HOW TO DESIGN VIRTUAL REALITY FOR LEARNING
By Filament Games
Consumer-grade VR has been around long enough now that diverse use cases have started to solidify across the spectrum of available devices. Whether you’re entering another reality through the lens of the humble Google Cardboard (mobile VR) or tethering yourself into the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive ala The Matrix (PC VR). VR done properly can immerse you in a learning experience like no other medium.
That being said, like any creative medium, there are best practices to consider. We focus on four domains of VR design as we reconcile our approach to game development with the affordances of the target device(s): namely, computing power, input capabilities, spatial capabilities, and content.
This primarily depends on the device being used to facilitate your VR experience, ranging from a decked-out PC with a high-end graphics card to a single smartphone. On a PC, you can create more complex VR environments, characters, and interactions. You’ll still need to optimize for frame rate because, while PC VR does robust hardware, there is still a “low end” and a “high end” within the PC VR landscape.
Conversely, smartphone-enabled mobile VR is far more constrained in terms of the graphical juice that you can apply to a game. Textures, environments, and especially interaction need to be simplified, not only to accommodate the limited processor power, but also the input affordances, which we’ll discuss below. If you’re targeting mobile VR, don’t let this discourage you. Simpler doesn’t necessarily mean second-rate, as it can positively translate into approachability and universality in comparison to a more complex VR experience. Breaking Boundaries in Science, a game we developed for the Samsung Gear, serves as a nice example of mobile VR that toes the line of fidelity and simplicity: