Olfactory Virtual Reality Experience
Unreal Engine 4
Eden is a Virtual Reality game developed at the Champlain College Emergent Media Center. I was Lead Designer for the project and oversaw a team of some very talented people. My first VR game, Eden came with another unique challenge - incorporating smells into the experience. Partnered with Alice and the Magician, we worked side by side to create the most immersive experience possible.
Eden was displayed at many events across Vermont. Some highlights include: Bookstock 2017, Burlington ArtHop 2017, Burlington Bookfest 2017.
VR breaks all the rules of traditional game development. It requires new art methods, programming pipelines and interaction design. Above all else, it laughs in the face of traditional narrative techniques. When the player has the option to simply look away, there is no way to tell a ploted story. Events must be able to occur out of sequence or not at all and still have your story work. Players need to be rewarded and encouraged for their time in the headset making them the core element of the experience.
For Eden, we decided the best way to achieve this was through environmental storytelling. Each level in the world would have a distinct feel - artistic tone and emotional mood. Then, we carefully structured our rooms so that as the player moves through them, they feel the change in emotional content. Only by player action does the narrative progress, rising and falling in intensity as the player explores. Eden's narrative was created to best benefit from the nature of the VR experience.
Describe your favorite smell. Try to use more than just good or bad. Does it smell fresh or sultry? What about frightening? Eden is an Olfactory VR experience. We worked tirelessly to not just understand smells, but to incorporate them to the very core of the game.
Smells are very hard to define. Humans rely heavily on other senses such that we don't even have the language to talk about smells. Scents can evoke the same emotional responses as color or audio - if not stronger, even. Yet, there is very little common knowledge about how this works or how to use it. During development, we dedicated time to researching and understanding the science of smell.
Our approach was to treat each smell like a character, building the narrative around the player's interaction with that smell. Our environments create emotion and smells populate those spaces with intrigue. A room may appear beautiful and relaxing, but the subtle smell of burning and smoke causes tension willing the player forward throughout the experience. Eden is an exceptional game, pushing the limits of the medium and its development team. I am very proud of the work done by myself and the entire team.