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Welcome to the Machine: Lessons Learned from the Gaming Industry

Falcon's Augmented Reality Headsets
Welcome to the Machine: Lessons Learned from the Gaming Industry

Falcon's Digital Media's Jesse Allen is no stranger to the Gaming Industry. Today he shares some of his insights on augmented, virtual, and mixed reality in location-based entertainment, and what can be learned from the Gaming Industry.

Guest Post by Jesse Allen

For the past several years there has been quite a bit of press about augmented, virtual, and mixed reality in location-based entertainment. Coming from an AAA game development background, my perspective is that many of the challenges that we’re seeing in the theme park industry have largely been addressed by the video game industry over the course of many decades.

Here are a few great lessons VR themed design can learn from game development:

#1 Graphics are not everything

Many visually-oriented designers believe that photorealistic graphics will define the perfect experience; but, if video games have proven anything, it’s that minimalist stylized looks can be just as powerful. Some great examples are Journey by ThatGameCompany, Limbo by playdead, and the recent Superhot by the Superhot Team. These minimalist games offered wonderfully fresh new worlds to see and allow the users to focus more on the main character and their grand adventure into places we had never seen before.

Consider this: one of the big struggles of augmented reality is because we would love to have the immersion of virtual reality in an untethered, see-through headset—but the computing power of the current augmented reality headsets cannot handle overly complex virtual worlds, nor can the limited hologram display size. However, if you're just generating the main immersion tools (controls, guns, or Avatar) in the augmented reality headset that would be lighter on system resources.

With all the new technology available (such as clear LCD monitors and tried-and-true tricks like Pepper's ghost displays), it's highly possible to do full AR/VR experience without any glasses or headsets at all by making them part of the ride vehicle windshield. For the backgrounds, enemies, etc... we could use more powerful PC's that display the environments on projected walls or screens around our ride cars. If the two systems synchronize, you would have an amazing mixed reality experience.

#2 There isn't a preferred perspective

Many of the current VR rides are in a first-person perspective. However, allowing guests to experience the adventure through an avatar can be just as powerful, and quite often helps address motion sickness by giving guests a central stable focal point throughout their experience. Third-person perspective adventures in video games are exceptionally common; some of those standouts being: Tomb Raider, Gears of War, Assasins Creed, and the Grand Theft Auto Series.

There is also a top-down board game-like perspective often called "God view," used in real time strategy games that would be a perfect fit for many augmented reality experiences. Notable games of this nature include Command and Conquer by Electronic Arts, Sid Meier's Civilization, and Starcraft by Blizzard Entertainment. This format would be ideal for virtual playgrounds or for guests before the main ride as a pre-show in-ride-cue experience.

#3 Make it more than a story, make it their story

It was once enough to let people just see a movie to feel a part of an experience, but times have changed and people expect to contribute to the experience somehow. The most simplistic way to address this is a "choose-your-own-adventure," style selection tree made popular by games like Bioware's Mass Effect, or Telltale Games' version of The Walking Dead. This type of branching story system would be easy to install in a ride with a simple three-button system or in virtual reality simply by displaying three different types of text/symbols and having the users visually select whichever that they wish to choose.

Another method for those designers not wanting people to respond to text or verbal questions is an action based decision-making system. For instance, if the majority vote from the ride vehicle is to go in one direction or another, or to engage and fight a specific creature or another, then the game can respond with dialogue or counter actions based on those decisions. If you're already developing a presentation with a runtime engine, often this system is based on AI logic calls with game triggers and audio attached to it. Many sports games and some action games such as Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor use storytelling systems like this.

These are a few of many great lessons learned and there is so much more room to grow. It's truly an amazing time to be in the themed entertainment industry, especially as we see the video game world rapidly transforming with these new virtual technologies. I'm very fortunate to be part of a studio that fully embraces these methodologies in addition to decades of real world experience in theme park design.

Jesse Allen will be a featured panelist at the “Future of Immersive Leisure” Conference at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, NV September 13th and 14th. Come by and learn more about Falcon’s Creative Group, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality—register with discount code: JALLEN20 and save 20%! . http://snip.ly/m5w77

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