I have written this post as part of my fourth project for the Virtual Reality Nanodegree at Udacity. During a series of lectures, we needed to write up a design overview of a “Puzzler” VR application by answering some of the most important designing questions.

Who will be using your Puzzler project?

For this project, I came up with a Persona described below.

Statement of the App

Mars VR is a mobile Virtual Reality experience designed for users with minimum experience with Virtual Reality. The game challenges the users to solve a common type of puzzle in a new way.

The first sketch of the Puzzler application

For this part of the design project, Udacity team asked us to draw how we imagine the Puzzler app to look. My version was inspired by a space base located on Mars. Here is a rapid sketch I drew with Photoshop for iPad.

User testing

For this project, I had performed a serious of the User Testing sessions. The main idea is that the User testing needs to be performed early and often to make sure that there are no major design flaws. Otherwise, it would be very “expensive” to make the fundamental design changes late in the process.

First User Testing Session

For the first series of User Experience questions, I have prepared an environment located on Mars. The idea was to implement an abounded space station which the player is trying to reach her or his spacecraft has crashed. To achieve that I have used a terrain of red color, an image of the space on the horizon line, lonely and small station several hundred of meters away from the player and quite and some smoke coming out behind a hill located behind the player.

Question: Can you describe the environment
Answer: Oh my god, am I on Mars? The sky awesome, can I walk around yet?
Question: Not yet, could you describe me what you see?
Answer: Well, there is the ground, there are the sky and some building in the distance.
Question: Alright, can you turn around please, what do you see there?
Answer: Oh, I see, is that a geyser?
Question: Not quite, can you tell me how tall you are?
Answer: Normal size? I guess a little taller than I actually am.

Results

It was evident that the player is located on Mars, the height of the player was approximately correct, the space station was visible. However, the player could not determine the smoke behind them, and when the smoke was pointed out to them, they have thought that it was a geyser rather than smoke.

Second User Testing Session

After getting the feedback from the play, I have made several changes. First, I have turned the camera by 180 degrees, so that the smoke appears right in the front of the user, I have changed the shape of it so it, looks less like a geyser and I have placed a model of a spacecraft to make it very clear. Aside from the highlighted changes I have added instructions to the gameplay with a call to action button. The button is meant to move the player to the base. I wanted to A/B test this, so I have prepared two version of the application. Version A would transfer the player immediately, and Version B would add quick animation to the teleportation. This time I had decided to film the session, and the video is available below:

Results

It was evident to the player that she is on Mars, and that she appeared here after a spacecraft crash. However, it was not clear to her what happened when she used “Start the Game” button.

Third User Testing Session

To improve on the feedback from the previous meeting I have decided to slow down the animation and then continue with the gameplay to get some feedback on the game dynamics, and I have added the sounds including this beautiful music I have found on YouTube.  The video footage of the session is available below:

Results

I had mixed feelings about this meeting, so I decided to spend more time ironing out the details.

Final User Testing Session

I have spent a lot more time adding different models to the game and making it a lot more transparent and visually appealing. The footage of the user testing session is available below:

Results

I’m very pleased with the results of the final user testing sessions. The puzzle was easy to understand and navigate, so I have uploaded the game into the stores.

Final Thoughts

This project was lots of fun! I have learned a lot more about Unity and Virtual Reality, and I managed to put an application together and upload it to the store. The idea of getting the feedback from the users early and often proved to be very valuable because I managed to correct the direction of the game from the very beginning before it was too late. This small game is a gem in my portfolio.