NYFA virtual reality

Navigating the Maze of VR Scriptwriting & Storytelling for New Writers

Where Do I Begin?

Virtual Reality is an immersive computer technology allowing its participants the opportunity to partake in a simulated environment. The chance to immerse ourselves in a uniquely alternate reality certainly is enticing — but how do you construct the skeleton of a story for the meaty VR body to hang on, and hold your audiences’ attention?

A lot of the same principles of storytelling apply to VR storytelling and scriptwriting, as they do to its conventional counterpart. Yet in VR storytelling you must consider your audience as an immersed participant. What pitfalls do you need to look out for? That is the right question!

Storytelling Checklist

Pacing

The pace by which you reveal your VR world to your audience is crucial. For the vast majority, VR will be an entirely new experience — and at first, an uneasy one. You need to allow them time to adapt, ease them in gently so to speak. Oculus Story Studio suggest a 30-second settling in period, as most viewers will be more familiar with flat screen viewing. This time period is enough for the participant to relax into the new VR environment.

A slower, introductory pace at the beginning will allow the narrative to shine at the more important, later stages. If you rush your audience into the narrative immediately, the unfamiliarity with their VR surroundings will give them a sensory overload, causing many audience members to just walk away.

The Audience

VR is the medium for audience autonomy and freedom. Instead of writing your script with a confined narrative, your storytelling should embrace the space and explore the world you’ve built.

“There are, of course, plenty of tricks to use to navigate this pitfall  and their use depends on the autonomy you as a creator wish to relinquish to your audience,” explains Andy Hays, a Game Writer at UK Top Writers and Study Demic contributor. “Lighting cues, sound cues, the character’s POV, and especially the arc of additional characters can all aid in directing the attention of your audience along the path of the narrative.”

First Person POV

One of the more challenging aspects involves writing a narrative that a participant can lose themselves in, remembering that we still naturally assume ownership of the virtual environment with which we’re engaged. First person POV is certainly the more difficult choice, but has the advantage of looking through an active participant’s eyes.

The Reality of VR

This is not just important in navigating the pitfalls of POV, but we cannot forget that the participant must actively believe the environment they are immersed in. The reality of their Virtual Reality must be engaging.

Writing a story where supporting characters break the fourth wall, engaging directly with the participant, adds a sense of realism to the participant’s experience. The intimacy of these moments is more likely to leave a lasting impact on your audience.

Player Decision-Making

Nowadays, giving autonomy to your audience in terms of story is common practice — particularly in the gaming industry. VR should be no different.

If your audience desires freedom and autonomy of the world, give it to them. Ensure the character arc is engaging and the narrative is constructed with arc-altering decisions. Not only do these decisions develop a believable reality by giving your participant personified responsibility, but it also allows you to retain control over the story and direct your audience once more.

Spatial Storytelling

The key thing to remember here is that the VR space is not just background, or filler. It is an active component in your immersive environment. The world must shift around the participant. Use it to drag their attention in the direction the narrative desires; this again relates to the cues we mentioned earlier.

It is important to note the reverse sensory action of behaviours: How does entering a café, library, or school, affect you on a sensory level, and what then do you add to it to make it distinguishable?

Formatting

Regardless of the media you’re writing for, formatting should always be top of your list. If you wish to write in POV, you can add it to your scene heading. Others choose to write with a more theatrical freedom. Whatever your preference, there are some great tools to assist new writers in polishing off your VR script:

What Next?

Following these tips will set you on the right path to successfully navigating the pitfalls of VR scriptwriting and storytelling. The reality of VR is essential to your audience. And though they seek autonomy and freedom within the world, using the outlined tricks and skills above allow you to retain this power via the narrative, dynamic spatial design, and immersive character arcs you’ve written.

NYFA guest author Freddie Tubbs is a script writer at Paper Fellows. He regularly takes part in film conferences and writes posts and guides for Big Assignments and Write my Australia.

How to Get Started in Virtual Reality Development

Many of us might have been familiar with the world of virtual reality development via simulation games such as Second Life, where users can choose and customize an avatar and meet new people in a virtual environment. One could even go for dates, explore new landscapes, solve mysteries and even get married — virtually.

By now, in an age of Pokemon Go, virtual reality development has come a long way. Now, it involves actually interacting with a simulated environment, mostly using a virtual reality headset or HMD. A virtual reality developer is a lucrative career option for those who love creativity and computers. But keep in mind, virtual reality development is a vast field; it operates using different rules, and requires a particular skill set and lots of patience. So if you’re a novice interested in virtual reality development, you’ve come to the right place for information. Below, we’ve rounded up some useful tips to help you get started.

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1. Build a Strong Foundation.

