Pivoting Prototype 2

Week 6 Updates
  • pivoting Prototype 2
  • potent Playtesting Feedback
  • halves Prep 

This week, we have made many iterations to the design of our second prototype, only making it stronger. Throughout the development of this prototype, we were confident about the success of the accordion mechanic. We were able to create a fluid instrument that gives real-time sonic feedback while giving guests feelings of performance and creation. We had this very cool toy and mechanism, but were having difficulty linking it up to the rest of the experience. How could we take this mechanic and allow it to feel more intuitive and connected to the VR space?

Problems with Original Idea

Both of these ideas violated our pillar of isolation as a tactic by having ‘people’ in the world. This placed an element of scrutiny on the guest which diminished comfortability. Additionally, there was no direct connection between the accordion and the environment. 

New Idea: Hot Air Balloon and Animal Villagers

After identifying this problem, we brainstormed an alternative environment that would allow us to connect the accordion with the environment, a place that also feels judgement-free. After valuable discussion, we landed on the concept of hot air balloons and animal villagers. 

In this world, the guest is in a hot air balloon, which is powered by wind via the accordion. The guest visits various animal villages in need of a certain environmental stimuli. For instance, the first space needs a sun because it is cloudy and dismal. So the guest, must play a I-IV-V-I in order to provide sun to the environment. 7 Animals are sequenced in a spatial arc, with each representing a chord degree on the accordion. When the guest plays that chord, the respective animal animates and sonically mirrors the chord. Once the guest plays the correct progression, the environmental stimuli is released into the space, and the hot air balloon powers up, transitioning to the next scene, which is exploring a different chord progression and usage of environmental feedback. 

Hot Air Balloon fixes some Ideas but doesn’t use the environmental interactivity affordance in VR to full potential.

Connection to the environment is still unintuitive. How can we incorporate the environment into the moment to moment gameplay and core loops, i.e. making chords. 


After intense and passionate discussion and thinking about how we can take this fun mechanic of accordion, and imbed it into a container or context that allows for the guest to directly interact with the environment, we landed on a potent idea.

Essentially, in this finalized idea, the guest can use their accordion to lock onto a pipe, and blow a chord into the pipe, sending wind through the pipe and out a wind vent that propels upwards a puzzle piece. There are four pipes representing the four bar progression we want the guest to play: the 1,4,5,1. On each pipe is a piece of the sun. 

There is a musical cannon in the scene which can be fired at any time, providing a visual arc dotting and demonstrating the desired height of each wind vent. The wind height for each vent is equal to the chord degree. For instance, the root chord blows up 1 unit of wind [the shortest], while the 7 chord blows up 7 units of wind [the tallest]. 

When the guest plays the correct progression, the puzzle pieces will be at all the right positions, so that they are captured by the cannon projectile, which imbeds the four puzzle pieces together into the sun, and the sun rises up into the air. This moment is accompanied by a full arrangement of the 1-4-5-1 that we wrote, giving feelings of happiness and joy. 

Playtesting to Solidify and Improve the Experience 
  1. After making assets and adding the functionality, we were ready to do some playtests. First, we tested with a few naieve guests who fit our target demographic. We got great feedback. 
  2. The feeling of playing the accordion felt really smooth and fun
  3. Guests were confused about ordering of pipe and sequencing
  4. Guests couldn’t figure out what the progression that they needed to play was
We addressed problem 3 by adding audio hints and clues. We created and implemented an almost anthropomorphic guitar companion who plays the progression on his guitar when you go up to him. This gives guests an acoustic hint of what to play. 

We then playtested with one of our SMEs, Kristian Tctchetchko, who gave a plethora of great advice.

From our conversation with him, we ended up unifying all of the chords – so all chords in the experience were root triads. Additionally, we added a dry pluck scale degree that plays when the guest hovers chords to give immediate sonic feedback of what chord they are on. Then they can press the trigger to play the accordion. Additionally, we changed positioning of pipes to make them feel more comfortable to interact with. WE had gotten feedback that the notion of locking on and stretching the accordion caused wrist strain. Then, we added a wind sound to the accordion for the sake of realism, and to add immersion to sending a chord of wind into the pipe. Next, we sped up the tempo of the guitar guy, allowing for guests to more immediately understand what the progression was. Then we added a lock on breathy, synth sound that played when guests locked onto a pipe. Because there are 4 pipes, each pipe has a specific chord that must be played to solve the puzzle. The first pipe, the 1, the second pipe, the 4, the third pipe the 5, and the fourth pipe the 1. When the guest locked onto a pipe, its chord solution was cued and played, giving the guest more acoustic understanding of what they must play. They can then match the note pluck and accordion stretch to the correct tone of the pipe. To solve the ambiguity of knowing which pipe to interact with, we used highlighting as a method of indirect control, to signal to the player which pipe they should interact with. We want them to move from left to right, starting with the 1st pipe, then the 2nd pipe, then the 3rd pipe, and finally the 4th pipe. So if the guest was just starting, we would dim the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th pipe, so that they have visual information indicating that they should interact with the 1st pipe first. To solve the problem of them forgetting which pipe they have already interacted with, and indirectly nudge them to write in the full 4 bars, we added a cardboard cover that goes over a pipe after interacting with it. Check out this brief video below to see the prototype in action!

Next week, we will continue refining our prototype and prepare for Halves, which is fast approaching on 10/13. 

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