The Pearl Headpiece
Over the course of several months in my Time Studio: Story class, I worked with two other classmates (Evan Tang and Jonahtan Rabago) to create a 'crap-o-matic' video pitch for an interactive VR experience, with narrative structure and storytelling kept at the forefront of the process.
VR Experience Video Pitch
Final Video Pitch; Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects
Design a concept for an interactive, story-based VR experience
ProCreate, Mural, Figma, Unreal Engine 4, Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Premiere Pro
Storyboarding, concept synthesis, visual design, journey mapping, mockups, sketching, 3D modeling, video editing
Time Studio 1: Story; Amy Bickerton and Jake Rheinfrank
9 weeks; February 2021 - April 2021
The first section of this project asked us to think back to stories we heard as kids or folktales we remembered from our childhood, and to deconstruct their story arcs. Individually, we created storyboards and combined the different themes and elements of each teammate's to create a mashup narrative that would be reimagined as a VR video game.
When thinking about which childhood story to pick, one stood out to me the most. It was a Marathi story that my mom would tell me every night, and one I called "sparrow's pearl" (चिमणीचा मोती). This story was about a sparrow who found a beautiful pearl, only for it to be stolen by a crow. The journey she took to retrieve her pearl and the trial and error she faced stuck with me for years, and so I mapped out the events onto a story arc.
Story Arc of 'Sparrow's Pearl'; ProCreate; Produced by Amruta Bhavsar
The next step was to communicate this story to my classmates through the form of a storyboard. I asked my mom to tell me the story like she did when I was little and recorded it, which I referenced when planning out the frames and delivery of the story. Below is the rough draft of the storyboard.
Rough Draft of 'Sparrow's Pearl' Storyboard; ProCreate; Produced by Amruta Bhavsar
In the final version below, I improved the fidelity of illustrations with ProCreate and added captions that were direct translations of the way my mom told the story in Marathi.
Final Draft of 'Sparrow's Pearl' Storyboard; ProCreate; Produced by Amruta Bhavsar
In the next portion of this project, my teammates and I shared our storyboards with each other, looking for similar themes and important objects to bring forth in the mashup. We broke down each other's stories into story arc events in Mural, and defined the characters, settings, and various other components.
In my story, the important elements that arose were persistence, the image of the pearl, and the forest-palace setting.
'Sparrow's Pearl' Deconstruction; Mural; Produced by Amruta Bhavsar
The Legend of the Chinese Mooncake
In Evan's story, we found that the important components were the image of the moonlight, thieves, 10 suns, and idea of remembrance.
'The Legend of the Chinese Mooncake' Deconstruction; Mural; Produced by Evan Tang
In Jonahtan's story, the elements that stood out were the concept of an anti-hero, children, river, and overall dark narrative.
'La Llorona' Deconstruction; Mural; Produced by Jonahtan Rabago
We tried to find the similarities within these three stories that could be mashed up to create an entirely different narrative. Through Mural, we brainstormed different ways to combine our stories individually, and then worked together on a final version. These were the similarities we found:
Outsmarting thieves -> drinking potion vs setting off chain reaction
Precious object -> elixir vs pearl
Drastic actions taking place; intense situation
Sacrifice of life
Remorse -> woman kills children vs crow steals pearl vs Chang'e had to drink elixir
Idea 1; Mural; Produced by Evan Tang
Idea 3; Mural; Produced by Amruta Bhavsar
Idea 2; Mural; Produced by Evan Tang
Idea 4; Mural; Produced by Amruta Bhavsar
Final idea; Mural
Idea 5; Mural; Produced by Jonahtan Rabago
Here is the final story idea:
There was once a poor, old woman who lived alone with her daughter in cabin in the woods. They were going through financial struggles, so the old woman decided to sell her daughter's pearl headpiece. When she took it to the pawnshop, however, the owner looked at the woman's raggedy clothing and was suspicious of how she could have come into possession of such an expensive item. He took a closer look after buying it from her and discovered the king's crest embossed onto it.
That night, there was knocking on the old woman's door. "Give us the king's baby you old witch!" a group of knights yelled as they broke through her door. They threw her down to the floor, knocking her out, and grabbed her daughter and left.
The old woman woke up a few hours later and it was dark. She immediately rushed into the forest and towards the castle to search for her stolen child. Somehow, she was able to sneak into the palace and locate her daughter, but on their way out they are chased by guards. The two run through the forest, closely followed by the guards, where they are eventually cornered into a lake. The knights give the old woman the option to either give up her daughter or be put to death. She grabs her child and jumps into the lake, where they both sink to the bottom.
