Prototype 1: Harpoon

Our first prototype explored chord structures, pitch intervals, and dissonance. In this experience, guests use a pull-back mechanism to fire notes at dissonant chords in order to resolve them. 

Brainstorming Process

We conceptualized this prototype using a design madlib that we had configured during our project pitch. The madlib is as follows: 

An exploration of __theory__, where guests __verb__ musical notes, with __effect__ as feedback, in the style of ___game genre__.

At the time, we believed that the madlib was a valuable igniter to help generate interesting ideas, and bring an immediate mental model to what a Lyraflo experience could look like. For the first prototype, we decided on:

An exploration of __chord structures, pitch intervals, and dissonance__, where guests __pull__ musical notes, with __harmony__ as feedback, in the style of __a tower defense__.

Moment to Moment Gameplay

We wanted the experience to be both entertaining and educational, and believed that leveraging a game genre would help immerse guests into the world and also enhance the  learning experience. In this experience, the guest is swarmed by enemies, who take the shape of different chord structures. But there is something wrong with the chords – one of their notes is dissonant, or lacking harmony. The guest must identify which note is dissonant and pull-back on their crossbow, and fire the correct note, which then consecutively resolves the chord, allowing for the enemy to be healed and voice its original chord.

The Interaction

A potent affordance of VR is the ability to use kinesthetic motions and gestures as an input or medium for interacting. In this prototype, we mapped the notes of the C Major Scale to the pullback distance of the crossbow. Through this mechanism, guests were able to develop a spatial awareness and recognition of the distance between pitches. By mapping an ostensibly complex and abstract concept such as pitch intervals to a a familiar motion that feels intuitive and native to our bodies, we were proud of how this mechanic was able to feel both successful and satisfying. 

Findings and Takeways

The biggest success of the prototype was the kinesthetic and haptic input/feedback from the pull-back/crossbow mechanic. During playtests, we learned that guests were able to develop spatial relationships between notes and their respective distances and proximities, by using their body as a mechanism to pull back and create pitches. Additionally, they enjoyed the satisfaction of shooting, hitting, and resolving a chord. 

This prototype yielded several shortcomings that were valuable findings as well. First, we learned that tackling too many concepts in a prototype diminished learning retention, added complexity, and hindered clarity and focus. We also learned that our design madlib was too unstructured as a design paradigm to be leveraged as a framework for making decisions. Upon retrospection, we realized how important the brainstorming phase is for generating ideas that could not only be a potential prototype, but could also highlight the potential of the space, and for this prototype, we did not spend enough time creatively ideating. We also learned the importance of sonic and visual real-estate. There is too much sonic and visual feedback in this experience. Sonically, the guests are enveloped in a series of overlapping notes and dissonance, that creates a general feeling of cacophony as more and more enemies swarm the guest. This creates too much tension and a lack of clarity, disabling the guest from knowing what to focus their attention and ears on. Visually, the environment was a bit too emotionally stimulating, and we learned how the environmental aesthetics can greatly contribute to learning retention by either distracting or enhancing. We learned about the importance of representation of music. In this experience, music is represented both literally and abstractly. Literally, because the notes of the enemy float in the air with proper spacings of real chords. Abstractly, because there is no sheet music that binds everything together; the notes float in space. The literal elements added unnecessary complexity, because it required a rudimentary level of music theory in order to understand or appreciate the symbols and spacings. The abstract elements clashed with the literal by creating false representations of music. Moving forward, we knew that we had to pick either literal or abstract representations, because a combination projected confusing and erroneous information. Ultimately, we picked abstraction, because to us, the feeling and vibe of the music mattered more for fostering curiosity, than the nomenclature and literature of how music reads. Lastly, we learned the importance of properly onboarding guests into an experience, and how a lack of proper onboarding can cause guests to focus instead on the game rules and how to play, which prevents them from actually navigating and journeying through the transformation of the experience.