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Insights EDU

What Makes an Award Winning VR Project?

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Luke Roberge | Digital Content & Campaign Manager | AIXR

08 Feb 2019 | 7 min read

In celebration of VR Awards nominations opening next month, we’ve reached out to our expert judging panel for their views on what makes an award winning VR project.

We know from our experience that independent studios who create experiences on tight budgets have pedigree in creating critically acclaimed VR projects, regularly going up against and often besting AAA studios. Cloudhead Games’ victory against stern competition from some of the biggest names in the industry in the category of VR Game of the Year, was a real success story and a perfect example of how level the playing field is between studios regardless of their size.

With Cloudhead’s win, we saw that smaller studios benefit from a sense of freedom and a willingness to experiment and innovate. Evidently it pays dividends to approach game development with this kind of ethos in terms of garnering critical recognition from the press and the public. With that said, let’s move away from the editor’s thoughts and toward the perspectives of our expert judges. 

Bobby Carlton

Journalist at VR Scout and immersive tech consultant:

When it comes to choosing a VR project that I feel deserves to be recognized as award winning, I look at a lot of different things that shows the creators took the time to really think about what VR means to them, and more widely, how the technology can impact the world. I want an experience that completely embraces storytelling in such a way where there is a connection that evokes a visceral emotional and physical response. It has to be an experience that radiates creativity and convinces me that I am part of something larger, something almost transcendental that extends beyond a digital experience.

lots of people with vr headsets

I expect a winning VR experience to be something that will contribute to the world in a way that it could possibly change someone’s life or play a role in making the world a better place to live, learn, work, or socialize. In this respect, it needs to be relevant and meaningful.

For me, a winning project can be something as complex as an interactive game that transports you to other worlds where you can interact with almost every element. It can be a narrative VR experience where you watch a story unfold in front of you and your participation is merely watching and listening. However, I don’t expect the award-winning project to always be a robust VR experience that has a production budget in the thousands of dollars and makes use of the best creative talent available. Those projects obviously have their merits and they deserve to be recognised and applauded, big budget projects are vitally important to the development of VR as an industry, but we must also give equal weight to smaller projects. Projects that are simple and minimalistic but still make an impact. In some cases, less is more.

“Big budget VR experiences are important but we must also give equal weight to smaller projects. Projects that are simple and minimalistic but still make an impact. In some cases, less is more.”

I look for an experience that connects with me and inspires me to continue exploring the VR environment. It needs to take me down a storytelling path that makes me forget that I am in a VR environment, and will challenge my own perception of the digital world. I want to feel empathy, risk, happiness. I want the VR experience to convince me that there might be consequences from my actions, or question which world is real. I want the experience to give the story a voice that is powerful and sympathetic.

Skyrim

I also look for VR experience that will play a role how we learn new things, improve us as people, help us grow as an employee, and encourage us to collaborate more with others.

I don’t expect a winning project to be delivered through a VR headset only. WebVR and even mobileVR can also be powerful experiences that I feel meets the level of engagement that I think is necessary to be recognized as a winning VR project.

The VR experience needs to show that the person (or group of people) behind the software or hardware, are using their talents and expertise to push and evolve virtual reality technology into a direction that makes it better, addresses and improves the limitations from the previous year, and the award winning project needs to explore areas and industries that haven’t been explored before.

A winning VR experience needs to inspire me to want more out of VR tech, and demand more from the people behind it.

Kevin Williams:

Founder at KWP Limited & Out of Home Entertainment Consultant and Expert 

Having supported the VR Awards as a judge for the last two years, we have formulated a way we look at the emerging new projects that we evaluate from Location-Based entertainment nominees. Fundamentally, we are looking not just for new products, but for innovation and technical excellence that grows and supports the sector as a whole. This is an incredibly difficult aspect of the VR scene, as Out-of-Home entertainment touches the coal-face, with players getting to grips with VR tech in the harsh crucible of commercial entertainment – a very tough market to survive within, with an instantaneous way of seeing success through the revenue generated.

“Fundamentally, we are looking not just for new products, but for innovation and technical excellence that grows and supports the sector as a whole.”

As a consultant and writer in the sector, we are in a unique position to get to see most of the development at first hand, and this also allows us to gauge the trends shaping the market. internationally Location-based entertainment VR application has grown, with momentum increasing from investors and developers. The need in a emerging market for some means to chart excellence is essential, and also the need for developers to have an environment to drive innovation only helps the whole market. Along with the hardware, the game content is a fundamental element shaping the LBE scene, and we see a broad scope of experiences from well known Intellectual Properties to the latest innovation from Indie developers.

Where the consumer VR scene still works to find its feet, the commercial entertainment market has broken out of the traps running, and the need to promote excellence, and support innovation is the reason why we feel the VR Awards are so important, and why we have been behind its establishment from the start.

Jason Lovell 

Founder of Immersive Technology Consultancy Captivate XR and former Director of Brand Partnerships at Jaunt XR

Primarily what I’m looking for is something that really pushes the boundaries of what’s possible with immersive technology and hence produces an experience that is both highly compelling and truly memorable. On the B2B/enterprise side the experience must able to provide demonstrable value to the use case/sector in question, and therefore have justifiable ROI and some semblance of longevity.

Those of us within the industry are hugely passionate about XR’s potential to have a profound, lasting impact on the world around us for years to come, and so in order for that to come to pass we continually need content that is created by people who share that belief and hence design content that really harnesses the unique strengths of the medium to produce something of tangible value. Regardless of the end goal, it should be something that can stand on its own as a justifiable and clever use of the technology, and something that I know will produce a great experience for whomever is utilising it.

On a more granular level I’m looking for something that feels genuinely immersive, with the crucial senses of presence and agency interjected (along with some intimacy with the environment/characters if pertinent) to allow the feeling of scale and freedom that I think are often important to the overall memorability and reuse of an XR experience. There should be a strong narrative that hooks the viewer in, and the interaction mechanisms should be fluent and natural to allow easy manoeuvring around it.

I’m also keen on some flexibility, where the user has the ability to manipulate the world around them to make it more bespoke to their needs, particularly when there is otherwise some rigidity to it (i.e. a piece of content designed with a clear learning goal in mind). It also goes without saying that it should look aesthetically pleasing too, so I’m looking for graphical elements that are well designed and at a level fitting to the quality of the device it’s being rendered/displayed on.

Fundamentally, I want to exit the experience with my love for XR fully justified and to the immediate need to tell people about it! There is some astounding work going on in our industry so it’s truly a pleasure to get to view some of the very best work and give due recognition the people behind it

 

About the author:

Luke Roberge is the editor of the majority of AIXR's written content including Insights EDU and Insights Case Studies. A first-class honours graduate in English Literature, Luke has been working in the immersive technology space for the past year focusing on the development of the VR Awards and the launch of AIXR. Have ideas for articles? Feel free to pitch them to him at [email protected]

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