I’ve been building VR environments for around 4 years now. I have no background in 3D art or game development, so essentially all of my experience has come within social VR. This means I began designing with no preconceptions on what something needed to feel or look like, I just started building. The last four years has shaped my beliefs on what makes a successful VR world and here is how I start building.
The obvious first step is to make sure you have inspiration. What inspires you is going to be dependent on you. When I started exploring social VR, the things that inspired me the most were the creations that already existed. I loved looking at worlds made from other players. Realistic worlds were more interesting to me and I ended up falling in love with modeling restaurants and houses. Most of my inspiration comes from looking at pictures of houses or restaurants online.
Decide Focal Points
Focal Points are the spots that players will be around the most. This could be a mirror, a game, or a visual. Really anything that’s going to draw the player. These points are going to keep the player engaged and keep them in the world. In social VR, other players are going to attract even more players. In The Black Cat, there are several focal points. The first one is not one you can see, but one you hear. Other players will talk around the mirror that is behind the wall near entrance. This attracts the player and gives them an objective. Moving towards that mirror the player will be introduced to multiple other focal points.
Draw the Layout
Once I have my focal points decided, I draw out a layout that connects them all. Focal points are used to seamlessly lead the player around the world. There should be opportunities for the player to explore and discover more. My layouts all loop around so the players can access any part of the world easily. I don’t want it to be annoying to try a find your way on a balcony. I want the players movements to feel very natural. This step is not as simple as drawing a path. I usually end up drawing a multitude of different layouts for every space I build.
Once the vision is clear and I have a layout I like, I block it out. I want to get a version of the world modeled as quickly as I can. This will let me walk around the layout to decide if its the layout I want to commit to. The block out is very simple. I am not going into detail with the world at this point. Its basically just a bunch of planes and cubes around. That’s all a simple mock up needs to be.