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Saturday, November 20, 2021

November 13th - My Team's VR Mario Showcase Project

During the PXR2021 Conference there was a goal of creating some sort of collaborative virtual reality project throughout the week. I wanted to participate because I thought this could be a fun short-term creative VR project opportunity. 

My team had students across multiple disciplines and background. Not everyone could meet at the same day/time and as a result it was only towards the last 2-3 days of the conference that we really got going with sort of VR project.

For my team we had a few students who really wanted us to help them create a Mario inspired VR experience. Using that as our creative theme and direction we made a Nintendo Mario themed Altspace world. 

Poster art by Dylan Coakes

Level Designer and Unity Developer

My main role was assembling everything together in Unity along with level design while the rest of the team helped create the 2D/3D art assets.

At first we were thinking of a very simple walking/corridor art collage experience. You start at one end and walk to the end while enjoying the different art pieces to your left and right which would represent different time periods of Mario.

Incorporating Elevation

However, one of the key takeaways I learned from the level design presentation by Scott Moring is that flat levels are boring and elevation can go a long way in making a game level more interesting. I brought it up with the team that we should look to incorporate more diversity in elevation and as a result we came up with a three tiered VR Mario level. To blend in the Mario timeline concept we aimed to have each level represent a different era of Mario as a theme. 

Block-out of the VR World

Visual Guide

I wanted the level to have a natural flow for itself so that VR players don't get lost when they enter the world. My goal was to have a easy-path for players to self-navigate without needing to be told verbally where they could go. The desired player path is for them to continuously move upwards to each new level. 

Level-1 Mario NES Era

For the spawn area and I painted the floor texture to have one clear stand-out path. I also added rotating coins and a poster on the right to concentrate visual interest along the path. Finally, I animated a Mario NES sprite which moves along the indicated path before taking a green pipe which goes up.

The Level-1 Mario NES also had quite a bit of space so to keep it interesting I added a small special level animation with a Bullet Bill flying from left to right. I think it also helps support player movement as well since Bullet Bill moves in the same direction I want the players to move.

Level-2 Super Mario SNES ERA

I used the same techniques for the 2nd Level which was SNES themed. Once they get to this part they immediately see that there is another ramp with the same design and I feel that since it is straight ahead with coins directing towards it that it is obvious enough that you can continue upwards. I also decided to keep the Mario traveling through pipes concept but this time with an updated sprite to represent the next gaming era for Mario.

However, I did leave a surprise for those who like to explore. Keeping with the Mario game-theme there is a hidden star behind the stairs which has a teleport button that leads you to the 3rd level. Just a small Easter egg and hopefully a fun surprise for those who find it and to make this experience a bit more memorable.

Level-3 Super Mario N64 

Upon reaching the highest-level the player gets rewarded with a view of the N64 Peach's Castle. This is the first Mario game to feature 3D gameplay and my own personal first 3D Mario game as well. I modeled and textured this myself using Probuilder and I tried to make it as similar to the N64 version as I could with the time I had. The poster to the right is a screenshot of the N64 castle which they can look at and compare to what I've modeled.

The castle is the only structure on this level and leaving it by itself brings visual focus to the singular bridge to access it. At the door I placed a Star and the exit out of Altspace.

Here are some additional pictures I took during the day of the showcase at the conference.

Check it out for yourself

 If you want to check out this world yourself you can use this world code : AWJ736.

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