Bringing Willy Wonka's Candyland to life as a multisensory virtual reality experience.
XR Tech Lead,
Team of 4
April - May 2022
WonkaVR is a virtual reality experience that I co-created with 3 friends as our final for the Designing Immersive Experiences class at USC. As a team, we were inspired by VR concepts that presented fictional visual imagery combined with physical elements in real life. We connected over a shared love for Willy Wonka's candy land and decided to bring the magical world to life with XR. By designing with both physical and digital components in mind, we were able to create a convincing immersive experience that engaged sight, touch, smell, and taste.
As the tech lead, my primary responsibility was to design and code the XR interactions that would allow the user to interact with our virtual environment through the Oculus headset and player controls. As a team, we all worked together to refine our concept and storyline as we continuously iterated upon the project.
My design process below. Click to jump to a section.
01 IDENTIFY PROJECT GOAL
Create a world where players can tap into a childhood fantasy and experience the magic of Willy Wonka's edible Candyland.
Willy Wonka has been around for a long time. To create the best representation of the magical candyland and make it our own, we had to understand its history. Willy Wonka has remained relevant for years as it continuously evolves and takes on various forms of artistic representation, from books to films to theatre.
Next, we looked at existing VR concepts with live physical components. By evaluating other experiences on the market, we were able to estimate the feasibility and scope of our project.
MonsterHunter requires users to wear 8kgs worth of physical gear while playing the game. At certain attractions, actors are employed to spray users for a 4D experience.
Icaros pairs a balancing contraption with the VR headset to bring physical activity into a virtual experience. Users must balance their center of mass in scenarios such as ocean dives and interstellar flights.
Experiments with “virtual food” use electronics to emulate the taste and feel of food. This tech could add new sensory inputs to virtual reality or augment real-world dining experiences.
Mood and Progression
At the beginning of ideation, we were heavily inspired by the imagery of the classic Charlie and the Chocolate story. Our mood board featured bright colors and candy populated landscapes. After a few iterations and discussions, we decided to break up our scenes into 3 themes: a chocolate land, a jungle floor, and a cotton candy level. This allowed us to curate each scene our own unique twist and better guide the player through each level.
To better visualize the user's journey, we created a couple of concept sketches from the player's point of view. We decided that the primary experience of our game would be to allow the user to find and select a trigger item from the virtual landscape and then allow them to "taste" the item in real life by presenting them with a corresponding candy.
1. Lava Rock Chocolate PopRocks
2. Tree Vine Twizzlers
3. Sheep Cotton Candy
Players can immersive themselves into Willy Wonka's Candyland, select parts of the virtual landscape, and experience eating the item in real life.
Before designing the scenes in Unity, we sketched out a few wireframes to discuss the setup of each level. We had to keep in mind the limitations of how far the player could walk with the Oculus headset and mapped out the dimensions on the ground to try it out for ourselves. From here, we were able to decide where to place the collectible items.
After laying out the majority of our 3D assets, we added a few interactions to review the scenes in the headset and discuss final changes to form our high-fidelity iteration.
Onboarding to new scenes
How do we help guide the user to find the collectible and feel a sense of accomplishment?
We had originally planned for the user to simply explore the scene and search for the collectible item, but we quickly realized the user would require more guidance to feel motivated to play. To do this, we created riddles for every level to help the user find the trigger item. We also designed a hover state if the user was pointing at the collectible with their ray castor.
How do we create a continuous experience when the game bridges digital and physical worlds?
We each took turns as the player and the person handing candy to the user to time the animation to live actions.
We make some final logistical decisions to increase the voiceover volume and slow down the animation to help facilitate a smoother hand-off experience.
We were able to test our prototype with our classmates to see how a player would navigate through it with no guidance or previous knowledge of the game. Below, Ayesham finds two edible items and teleports from scene 2 to 3.
After we made a few final iterations from usability testing insights, we exhibited our project at the Iovine and Young Year-End Exhibition! 40+ people tried our experience and we received lots of positive feedback on the originality and creativity of our project. It was super rewarding to hear from our happy customers after completing such a big project in a short time span! Click and listen to some of our user reviews below.
I learned a lot from this project and had a great time collaborating with my teammates, Shanna Finnigan, Grace MacPherson, and Anna Shaposhnik. Technically, I learned how to design and animate 3D environments in Unity as well as code scripts in C#. As a team, we had to figure out how to guide the user through 3D space and onboard them to an experience that not everyone has ever tried. To achieve this, we found ways to integrate signage and audiovisual cues into the narrative and aesthetics. Finally, I realized that testing the prototype on real users and repeatedly iterating on it was the best way to answer user assumptions and design for the player. Oftentimes it was not enough to simply imagine what the user would do — we had to witness their behavior in real life.
After we watched over 40 users try our prototype, we realized there were still changes to be made in order to curate a seamless experience. For instance, we would begin by integrating the onboarding experience into the headset so that new VR users can get accustomed to the digital environment as instructions are explained. We would also create more collectibles in each level to enhance the user's journey within each theme, thereby making more engaging experience. Finally we would provide more closure from the game when the user finds the treat for the final level. This would elegantly end the game and provide the user with a sense of accomplishment.