Launch Pad Proposal: The Hollow Crystal
The Hollow Crystal is a VR game experience that takes the user through a magical journey filled with puzzles that the user will have to solve in order to find out what happens next in the story. Build for room to scale, the experience centers around the user’s learning of Elemental Magic and the mystery surrounding The Hollow Crystal. Each scene of the story is designed as a magical room escape experience where, instead of escaping, the user must solve the room puzzles to move further into the narrative.
NOTE: To clarify, before I got into Oculus Launch Pad my partner and I had already started developing for room to scale with the HTC Vive we previously had obtained. Ultimately we want to continue to develop for room to scale with the Oculus Touch, alas, for the purposes of the proof of concept demo that we are presenting for the scholarship we did a re-build for the Oculus Rift.
Unlike the original demo we had started to build using controllers, this demo showcases just the inciting incident that introduces the premise of the story. That been said, the production timeline for The Hollow Crystal project is for a room to scale build with the Oculus Touch.
ABOUT THE PROJECT:
Setting: The experience is set in our modern era while interlaced with magic and other fantasy elements.
Theme: Romantic Mystery with a Magical Backdrop. Think Pride & Prejudice meets Sherlock Holmes with Magic.
Premise: Two rival sorcerers (a wizard and a witch) destined to a mortal duel must come together to solve the mystery of the Hollow Crystal before it destroys them both. It is up to you, the new wizard’s apprentice, to help their plight and find out the crucial truth both sorcerers are hiding.
Story Summary: The user enters the experience presented with her or his acceptance into a magical apprenticeship under the tutelage of the High Wizard of the Order of Tellus, Lord Darcy. During the user’s first field duty excursion with Lord Darcy they discover a mysterious Crystal that is destabilizing the magical forces in the area. While investigating the magical riddle left along with the Crystal, they are interrupted by a masked woman sporting the markings from the Order of Caelus, Lord Darcy’s sworn magical rival clan. Thrown into the midst of a magical battle, the user must now assist Lord Darcy and retrieve the witch’s Power Orb in an attempt to find out her implication with the Crystal and her true intentions.
Universe Rules: As the experience progresses the user finds out about the following story universe rules.
The modern world is unaware of the magical clans that fight to protect the earth from multiple sources of Arcane Magic. Each clan, often composed by members of a specific family lineage, follows different philosophies and draw power from different natural elements.
There are very many clans spread around the world, some better known than others. Most are very small, consisting of a handful of members, often looking for capable apprentices in hopes to keep their magical heritage alive.
Throughout the years some clans have clashed in their philosophies (e.g. intuitive and subjective use of magic vs. a more logical and objective approach), becoming sworn rivals. But because the magical need to keep the balance of all natural elements stable, fated conflicts are only solved through a mortal duel against the last known member of each rival clan at a time dictated by their Power Orb.
Power Orbs function as magical vessels used by wizards and witches to access backup power sources, memories, omens, etc. Wizards and witches are known to carry Power Orbs to counterbalance their power expenditure (for every action there is a reaction, for every power expelled a vulnerability exposed).
Different clans identify themselves with different magical masks that also serve as shields to counteract and hide vulnerabilities that might get exposed in fights, duels, and during other precarious uses of magic.
Main Characters: The main characters are Lord Darcy, Lady Bennet, and Lord Darcy’s Apprentice (the user).
Lord Fitzwilliam Darcy (name subject to changes): High Wizard and last known descendant from the Order of Tellus. Per the heritage of his clan, Lord Darcy draws power primordially from the Earth. Alas, he discovers through the paradoxical forces of the Hollow Crystal that he is also able to manipulate Fire.
His magical upbringing was based on a precise, quantified, logic driven approach. Philosophically, the clan of the Order of Tellus believes that any magic driven by intuition is a dangerous magic prone to unstable results and fatal errors when executed.
Driven by this philosophy, Lord Darcy centers his tutelage on the achievement of impeccable execution. He believes only those focused enough to prove themselves worthy of the heavy responsibility of Elemental Magic should be chosen to pass on his powerful magical heritage.
