What’s a person’s place in the virtual space? Is that still you when you
are playing a first-person game? What about a third-person game? Are you playing
a character, or just giving commands to the avatar? More broadly, what about other
activities in the virtual space, for instance, having an online meeting? Is it absolute
first-person while you are meeting on zoom? In that little window that projects your face,
you can raise a hand, send an emoji, apply background filter, mute or unmute yourself, etc.
Does that make it second-person in some way? Not like a face-to-face situation,
you don't need to physically raise a hand or make a facial expression, instead,
you click on buttons and send commands. Some actions are even unable to do in an
offline meeting like applying background or mute yourself. Even, Does that make
it third-person? Image having a face filter on while you are having a meeting,
the appearance is not you anymore, but you are still in control,
just like controlling an avatar in any third-person game?
With this project, I try to encourage people to think critically about their places, identities, perspectives, and so on in the virtual space, mainly the space embedded in interfaces.
I planned to do some modifications to Unity's input system, and allow the player to move only with the mouse. It was inspired by this template.
But after some experiments, I found it's a bit hard to navigate, and less engaged compare to more conventional WASD control.
For camera angle, it's fixed between -15 to 15 degrees, cause I want the player to move more to see the environment.
With the controller and webcam function finally accomplished, I was struggling with what environment to give to it. I tried city scenes, not worked very well and failed to have the effect I want. It is too realistic, and not strange enough, which is the effect I want.
Until online meetings come to my mind, for webcam is frequently used on this occasion. But I will set it up in a very distorted way.
For the 3D objects, I made them extremely large to let the player feel the
hugeness and the tension made by the large space. Eventually, the player will reach the border,
and find out it is a closed space.
Also, the 3D objects are randomly arranged, and some positions are a bit misleading. The reason for that is that I want it not that easy for the player to find the border and feel some lostness while finding the way out.
In the test build, the skybox was set to daytime, and it become too realistic for me, so I modified it to a night sky, but still with rather bright light to make the space more surreal.
For objects' texture, I used an online meeting interface with no one turn the cameras on. I always find it surreal and weird to have a meeting while staring at all the squares with letters, and without knowing anyone's face.
After a test, it becomes too quiet for me, and not have the feeling of doing an online meeting.
That's why I put a recording of the online meeting as ambient.
There were some issues to have the access to the camera and turns out chrome blocks any camera access through iframe. Turns out, virtual space is not that free as people said, there are still plenty of policies.
What I failed here is not managed video player to render in WebGL. I linked a test play recording below. I will see are there any ways to fix this issue in the next branch.
Overall. I think this project delivered my idea even I failed to render videos. It's already strange enough to navigate within that space while staring at the image of oneself. Inspired by online meetings, it would be more wired if it is multiplayer, which is my plan for the next branch. One thing that I am not that satisfied with is it's not strange enough. And that strangeness is what I intend to achieve. I hope it would take people to think critically about representations within a virtual space with that strangeness. For the environment, what I have right now are these large-scale interfaces. But they are static and failed to provide more interactions. So, moving on to the next branch, more interactions and a multiplayer system would be my focus.
There are also some issues with embedding in the browser. One is access to the camera, the other is, using unity, I have to build first then run and test in the browser, which means I'm not able to do changes live like using a text editor. I can not do too much about the first one, for it's mainly a policy. For unity, as a software that enables me to create interactive embodiment in browsers, it might not be the only and the best choice. I will see if there are any other options like three.js.