Think of virtual reality technology as an advanced master course, meaning you need some preparation material and introductory lessons. Courses like NYFA’s virtual reality workshops are an excellent way to develop competitive understanding of the technology and discover your own voice within this burgeoning field. Get fluent in product design, video game design, 3D modeling and animation as well as design theory. For programming, it helps to know C#. In other words, for virtual reality development, it helps to know about the technologies surrounding and supporting VR. For instance, why not take some design courses and programming lessons with NYFA’s 12-Week intensive Game Coding Workshop? Engage with virtual reality as much as you can, whether in the form of apps or games. Study and try to figure out what makes certain virtual reality development projects successful.

2.  Choose a Particular Platform and Master It.

There are plenty of platforms, each with its advantages and limitations, for you to experiment with VR. The best and easiest one for now is Unity — you don’t even need the special VR hardware to start creating games. It is also freely available. Another engine you may want to check out is Unreal. Start out with Mobile VR and make a prototype using Google Cardboard and a Cardboard Viewer. WebVR is another entry point for VR developers, with many media companies and forecasters betting that a 3D, immersive internet is on the horizon. As VR devices get more accessible and affordable, content developed for the 3D web will likely become the most universal use of VR.

3. Make The Best Use of Free Resources. 

If you’re stumped, there’s always Google to help you out. Unity comes with its own tutorials for the absolute beginner here and there are plenty of online courses to improve your skills such as these and these. Once the prototype is ready, add appropriate sound and art to make the experience as immersive as possible. You also need to know how gyro and accelerometer sensors in mobile phones work as well as image processing and speech recognition.

4. Stay Up-To-Date With New VR Developments. 

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Virtual Reality is a constantly evolving field and, the more you explore, the more treasures you’ll uncover. If you want to be a virtual reality developer, it’s important to stay up to speed on the industry. Subscribe to podcasts, read interesting articles about the subject, and follow the latest news. Remember that the VR industry is still at its nascent stage, so even when you think you’ve mastered it, there will always be newer things to learn. That’s why this is a great time to become a virtual reality developer.

Finally, to make the most of this venture, you must meet up with other virtual reality developers. For instance, if you want to develop a VR mobile game, form an informal group, divide responsibilities based on everyone’s skills and test the prototype with each other. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and do enjoy the process of creating an artificial world.

Interested in becoming a virtual reality developer? Study virtual reality at NYFA.

A Q&A With VR Observer Founder & Entrepreneur Elena Titova

As a part of our continuing mission to keep our students at the forefront of the industry and offer real-world insights, New York Film Academy is pleased to have had the privilege to sit down with Elena Titova: thought-leader, entrepreneur, and founder of VR Observer magazine. Here is what she had to share with our burgeoning virtual reality community:

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Photo provided by Elena Titova.

NYFA: Hi Elena, thanks for joining NYFA to share your thoughts on Virtual Reality (VR). Let me ask, what was it about VR that first captured your imagination? And what inspired you to found VR Observer?

ET: What captured me is the opportunity VR presents in creating an entirely other universe. The endless possibilities. A dynamic shift in how we teach, how stories are told, how we learn, how we interact with information and each other. How we do things today will shift dramatically in the next few years.

I founded VR Observer to capture this change as it happens. To be on the frontline of a technology that will eventually impact all of our lives. That doesn’t happen all the time. It’s an exciting place to be and I’m happy to be a part of it.

NYFA: Tell us a little bit about your journey in creating a career for yourself in the world of VR? How did you get where you are today?

ET: When I was a little girl growing up in Russia I was fascinated by space travel, still am to this day. I believe this was the foundation to where I am today, wanting to explore and discover new places and technologies. I have a background in marketing and UI/UX design which merge perfectly in my work on VR Observer.

NYFA: How much experience does someone have to have to apply for/get a job using VR? In your view, what industries have most potential to utilize VR content?

ET: The experience level required will be dependent on what field and area of VR one is looking at. One thing I find exciting about an emerging technology though is the fact that so many people are learning as they go. This in a way levels the playing field.

The big one, of course, will be gaming. But we are really excited to see the utilization of VR in healthcare and the entertainment (movies/tv/news) industries.

NYFA: From what you’ve observed in the industry, what companies are investing in VR, and where are opportunities for growth within the next year?  

ET: Facebook’s recent announcement that the social network could end up spending over $3 billion in the next decade to improve virtual reality and make it accessible to the masses, pretty much set the gauntlet. That was Mark Zuckerberg essentially saying VR is going to be the next big thing, and they want to be in front of it. Of course Apple, Microsoft and Google all have major investments in both VR and AR. I find it interesting to also monitor the steady increase of VC money into VR/AR and MR startups. CB Insights has some great data on that.

NYFA: What exciting market trends have you observed in regards to both hardware and content?