While Lord Darcy is known to be a very proud man, his also known to have strong moral fiber. Always driven to do the right thing, Lord Darcy is devoted to find magical solutions to protect the weak and help the balancing of the natural elements often suffering from the environmental abuse of humans. He truly believes that magic carries the responsibility to address social wrongs and effect positive change.
The one rarely known vulnerability that Lord Darcy carries with him is the disappearance of his sister, Georgiana, when she was a pre-teen. She is now presumed dead.
- Lady Josephine Bennet (name subject to changes): High Priestess and last known descendant from the Order of Caelus. Per the heritage of her clan, Lady Bennet draws power primordially from the Air. Alas, she discovers through the paradoxical forces of the Hollow Crystal that she is also able to manipulate Water.
Her magical upbringing was based on an intuitive, instinctual, emotional driven approach. Philosophically, the clan of the Order of Caelus believes that magic driven by logic and precision is a dangerous magic to practice because of the lack of flexibility and pliability required to adjust when unforeseen reactions are created by the natural elements.
Driven by this philosophy, Lady Bennet centers her tutelage on the achievement of acute attunement to sensorial connections and inner energy points. She believes everyone with a magical inclination has the aptitude to excel at making these connections through a disciplined practice. Alas, to her disappointment, not everyone seeking her guidance is as eager and disciplined as she desires.
While known to be righteous of her craft, Lady Bennet is also greatly empathetic. Especially to those found discriminated against just for being different or facing unjust disadvantages. And while she is fearless in the face of any challenge or battle, she is ultimately quite vulnerable herself because of her handicap. Jinxed as a pre-teen, Lady Bennet is unable to talk due to the impairment of her throat chakra. She now communicates only by her dexterous use of Elemental Magic.
- Lord Darcy’s Apprentice (the User): The Apprentice enters the experience with the willingness to learn the use of Elemental Magic under the tutelage of Lord Darcy. This would require to follow Lord Darcy’s hands on instructions (the experience is originally designed for room to scale).
Alas, while been thrown into figuring out the mystery surrounding the Hollow Crystal, the Apprentice must help Lord Darcy and solve the riddles and puzzles that act as enchantments protecting the true nature of the Crystal. Throughout this process the Apprentice not only gets to learn the rules of this magical universe, but also gets crucial insights into the background stories of the characters and their true intentions.
Core Game Mechanics: At its very core this is a mystery game that uses puzzles as vehicles to move the story forward. Now, as this is a narrative driven experience, the main challenge we needed to overcome for our proof of concept was to figure out a way to reconcile the goals of the story with the goals of the player. After much experimentation and a pivotal breakthrough moment we realized that if we constructed the experience so that the user is given a mission that immediately implicates her or him in the narrative then it’s less likely for the user to want to disengage. The key of how to keep this engagement from that point on, while keeping the story on rails, is to make the user feel part of the squad of the protagonist that is driving the main narrative. In this way the user helps move the story forward without getting the way of the protagonist’s main plot. We are very excited to move forward with our findings. Additionally, we would like to have the opportunity to increase the engagement interaction of the experience with the use of AI (Watson’s API). Furthermore, we would also like to expand the story universe by releasing the VR experience with a full fleshed transmedia campaign. For more on this please refer to the project description, production timeline and production budget sections.
THE TIME FOR THE HOLLOW CRYSTAL IS NOW:
The VR scene is not only currently looking for original content that speaks to multiple audiences, but it’s also waiting to see how narrative projects can thrive in VR. With The Hollow Crystal I truly believe we have a winning project that can address both these matters.
For one, the project has enough action and intrigue to appeal to the male demographic, enough narrative and romance to appeal to the female demographic, and enough puzzle missions to appeal to the gamer oriented community. Furthermore, the concept of The Hollow Crystal is build around the current limitations of the medium, taking inspiration from transmedia game dynamics and room escape experiences. Through insights we’ve gather from these other mediums we were able to scale down the narrative so that it focuses in reconciling the goals of the story with the goals of the player in a way that it elegantly works for room to scale.
