Bard's Eyes

From left to right: David, Justine and Carlyn all posing in Recroom

The Concept

Bard’s Eyes is an exploration of interactive performance that brings together live role playing games (RPGs, like Dungeons and Dragons and Call of Cthulhu), virtual reality (VR), and theatrical performance. Combining the imagination and adventure of a live RPG campaign, audiences will be immersed in a virtual environment and be given the agency to forge their own path. We plan to explore and create using Recroom, a free social VR platform, using puzzles and battles where audience members must cooperate to create a memorable experience. In addition, we are exploring how the game can be brought to life around you. The Creative School Innovation Studio incubated this project, and it will be workshopped with audiences in March 2022. The three of us are emerging theatre artists who are craving innovation in the industry. Our collective is made up of Justine, who has knowledge and expertise in VR performance, David, who’s skilled in technology and management and Carlyn, who brings imagination and expert design skills to the table.

The Team

Production

Carlyn Rahusaar Routledge

Creative Director & Story Designer

David Mallette

Technical Director

Justine Katerenchuk

Producer

Development

Table of Contents

Partners

The Creative School Innovation Studio

Bard’s Eyes has been incubated by The Creative School Innovation Studio’s Performance Den. This partnership provides resources to assist startups. They have graciously lent headsets to the team to assist with our research phase.

Exploration

We began our exploration by establishing criteria to narrow down our platform choices. Platforms need to run on a computer with or without a VR headset, as it would restrict our potential audience to those already interested in VR. The other main criteria was the ability to run on standalone VR headsets such as the Oculus Quest, as these are inexpensive headsets and do not require a computer connection to function, reducing the cost of entry.

Our platform shortlist consisted of AltSpaceVR, VRChat, Recroom, and Mozilla Hubs.

Our VRChat research was pretty spicy
Our VRChat research was pretty spicy

Altspace VR

Microsoft’s social VR platform is very pleasant and easy to use. Avatars have basic customization options and the graphics are very smooth and slightly cartoon-like. This is advantageous for standalone headset users, where hardware isn’t necessarily as powerful as a VR capable PC. Creation tools would require us to be proficient in programming and Unity. Unfortunately that, or hiring a developer, is outside of the scope of this project.

VRChat

VRChat offers the most realism, as well as extensive avatar customization. Full body avatars were a huge bonus for us, and there is extensive permission control for users. However, the controls and interacting with objects proved to be a bit of a challenge, and there was a learning curve. This did rule it out for us as we felt that object interaction is a crucial aspect of the VR experience. Creation tools also reside within Unity, which has the same limitations as mentioned in AltSpace.

Recroom

Recroom has a huge selection of pre-created objects to play with, very simple and easy to learn controls, and is beginner-friendly. It had initially put us off with it’s smooth and kid-friendly graphics, but the ease of creation changed our opinions pretty quickly. Avatars start very basic but it is an easy and fun process to create custom “costumes” that actors and audience can wear. The “programming” available in the platform is node based, something the team is already familiar with. While this does have it’s own limits, it is much easier for us to work with, and fits well within the scope of Bard’s Eyes.

Mozilla Hubs

Mozilla Hubs is a great platform that runs within your browser. Unfortunately, as Justine discovered in her capstone project and we experienced during testing, there are too many things that can go wrong and disrupt the experience. This would result in extended troubleshooting time, and the platform isn’t extremely versatile. Avatar customization is fairly limited, and world building is done in 3D modeling software such as Blender.

Results

After a couple of weeks and exploration sessions, we are proceeding with Recroom as our platform of choice. The world building, logic programming and ease of use made it a clear choice for the experience we wish to create.

Recroom wasn’t always the clear choice. Each platform had advantages and features we really liked, and we can see this project succeeding in any platform. It came down to the ease of use of the creation tools offered by each platform that really sold us on Recroom. The other platforms were excellent but we would be unable to fit the project within the scope and scale we have established for Bard’s Eyes. Recroom’s relatively easy creation tools and node-based logic programming make it the right choice for our project.

Recroom Research

David has done extensive research into creation within Rec Room. Diving into how to build and create worlds, props and costumes, as well as the technical aspects such as player management, logic creation within Recroom and more. It is his goal to take Carlyn’s world and story and bring it to life in Rec Room.

These pictures are from tests David has done within Recroom to create a door that opens when a player stands on the green circle. Complete with a sliding door, sounds, and visual effects. This is a proof of concept for the campagin Carlyn is creating.

Writing the Campaign

The campaign is in the process of being finalized. It will consist of an escape mission accompanied by performers facilitating and guiding audience members through the tasks to complete the objectives. Performers skilled in improvisation will play a crucial role in the experience we wish to create, fostering cooperation amongst the audience to complete the campaign. Role playing game aspects will be integrated in areas such as player health management, boss fighting, luck-based challenges and more.

Bringing the Campaign to Life

Carlyn has designed a campaign map that will be created within Recroom. The campaign is only 45 minutes to an hour long to avoid VR fatigue. The map and campaign is subject to change as we implement it into Recroom.

Version 1 of the Bard's Eyes Campaign Map
Version 1 of the Bard’s Eyes Campaign Map

Audience members will awaken in a crumbling cabin with a mysteriously large figure roaming about outside it’s windows. The doors and windows are sealed shut - they’re trapped! To their luck a friendly stranger (an actor in VR), presumably also a captive, is there to help guide them out. Using the varied skillsets each audience member has been given as part of their character they must problem solve and cooperate in order to escape. There will be puzzles, “physical” activity, a final boss fight, and of course no RPG would be complete without a bit of luck-based dice rolling.

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