How to Write Content for Virtual Reality VS Two-Dimensional Media:
“Creating a fantastic environment is essential when creating for virtual reality. You will need dynamic characters and scenery to maximise the 360° space.”
Here are some key points to remember when writing for Virtual Reality (VR) to make sure your scene is impactful while still keeping the limits of the technology in mind.
Remember that often times you may need to focus your VR user:
VR is fun and experimental and it is typical for the user to want to look at multiple things because they can look wherever they want. Sometimes it will require leading the user into a scenario. For example, in our Vimy Ridge scenario, we have a narrow tunnel and a soldier in the scene following the user from behind. This is so the user will continue to go forward throughout the scene and focus on reaching the end of the tunnel.
Using loud verbal cues is another way to cause the user to focus as it gains their attention for vital scenes. This is where spatial 360° audio effects could be used to navigate your user. Characters within a scene could also direct your user by presenting them with information or telling them what to do; cues such as “turn right”, “look behind you”, or “come over here”.
Give the user something visually appealing to look at in the 360° scene but do not let them miss the most important things within a scene. If something is vital to the story, make it the most vibrant in colour to gain attention and focus.
Autonomy within Virtual Reality:
For believability in VR, it is helpful if the user understands why they do or do not have full autonomy. If the scenario doesn’t support full autonomy or movement, then the scenario itself should reinforce this. This could be caused by a limitation of the hardware (room-scale vs. seated), the physical space (within a virtual reality booth), or could just be for aesthetic purposes.
For example in some of SimWave’s scenarios the user is confined, be it on the inside of the train cabin or inside a vessel travelling beside blood cells moving through the body at high speeds. The user is aware why they cannot leave the particular area due to the constraint presented by their virtual environment.
Sometimes you can use the perspective of the user or their assumed persona to create a barrier. An example of this can be found in The Canadian VR film MIYUBI, in which the user takes on the role of a robot. This is so the film director has more autonomy and can control more of the narrative. In the VR scenario, “Bartender” (YouTube video below) the VR user is the bartender and must remain behind the bar, and interacts with the actor played by Don Cheadle. Being the bartender you understand why you are limited to the space behind the bar.
Alternatively, limiting the area and letting the VR user explore smaller spaces and giving them full control is an option as well! When giving a user autonomy, you can still partially control the narrative by triggering the VR users intuition.
Who is the audience, and what perspective are they assuming?
When creating for VR you need to ask questions such as, is the VR user playing him or herself as a bystander, or have they taken on another role to gain perspective from someone else such as a robot, a soldier at war, or as a child?
One example of this is Clouds Over Sidra, getting the perspective of a 12-year-old girl in a refugee camp. The story becomes more compelling because you realise a child is actually going through this exact scenario.
When using VR you can use different angles from different perspectives: So you could immerse yourself into any character at any given point in time. Remember you can literally put the VR user into a variety of characters shoes at any given point, you can get the users to look down and see a different set of hands, clothing or see a different reflection in the mirror to understand a different perspective.
This is why we at SimWave love VR, it gives you unlimited options to create experiences that people will remember. We want the user to not just watch the moment but to be fully immersed in a scenario. Although we have touched mostly on visual and audio elements, things drastically change when you add other senses like touch, interactivity, smells, and air elements to an already great scenario.