For three years now, VR Master's degree students from the Ecole de Design Nantes Atlantique have been conceiving immersive experiences around the universe of Jules Verne that are showcased at the Nantes Digital Week, a major French event about digital culture.
For this project we drew inspiration from Jules Verne’s journey to the moon described in his two novels "From the Earth to the Moon" and "Around the Moon". The story is about crazy weapon manufacturers who decided to send a few people to the moon using a giant cannonball.
As a group of 10 students, we split the journey into three parts: the take off from earth, the orbit around the moon and the landing back on earth. My team developed the latter.
VRNE#3, for Virtual Reality Nantes Experience was tested by hundreds of users over one week.
After studying the novels, we did some research about the broad universe of Jules Verne. We created moodboards to define the graphic identity of the project. Then, we came up with concepts to turn this landing into an unforgettable experience. As the novel does not give a lot of detail about the trip back to earth, apart from the sea landing, we had a lot of freedom. In our limited 2-minute time frame, we wanted the user to travel as much as possible. Our landing is divided into three components : space, atmosphere and underwater.
To complete this journey, you will have to bring the spacecraft through the gates. This is the main gameplay mechanic.
If you come on board with us, you will not land near Baltimore as described in the novel but on Nantes’ river. This was our way of including our experiment in the Nantes Digital Week festival. We designed a seamless multi-environment experience using inspiration from Jules Verne’s literature. In order to prevent motion sickness for first-time VR users, the story goes from calm to intense.
Take a seat in our shuttle and travel from space to earth,
from the 19th century to today.
Designing a VR installation to tell a story implies a huge involvement from the user side compared to traditional mediums. The increased feeling of embodiment can lead to more extreme reactions. Moreover, VR has limitations due to the hardware. For instance, duration and rhythm must be adapted.
The installation was both a software and a hardware challenge. We worked on them simultaneously during the whole process. Since a lot of people were about to try our installation, we had to build a resilient one.
We built the software using our knowledge of the whole production line. Modeling was done using 3DSMax, texturing using Substance Painter and we integrated using Unity. To make the software as reliable as possible, we tested the application for days to patch out every bug.
L’École de Design Nantes Atlantique partnered with a magic theater named Le Lieu Magique to exhibit our installation. As virtual reality has not fully reached the mass market yet, it is our opportunity to communicate about this emergent technology. As immersion does not start in VR, we created a scenography to create a seamless transition from real to virtual.
In order to live a proper earth landing, you need a lot of feedback. That’s why we used a vibrating mattress, a pair of headphones and a joystick. We used a chair to simulate the position of an astronaut in his shuttle. Laying down offers heightened immersion and provides security for first-time users. The installation had to be physically strong because of mass utilization, but also strong enough to portray our story and allow users to comprehend it.