Fading Footsteps – My VR Midterm

Note: I haven’t finished my project yet, but thought I can share an update.

For my midterm, I created a short narrative of lost love. I stumbled upon this quote: “Love is like a footprint; it’s clear only after you step away.” I wanted to create a story where you are transported into a dreamscape where you are walking behind a girl. The intended action is to have her fade away as the viewer takes his gaze away from her. I want to fill this scene with past scenes that serve as memories which take the attention of the viewer. However, as the viewer takes his/her gaze away from the girl, she will continue to disappear until she hits a threshold in which she fades completely away, except her footsteps will remain to appear.

I spent a long time trying to get the disappearing effect to work, and I unfortunately could not finish it on time. Following the instructions listed here, I wanted to get an effect similar to

except much slower and without the skeleton. I’m really close, and I hope to have that up soon. In order to trigger this effect, I created a box collision for the first person narrative.

As the girl ended her overlap with this box, she would begin to fade away. However, getting her to fadeaway was tricky. I followed the instructions from the link above, and I ended up with the following blueprint:

It took me a while to understand this blueprint, and I am almost ready to connect it to the material for the girl. Once I can get her skin to work, I can recreate this blueprint for each of her materials. I haven’t gotten there yet though, and I hope to finish that this week. Here’s a preview of my VR experience so far.

It’s not present in this above video, but there is sound. You can hear directional sound of seagulls and ocean waves.

Once I can get her to fade away, the only thing left to do to finish the core experience is to get her footsteps into the scene and animate them for both the girl and the first person character. I can then polish the piece’s music, sounds, and graphics to create a smoother experience for the viewer.

Some things I learned

  • I spent a lot of my time experimenting with the world that I created, partly because I wanted to learn more about Unreal Engine. I definitely got a better understanding of textures and materials, but I think if I were to create another project again, I’d either work with someone who liked creating assets or I would buy some from the asset store.
  • Blueprints are confusing. It’s hard to figure out the syntax of which nodes should connect to which ones. This isn’t so much a new thing that I learned, but working with them really cemented this fact.
  • This project made me think about what kind of narratives work well in VR. One of the easiest and most effective ways to build a strong VR experience is to throw someone in a world that they are familiar with but that they have never experienced in a certain perspective so far. I tried to recreate that with this dream beachscape, but it might be more effective to create something a little closer to home. Some good examples I’ve seen are: dog looking out a window or placing a camera inside a guitar. Speaking of which, another great way to come up with some cool VR experiences is to start with a sound file/experience and create visuals around it. Tree and Fistful of Stars are like this.
  • Creating a strong emotional connection is one of the hardest things to do. In the future, I think I will start with what kind of emotion I want to create, what are some things that make me feel that in my own life, and really hone in on that experience. For this world, I started with a quote from a book, and it wasn’t necessarily my experience, so it was more difficult to create a strong emotional connection.