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«Comparative Content Analysis of Virtual Environments Using Perceptual Opportunities CLIVE FENCOTT Virtual Reality Applications Research Centre, ...»

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4.2. OSMOSE Osmose is a highly sensual as well as highly abstract VE which uses a HMD with full 3D sound and was designed by the artist Char Davies (2000). It investigates the notion of both bodily presence in a VE as well as mental presence. The former is accomplished through the innovative navigational interface, which allows users to rise or fall as they breathe in or out and to move in the direction they lean towards. The sensuality comes both from the bodily involvement and the translucent organic imagery of the central areas as well as from Davis’ aesthetics of ambiguity. There are a number of concurrent worlds within Osmose which blend into each other as the user navigates around. Unlike Hubble there are not further interactions, in the traditional sense, of buttons to press or doors to open etc.


• Vection - lots of things passing by, leaves, branches, text, code, etc.

• Perceptual Noise - there is a lot of potential information and great depth of focus

• Scale - scale is ambiguous and this probably adds to the sense of belief in this fantastic world

• Distance - a great sense of depth induced by many small objects overlapping in the visual field in all directions, also a judicious use of transparency

• Limits – changing nature of information indicates moving from one world to the next, lack of information, degraded reality, indicates leaving Osmose altogether 4.2.2. SURPRISES Attractors

• Objects of desire – nothing is quite as known as in Hubble but translucent trees and ponds connected by flows of point lights etc. are highly desirable as well as being mystery objects perhaps.

• Alien attractors – despite the abstract, other worldly nature of Osmose there are no alien attractors within its worlds/levels as such because of their strong sense of internal consistency, perceptual realism, but see partially obscured objects next

• Partially obscured objects – the borders between worlds present contrasting objects partially obscured and act as strong attractors which could also be seen as alien attractors Connectors

• Axes – these vary with the different worlds, or areas, of Osmose. Some are dense and organic with flows of coloured lights leading the user gently from retainer to retainer, some are geometrically structured, as in the text and code worlds and lead the user through layers of information.

• Choice Points – the range of attractors to choose from, central retainers, the tree, roots, light flows etc. or partially obscured objects in the middle distance.

• Deflectors – no obvious.

Retainers In a sense the whole VE is a retainer due to the peripatetic navigation controls which focus the mind/body on floating and exploration. There are specific retainers in the sense of the tree with the firefly sap flowing through it. Retainers may be beautiful rewards as well as doors to open … 4.2.3.


–  –  –

4.2.4. OBSERVATIONS As with Hubble, there are no action analogues, you do not click and drag a mouse instead of walk, and because it is a fantastic world you do not expect to navigate in the same way as in reality. Osmose is highly immersive, you are enveloped by the technology visually, HMD, aurally, spatial sound, and bodily, breath and posture. The world is also highly inducive of presence partly because of the sensual and illusory nature of the stimuli but also, and very importantly, because of the direct connection between body and navigation in a very fundamental way. The very act of breathing and body posture facilitates movement and must contribute immensely to high levels of presence. This is not the bodiless exploration of Cyberspace (Gibson,1995) because here the body is made concrete in the VE even though it cannot be seen by the user. Once again, the importance of purpose and genre in determining the nature of the perceptual content is clear. Much of the successful content here would be quite inappropriate in other VE genres. The transparent tree with firefly sap and ambiguous scale would effectively be a PO shock in most other VEs of whatever genre. Research shows that enveloping technology heightens the intensity of the experience (Slater,1999).

From the PO point of view we can observe that the subtle nature of retainers means that attractor/connector relationships are very important in Osmose. This means that setting goals, and planning and undertaking their attainment are of primary importance. The high level goals are realised by each user in their own way. Osmose employs attractor/connector relationships rather than specific retainers and thus emphasises intention over perceivable consequence. We will see this later in some of the games analysed.


Sin is a 3D shoot-em-up in the classic style. There are endless labyrinthine corridors meeting in strange open areas patrolled by all manner of enemies that have to be annihilated. Guns and other weapons, boxes of health, and power ups float just above floor level for the user to collect. You have indicators of your current health, weapons and ammo etc. Sin can be played as a single player (SP) game or as a multiuser game. Sincity is a Death Match (DM) level within Sin where multiple users are present, via avatars over a network, in real time. Like most games it is moody and atmospheric and does not look like VR as many of the high-end VEs do.

4.3.1. SURTIES

• Vection - Street furniture, ladder rungs, chain fence, doors, walls, etc.

• Depth Sureties - Buildings at a distance good, people at a distance not so good

• Perceptual Noise - lots of textures, architectural complexity, background textures simulate views outside the playable level

• Degraded Reality - some doors don't open etc., you see your health status rather than feel it (thankfully)

• Limit Sureties – on the far sides of the unfinished building there are views not accessible space, can see the rest of the city but cannot move through it, navigation is degraded.

• Bodily Representation - guns and hands etc. can be seen to enhance the sense of presence.

Sureties for Co-presence Other players realistically represented with fairly realistic looking movements etc. With clothing and faces appropriately menacing.

4.3.2. SURPRISES Attractors

• objects of fear - gun fire ricochets (peripatetic?), movement of opponents (peripatetic)

• alien attractors and objects of desire – guns, ammo and health boxes, etc. floating just above the ground are alien (static) because they are not natural in the context of the level, do not obey the laws of physics etc. (however they are intrinsic to the genre)

• other objects of desire – ladders etc. which offer access to vantage points (static), vantage points (Again specific to this type of genre but would not be shocks in others, just not so noticeable) (static)

• animated and awesome objects - the revolving crane (localised) Connectors

• Axes - ladders, pathways etc. all leading to vantage points, weapons, ammunition, health etc.

create sub-goals to facilitate the main goal. (NB. these components are not the axes but configuring them creates and axis to satisfy the sub-goal get some more health).