ET: The hardware has been improving. Companies are understanding how individuals interact with the virtual world and are honing their products, both H/W and content to create a truly immersive experience. I’m excited to see companies looking at all the senses and how to incorporate them. There is a company that is working on incorporating smell into a virtual environment. Imagine walking into a garden and smelling the roses!

NYFA: You have a strong entrepreneurial background. How do you see entrepreneurship and VR working together? What should young professionals interested in VR borrow from the entrepreneurial mindset?

ET: They are peas in a pod. Anytime a technology comes along that has the potential that VR contains the entrepreneurial opportunities are everywhere.

Just do it. Go for it with no fear of failure. This is such an exciting time, learn from the best, but do it your own way. Always be learning and improving.

NYFA: As you watch VR evolve, what challenges do you anticipate the medium will face in the coming year? And how do you think those challenges can be met?

ET: Adoption. The early adopters have embraced VR. We now need the next wave of consumers to experience VR, and in turn purchase and utilize VR.

To touch further on what I said above, VR needs to be experienced. It cannot be described sufficiently enough to someone who has never actually been immersed in a virtual world.

Hardware and content providers will need to get their products in the consumer’s hands. Cost is also an issue, but I have faith in Moore’s law to rectify that in time.

NYFA: What do you wish everyone knew about VR?

ET: That is not just for games. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy fighting zombies as much as the next person. But I don’t think people outside of the VR world know how VR is helping soldiers with PTSD, how VR is helping train our next wave of surgeons, how VR is helping people overcome phobias. All of these [applications] and more will help individuals, and in turn, society. This is what excites me about VR.

Elena, it’s been a pleasure learning more about you and VR Observer. Thank you for sharing your VR insights with New York Film Academy!

Are you interested in learning more about virtual reality? Explore the New York Film Academy’s three immersive VR workshops.

What to Expect in Virtual Reality Games Coming in 2017

One of the best things about our industry is that each year brings something to look forward to. In 2016 we saw both the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One S release, making it the first time consoles got a mid-generation model with added power and 4K support. Anticipated games like Final Fantasy XV, Overwatch, and two new Pokemon titles also gave gamers plenty to enjoy.

But perhaps the biggest reason last year will be remembered is for one thing, above all others, changing the gaming landscape: virtual reality. Ever since the Oculus Rift Kickstarter campaign raised more than $2.5 million in 2012, a race began to see who could create the best VR gaming device. Options you can buy today include the PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Samsung Gear VR.

But will 2017 be the year VR truly takes off … or will it fall into obscurity? Here are our VR predictions for this year:

Better Games Are Coming

The new VR devices have been received well so far. Their ability to trick our minds into thinking we’re inside vivid virtual worlds is an incredible experience. However, many of the games that released alongside these device received mixed feedback.

Although impressive, a lot of titles felt more like tech demos than actual games. Batman: Arkham VR let us become the Dark Knight himself like never before — but only for about two and a half hours. Gamers didn’t buy expensive VR devices to enjoy games that last about as long as your average Hollywood film.

This year we’re expecting developers to do more to convince people still thinking about investing in a VR headset. The good news is we’re already seeing regular games with added VR support, like the well-received Resident Evil 7. To sustain and grow, the 2017 VR craze needs bigger studios with higher budgets to invest in making better, more accessible games.

Prices Will Probably Drop

If there’s one reason more VR devices aren’t in more homes today, it’s the price. Almost every headset currently on the market will set you back a few hundred bucks. If you want an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, be ready to pay $799 or $599, respectively.

And even if you drop the cash for one, your current computer might not be ready for it. According to NVIDIA, 99 percent of computers on the market in 2016 aren’t powerful enough to provide the best virtual reality experience possible. The PlayStation VR released with a price tag of $399, which doesn’t count the Move controllers ($50 each), camera (another $50), and console itself ($300).

Unless we see price drops on the current devices, or more affordable devices released, the VR market will struggle to turn a profit or take off with the average consumer. The fact that certain VR headsets have received discounts recently is a good start. Some affordable options are already showing up on the market for those who want to pay less for something more basic, like the Google Daydream.

VR Will Either Sink Or Swim

Despite many VR headsets being sold last year, many continue to doubt whether virtual reality is the next evolution in gaming. To many, it’s nothing more than a fad similar to motion controls made popular by the Nintendo Wii in the last decade. However, VR does offer unprecedented opportunities to revolutionize the way we explore video game worlds and stories.

No matter which side they’re on, experts do agree that 2017 will give us a greater sense at how VR will do in the future. It’s up to game developers to release groundbreaking VR projects that make everyone else feel like they’re missing out. Fortunately, companies like Google are jumping into the market with affordable VR headsets, making it easier to try VR before investing in a better product.

What are your predictions for how virtual reality with change games in 2017? Let us know in the comments below! Learn more about virtual reality at the New York Film Academy.