Interaction Designer Alan Chao Writes About Lessons Learned Building Successful Worlds in AltspaceVR

Alan Chao (website, Twitter) describes himself as:

I’m an interaction designer in NYC, currently a Senior UX (User eXperience) Designer at Storefront. I have over 6 years of experience in UX and product. I’m also doing work in virtual reality.

Alan has written a post on Medium—the first of a planned series—where he talks about the lessons he has learned from building successful, popular worlds on the social VR platform AltspaceVR. His first post, whimsically titled Don’t Get Stuck in the Hot Tub, is absolutely required reading for anybody who is at all interested in social VR.

I’m just going to quote a few choice bits here because I want you to go over there and read the whole thing. I’m serious; it’s that good. And it’s not that long. Go. Read.

*sigh* Are you still here? O.K., fine, here’s my quote…

People in VR love their Starbucks. This was one of the first lessons I learned with my first attempt at building worlds in Altspace. It was mostly a naive experiment to bring 3D models into VR, which I had never done before. However, the first two worlds I made taught me a lot. The first was a Starbucks.

Something is amusing about bringing a mundane place like a Starbucks into VR. The building was a boxy structure modeled in Sketchup with wood textured walls and white signage. Inside, I included the glass pastry display, refrigerator case, cash registers, several coffee-related props, the drink pickup area, and the little bins with sugar packets and straws. To my surprise, when I teleported a group of users into the world, some immediately assumed positions behind the cash registers, and a line of customers formed and started ordering drinks. There were even roleplayed arguments about the drink orders being too complicated. For whatever reason, everyone in the space bought into this “game” and maintained character. As the creator of the world, I was even named the General Manager of the store.

Alan Chao’s Starbucks Coffee in AltspaceVR

Here is a short summary of the lessons Alan learned while building this and many other worlds in AltspaceVR:

  • Spaces shape behaviour: nowhere is this better illustrated by the visitors to the Starbucks Coffee, who automatically began roleplaying!
  • Start with a feeling: “To achieve immersion, start with the feelings you want a world to convey.” This does not necessarily mean increased photorealism:

I’ve found that in Social VR specifically, photorealism doesn’t mean it feels more realistic. Too real, and it sort of falls into the uncanny valley, primarily in stark contrast to the style of avatars. High poly counts can also be detrimental to performance on mobile headsets. The key is to find the balance between just enough geometry, materials, and lighting consideration to support a real feeling.

I am quite looking forward to reading the rest of this series!

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A Special Thank You to My Patreon Supporters—And How You Can Become One (Or Just Buy Me a Coffee!)

You can show your support by something as simple as buying me a coffee!
(Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash)

On November 22nd, 2018, emulating a couple of bloggers whom I admired, I set up a Patreon page to support my work on this blog and on the Metaverse Newscast show on YouTube.

Well, today I just checked my Patreon page and I was happy to discover that I have reached my first Patreon goal: $30 per month, which almost exactly meets my blog hosting costs on WordPress!

I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank all of my Patreon supporters, both past and present, both those named on my Patreon patrons list and those who wish to remain anonymous. Your support means the world to me, and it is very much appreciated!

I know that I need to rack my brains to come up with even more perks and benefits for my wonderful Patreon supporters—a new project for a new decade! And I will always welcome anybody who wants to support my work via Patreon.

A tech blogger whom I recently have started following, Lily Snyder, has set up something I had not seen before. At the end of her blogposts (like this one, which mentions one of my recent editorials), she mentions that the reader can buy her a coffee!

You can buy Lily Snyder a coffee!

How it works is, you can set it up to use either PayPal, Stripe, or both, to allow users to make a single, one-time donation of $3.00—just enough to cover the cost of a coffee! I think this is a great idea, so I went and set one up for myself (although you can certainly make a one-time donation through my Patreon page, if you wish). Coffee is always greatly appreciated!

Between my Patreon supporters, my advertising, and becoming a paid embedded reporter for Sinespace, 2020 is shaping up nicely!

Thanks again for all your support—and all the coffee!

Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash