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VR Interaction Design Case: Slingshot

Introduction

Imagine a world where you can interact with objects in ways that transcend the ordinary. This is the magic of virtual reality (VR) - a domain where the boundaries of interaction design are constantly being pushed. In our quest to develop an immersive gaming experience, we've been grappling with intriguing complexities in human ergonomics, user experience (UX), and VR technology. One of our most exciting challenges? Creating a human-sized slingshot that players can control with ease and precision. This post takes you behind the scenes of our iterative journey to perfect this unique element.


Initial Design

Our story begins with a simple, real-world-inspired slingshot. Just like its traditional counterpart, players could pull back the slingshot and release to launch the projectile. A straightforward concept, but it soon revealed some unforeseen hurdles.





Problem Identification

Through intensive testing, we identified three main issues with our initial design:


  1. Ergonomic problems: Players often felt the need to physically step back to pull the slingshot further, an action that wasn't always comfortable or feasible. (We want them can play while sitting.)

  2. Peripheral vision issues: Players had difficulty seeing their target while aiming, a key aspect of the gameplay.

  3. Directional control challenges: Players struggled to control the slingshot's aiming direction.

Lessons from the Industry

In the face of our identified challenges, we turned to industry leaders and peers for inspiration. After all, innovation often builds on the shoulders of existing ideas. Two games stood out to us in their creative approaches to slingshot design: Valve's Slingshot in 'The Lab' and 'Space Slingshot VR'. To better understand, what we're talking about you can check the videos: The Lab [Slingshot] - YouTube Space Slingshot VR - YouTube


In 'The Lab', the developers tackled the issue of aiming direction with a unique solution. The slingshot rotates from its floor connection points, enabling players to aim left and right more comfortably. For vertical aiming, they introduced a mechanism that allows the slingshot to rotate around its pad's Y position. This seemingly simple alteration significantly improved the user's control over the slingshot's direction.


'Space Slingshot VR' took a slightly different approach. Recognizing the importance of ergonomic aiming, they incorporated an option to adjust the slingshot's height based on the player's head position. The player could manually increase or decrease the height of the slingshot using the thumbstick, creating a more personalized and comfortable experience.


These innovative solutions resonated with us and sparked ideas for our own redesign.


Redesign

Drawing from the insights we gleaned from 'The Lab' and 'Space Slingshot VR', we embarked on an ambitious redesign of our own slingshot mechanism.


We introduced a standing platform. It operates on rails and moves in sync with the player's actions. When the player pulls back the slingshot, the standing platform moves back as well. This innovative approach maintained the intuitive nature of the slingshot mechanism while eliminating the need for players to physically move back.


We also implemented an auto-height adjustment feature. This feature gauges the player's head position and automatically adjusts the height of the slingshot. By adapting to each player's unique height and stance, we were able to further enhance the ergonomic comfort of interacting with the slingshot.


This redesign marked a significant step forward in our quest to create an immersive, user-friendly VR experience.


Current Design

Our current design has proven to be more inclusive and adaptable. However, we understand that one size does not fit all. As we continue testing our design with different players, we are aware that the moving platform can potentially cause motion sickness. This has prompted us to consider alternative mechanisms such as moving the slingshot forward instead of moving the platform back.


Future Plans

Our journey is far from over, as we continue to explore improvements in ergonomics and UX. We plan to enhance the head tracking system and experiment with alternate mechanisms such as moving the slingshot forward instead of moving the player while pulling the strings.


This is the first in a series of posts documenting our design process. Future posts will detail other aspects of our development journey, including the 3D design challenges we've encountered. We'll continue to share our progress until we build the most comfortable and engaging system possible.


Stay tuned for more insights and updates from our team as we continue to push the boundaries of VR interaction design.

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