Most importantly, however, The Hollow Crystal is a perfect project for VR because it inadvertently dives into an empathetic story while immersing the user into extraordinary circumstances. As a result the user grows closer to characters (who are considered to be outsiders, disenfranchised, and displaced) all while interacting with a fun and intriguing magical environment.
Ultimately, The Hollow Crystal is a fun VR game experience for all ages that showcases an innovative way to move the narrative forward, all while sparking a sense of wonderment driven by the magic of storytelling in VR.
The minimum production budget needed to complete the first iteration of The Hollow Crystal experience breakdowns as follows:
For more on how the funds will be used to moved the project forward please refer to the production timeline section.
To clarify, before I got into Oculus Launch Pad my partner and I had already started developing for room to scale with the HTC Vive we previously had obtained. Ultimately we want to continue to develop for room to scale with the Oculus Touch, alas, for the purposes of the proof of concept demo that we are presenting for the scholarship we did a re-build for the Oculus Rift.
Unlike the original demo we had started to build using controllers, this demo showcases just the inciting incident that introduces the premise of the story. That been said, the production timeline for The Hollow Crystal project is for a room to scale build with the Oculus Touch. Our team will include two developers (including myself) working on the project part time, plus commissioned work.
Our production timeline breaks down our schedule in 10 months of production and it stands as follows:
Because The Hollow Crystal experience is a puzzle heavy project, we would have to first finish the breakdown of all the scenes with their corresponding game mechanics, riddles, and puzzles before we continue with the build. We would have to bring on a puzzle consultant at this point and design each scene room almost as if it was a digital/magical room escape experience (only difference is that, in our case, the users would move further into the narrative instead of wanting to escape).
During this time we would also be making design decisions regarding the puzzle environments of each scene, and commissioning 3D design work for some unique props that are key to the story. Once the script for the main narrative is finalized we would be looking at commissioning voiceover work and recording the voices and noises for both main characters.
Once the game mechanics and all the elements needed for the build are set in place we would then continue the build for room to scale.
While continue to build the experience, we would like to experiment during this time with Watson’s API to see if it can successfully facilitate a more immersive interaction between the user and the experience. The idea is to use Watson to enable the user to pass voice commands as string to the AI that then would get processed against specific keywords. These in turn (ideally) would trigger hints or solutions to the puzzles inside the VR environment of any given scene.
If we are successful with Watson’s API we would continue the build incorporating its capabilities.
While continuing to build the experience we would like to start beta testing during this time. We would like to go through at least 3 cycles of beta testing total, and make adjustments to the experience per our testing finds.
During this time, while continuing to build and test the experience, we’ll start working on the transmedia/marketing campaign for the project. The campaign will be designed to tease the concept and some background story of the Hollow Crystal across multiple digital platforms through an Alternate Reality Game (ARG). The ARG will include the use of an Augmented Reality Mobile App (built with the Vuforia AR Unity App) that we’ll be building and testing during this time.
During this time, while focusing on finishing the experience and the transmedia campaign, we’ll start reaching out to blogs, podcasts, and other media outlets for promotions. We’ll also be focusing on applying to showcases, interactive festivals, and other conferences to add buzz among VR developers and the early VR adopter community.
During this time we will be focusing on final delivery of the experience and running the ARG the week prior to release to build momentum through social media.
For more on the project vision please refer to the project description section.
WHAT LIES AHEAD FOR US
(BEYOND THIS PROJECT PROPOSAL):
Once the first iteration of the project is released, we would like to release follow up experiences that expand the story universe of The Hollow Crystal. The idea is to release three additional experiences that continue the story in series while showcasing added interactivity in each iteration. Our long term vision for this breaks down as follows:
The Hollow Crystal Chapter 2: We would introduce additional characters, and build a location-based room experience that will incorporate the use of AR, props, and other non-immerse players.
The Hollow Crystal Chapter 3: For this iteration we would like to ramp up the quality of the immersion by incorporating more uses of AI for heightened interactivity, and by having full fleshed character animation.
The Hollow Crystal Chapter 4: For this iteration we would like to incorporate multiplayer dynamics and the ability to have users add to the ‘negative spaces’ of the story, while sharing their contributions with each other and the Hollow Crystal community at large.
Thank you for your consideration.