• Choice Points - choosing between axis components, selecting a vantage point to climb to, etc.

• Deflectors - door ways with doors that don't open, you can hide, collect health maybe but you have to retrace your steps eventually Retainers

• climb ladders, open doors, pick up ammo, (local)

• fire guns, change weapons, etc. (peripatetic)

• also hiding, setting up an ambush, etc. (localised?) 4.3.3. A PARTIAL PERCEPTUAL MAP FOR SINCITY

–  –  –

4.3.4. OBSERVATIONS We are not dealing with objects but the role objects play in the communication process. There is a cross hair sight for the guns which is a surprise because it does not work the same way as it would in reality. It is a necessary component of the affordance shooting a gun. The primary goal might not be an object or place in the VE but an abstract property of it. For instance score a lot of points, visit all the tourist attractions, remember a virtual place, learn how to operate a piece of equipment, etc. The distinction between object, in other words scene graph node, and perceptual opportunity is made clear here in that very often in Sincity your view of your opponent consists of only 1 or 2 pixels moving against a static background (opponent moving at a distance). It is only in the context of the game that the player clearly perceives such a pattern to be another opponent's avatar. This is clearly a perceptual opportunity and not the object as defined in the scene graph. In another genre of VR such tiny object movements might go completely unnoticed. However, in a DM level such POs are vital to the success of the level. As observed, attractors can be static, localised or peripatetic much in the same way that retainers can be. Consideration of genre in VE design is vital. Such game worlds are also active VTEs in the sense that they attempt to train you to navigate, collect resources, become skilled with the interface and its complexities, and all this before you can explore the level, learn where resources are, build a mental map of the level, learn about vantage points and hideaways or other good places to be. Later on you have to score points, pursue main goal, formulate mini-missions, connector-retainer configurations, to move you to the goal. Good games actively design for the learning process.

Players need to establish retainers, mini-missions, for themselves and put these together appropriately, configure them, so as to find ways of achieving the overall goal of the world. Mini-missions arise through identifying an obstacle or problem or simply noticing an attractor and then using connector components to establish a retainer situation, which will help their goal if successfully achieved. This DM level is a balance between goal setting and planning, attractor/retainer groupings, and actual fighting – preferably on your own terms. Notice that retainers are dynamic in that they occur where players choose to establish them and not where the game designer mandates them. This is about a sense of control, opportunity for strategy, and the opportunity for discovery. All very much concerned with our aesthetics of VR.

4.4. DRIVER A third person driving game by Reflections. You play the getaway driver for a criminal gang and have to negotiate streets, junctions, bridges, traffic etc. and all in the presence of psychotic police cars whose only pleasure in life is ramming criminals into oblivion. Like Sin, Driver is desktop VR in that it uses a standard PC interface. Like Sincity it also relies heavily on co-presence – the sense of being with others – but does so in a in the context of the way people interact whilst driving in their cars.

Such games would really seem to be second person because they refer to a specific you and not an abstract or distant he or she.


• Vection - Street furniture, building fronts, all give realistic sensation of appropriate speed.

• Depth Sureties - Buildings at a distance good, people and vehicles at various relative distances give very good distance sureties.

• Perceptual Noise - a lot of detail in the city, buildings, moving cars and people, petrol stations, underground car parks etc.

• Degraded Reality – sometimes you reach walls of trees, many roads outside town enclosed by small walls so you can’t always drive where you want.

• Limit Sureties - shorefront and other areas just bitmaps, can see the rest of the city etc. but cannot move through it, navigation is degraded.

• Self Image - you can only see the car you are driving but that behaves very realistically, wheels turn to steer, suspension, collision damage etc.

• Past - crashed vehicles, skid marks in grass verges etc. the remaining damage to your car and the police car.

• Physics - you can crash through tables, chairs, parking meters etc. but not street light poles and trees etc.

Sureties for Co-presence.

• Appearance - pedestrians realistically represented with fairly realistic looking movements.

• Behaviour pedestrians walk quite well and jump out of the way of speeding cars etc.

• cars horns being sounded to indicate danger and annoyance etc.

• There is also the very real behavioural co-presence of the extremely aggressive police cars constantly trying to ram you.

• Communication - could also categorise car horns being sounded to indicate danger and annoyance etc. as an appropriate communication surety.

4.4.2. SURPRISES Attractors

• Objects of desire –

• stationary traffic, traffic crossing at right angles, gaps in buildings on either or both sides of the road ahead etc. indicates junctions and turnings

• junctions etc. can also function as attractors by analogy in the sense that they might first become apparent on the 2D map which is so important to the gameplay of Driver.

• gaps between traffic both oncoming, in the same direction, and both

• Objects of fear - police cars approaching from in front or in the rear view mirror

• Alien attractors - large red arrows, dots and explanation marks indicating main objectives of each level/mission (see perceptual map below).

NB. The latter are not at all perceptually realistic but because they appear on the map in a similar way and are such important points in the game they do not function as shocks as might be expected. The large red dot acts like a giant red traffic signal telling to you where to stop to complete the section.


• Axes threading your way through the dynamic configuration of traffic

• streets define natural axes to draw you towards junctions which are potential focuses of activity and retainers

• crashing into breakable street furniture and scaring people etc. maintain activity levels rather than just driving to the next junction etc.

• Choice Points –

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