gray Area Fest Edit) from Toshi Hoo on Vimeo.

Virturaunt- Oculus Rift Restaurant Simulator

The Virturaunt (Virtual restaurant) project aimed to explore the incorporation of food into VR to better understand the cognitive process behind food consumption.

By building an immersive restaurant environment in Unity, and populating it with sample food items, players/participants were provided the opportunity to select virtual food items they would like to ‘eat’.  Upon the press of a button, an animation played which showed the selected food item flying slowly toward, and then under, the player camera, mimicking what happens when we put food in our mouths.  Simultaneously, the player was fed real food by a volunteer administrator.


Screenshot from sim
Screenshot from Unity build

This created the opportunity for managed cognitive dissonance.  By allowing the player to select the virtual 3D model of an orange, watching that orange fly under the player camera, and then being fed a piece of lime or grapefruit, the player became confronted with the challenge of recognizing the dissonance.

RESULTS: Over 20 tests, 13 players failed to realize they were being fed grapefruit instead of orange, 11 players failed to realize they were being fed lime instead of lemon, and 10 players failed to realize they were being fed apple instead of pear.  It was far easier to fool players around taste than texture.

The point of this exercise was to explore how reality and virtuality can be integrated around selective strengths- imagine a real restaurant environment where you wear an Oculus Rift during the experience to focus your attention on the food, allowing you to savor it more completely.  Imagine if these virtual environments could be customized based on individual preferences.  This same technology has the ability to aid in portion control, food perception, and could be applied to taste-testing and to better understand, statistically, the impact of ambience on the restaurant experience.

Cool stuff!

If you’re interested in a demo or to download my Unity build, contact me on Twitter (at)asaulgoldman.

Pirate Island: A Language-Learning Game (Published in IDC)

During his final semester at CMU, Alex conducted extensive research into how children and adults successfully learn first and second languages.  The result of months of research was the testable hypothesis that spacial memory could be successfully leveraged as a platform to expedite the process of learning vocabulary.  In other words, if you label things in a virtual space, it helps people learn the names of those things quickly.  The other major insight from research was that children learn languages by ‘guessing’. Young children are constantly hearing new words, guessing what they mean, and then playing around with those guesses to ‘test them out’.  In other words, being told if you’re right or wrong when learning a language runs counter to how our brains learn one the first time around.

To test these hypotheses, Alex built a roll-playing game that integrates real videos into a Click-to-Explore virtual world.  Players encountered multiple parallel quests that could be resolved in a variety of orders.  In order to solve the quests, players had to guess the meanings of the words used by NPCs (Non-player characters), with the help of visual subtitles.

His work was featured in the 2013 Interaction Design for Children conference.


 Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.43.55 PM

Umbra: Beyond Shadows (CHI finalist)

In a game design course in 2013, Alex and his classmates decided to push the boundaries of how we think about the Microsoft Kinect.  The end result: an entirely new interface. Umbra: Beyond Shadows uses 2 Kinects, 2 projectors, and a semi-transparent screen to create a physical game environment akin to a volleyball court: 2 teams on 2 sides of a flat surface.  In the case of Umbra, the rear-mounted projectors created intentional shadows on the screen, standing in for player avatars. The game leveraged extensive research into the relationship between how realistic avatars are and cross-player experience.  Umbra succeeded in making players feel uncomfortable expressing outwardly antagonistic behavior toward their highly realistic avatar opponent.

Umbra: Beyond Shadows was a finalist in the CHI 2013 Student Game Design Competition under the category of Innovative Interface. Read the 2 page paper here.


SkyGods of Magmarock

SkyGods of Magmarock was a 2 week long project built across 2 networked Jam-O-Drums.  2 teams of 4 compete in a straightforward capture-the-flag adaptation with 2 minor twists: first, the game leverages a fog-of-war perspective, so that each team can only see in a narrow radius around its units, and second, all players have the ability to slow down opponents with a fire-breathing attack.  This simple combination enables powerful cooperative potential without complicated rules; anyone who’s played capture the flag instinctively understands.

Alex played the role of texture artist and interaction designer on this project.

Power UP! Madeira

Power UP! Madeira was a semester-long project involving extensive research.  The goal of the project was to build an interactive multiuser exhibit for Casa da Luz, Madeira’s museum about science, electricity, and power generation.  Our solution was an RTS in which players manage their own resources (Money and Electricity) in order to build the island’s shared network of power stations.  The major challenge is in balancing renewable energy, which is clean and cost-effective after construction but expensive to build and unreliable, with conventional natural gas power, which is cheap to build and reliable but generates pollution and costs money to supply.

Our resulting four player game, built on a handmade touchscreen, is a resource management simulation in which money, public satisfaction, pollution, and electricity must be balanced to meet the needs of a demanding populace with diverse needs.

Project V.E.S.S.E.L.

Project V.E.S.S.E.L. was an incredibly ambitious 3 week long project involving the creation of an entirely immersive virtual and physical world.  Our solution involved 2 PSMoves, 2 Wiimotes, and a Jam-O-Drum to simulate the deck of a ship shrunk down to fight viruses within the human body.  The pilot steers using a helm and accelerator.  2 gunners use their PSMoves to fire on malicious infections.  A navigator, meanwhile, has a top-down view of the world, and gives directions to the pilot on how to navigate the complex maze of vessels to find and destroy the enemy.  The navigator’s contribution to the team is in sharing information and making navigational recommendations.

Alex was producer and designed and built the set.