Designing the VR Experience
Once we had a final storyline, we started thinking about how it could be turned into a virtual reality experience.
We each created mood boards to provide a sense of direction for the visuals. Our boards ended up fairly similar in terms of color scheme and lighting, which made it easy to move forward with an idea.
Mood Board; Figma; Produced by Amruta Bhavsar
Mood Board; Produced by Evan Tang
Mood Board; Produced by Jonahtan Rabago
Our initial journey map was done in Mural and we mapped out the story's plot to the 5 E's (Entice, Enter, Engage, Exit, Extend). We looked for places to add interactivity and brainstormed features of the game.
Journey Map (2/28/21); Mural
3 VR INTERACTIVE ELEMENTS:
VIDEO GAME/VISUAL STORY
choose your own ending experience
arrows and markings guiding users through experience
key featured items in the story are interactable with (green highlight or something around objects to suggest it is special and interactable)
palace objects to lead to kidnapped person
door before kingdom knights enter the house
Old woman's [magical] staff.
ENTICE - advertisements
ENTER - bg about exposition (i.e. daughter and woman)
ENGAGE - choices and fulfilling story
EXIT - final decision for jumping off waterfall
EXTEND - multiple story options for different endings
This next iteration of the journey map included more detailed interactive elements and ideas for experience artifacts.
Journey Map (3/4/21); Mural
We also created a graph to display the level of interaction and user involvement over the course of the entire experience.
Journey Map Graph (3/7/21); Mural
In the next version of this graph, we tried to improve the readability, and added icons at the bottom as visual summarizations of each section.
Journey Map Graph (3/14/21); Mural
Finally, we moved it all into Adobe Illustrator. Below is our final journey map.
Journey Map Graph (4/22/21); Adobe Illustrator; Produced by Jonahtan Rabago
3 VR INTERACTIVE ELEMENTS:
staff used to find
(slamming it into the ground creates rumbling)
Chekhov's gun (introduce the staff in exposition dump with the house)
castle towering over the forest, visible to all
Haptic feedback through controllers
After finalizing the player's experience in this game, we worked on creating a video 'crap-o-matic' pitch to explain the concept and entice users.
Part of the pitch would be an experience artifact from one of the phases within the game. The artifacts I created were within the 'Exit' phase, and mainly focused on the scenes within the forest. Below are some digital drawings I made of how I imagined the game to look based on our moodboards.
Exit Artifact Sketches; ProCreate; Produced by Amruta Bhavsar
To take it a bit further, I recreated some of the environments using Unreal Engine 4. Here's a video of a level I designed depicting the forest and castle in this story.
Exit Artifact; Unreal Engine 4; Produced by Amruta Bhavsar
One of the game's features I really wanted to recreate was the vine puzzle, but because we had limited time, I couldn't do it in Unreal. I used After Effects to fake the magical staff and the powers it gives the user. Here's what that looked like:
Exit Artifact; Unreal Engine 4 and After Effects; Produced by Amruta Bhavsar
For the video pitch, we started by writing up an outline of what we wanted it to include.
Video Pitch Outline page 2; Produced by Amruta Bhavsar, Evan Tang, and Jonahtan Rabago
Video Pitch Outline page 1; Produced by Amruta Bhavsar, Evan Tang, and Jonahtan Rabago
We then created a script for the video. It took several revisions, but once we had a final version, Evan recorded all of the audio clips and added the time-stamps for each scene.
Video Pitch Script; Google Doc
Video Pitch Rough Draft
The first draft of our crap-o-matic was heavily reliant on paper-prototyping. Below is the first version Evan put together:
Video Pitch Rough Draft ; Produced by Evan Tang
Video Pitch Visuals
After seeing the first draft, we decided that the rest of the game visuals should be recreated in Unreal Engine to maintain a homogenous fidelity. In addition to the dark forest and castle exterior, I created the pawnshop, the cabin the old woman and her daughter lived in, and the castle hallway interior. Here are clips of those environments:
Cabin Scene; Unreal Engine 4; Produced by Amruta Bhavsar
Pawn Shop Scene; Unreal Engine 4; Produced by Amruta Bhavsar
Castle Hallway Scene; Unreal Engine 4; Produced by Amruta Bhavsar
Final Video Pitch
Below is the final draft of our video pitch, including all the Unreal Engine scenes:
Final Video Pitch; Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects