By Solomon W. Jagwe, Floreo Art Director
Creating environments for a typical video game can be a challenge, but creating environments for Virtual Reality (VR) games is even more challenging, because of the need to cater for a 360° camera view. As artists, we have to constantly keep in mind that the player is going to be turning around and viewing the 3D environment we have created as though they were in the real world.
The Floreo art team was tasked by our VR game design team — led by CEO Vijay Ravindran, CTO Ali Moeeny, and Product Manager Mariela Martínez — with recreating a 3D urban city environment, loosely based on the City of Philadelphia. Improving social and community safety skills in teens and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) through immersive VR is one type of content that Floreo aims to offer through its app. This 3D city environment would be used in a new Floreo VR therapy module that will help players develop real world skills by learning how to interact with police officers. Our team jumped in with sheer excitement at the opportunity.
Prior to embarking on this exciting visual journey, the art team sat down with our Director of Therapy Content Rita Solórzano to get guidance on what was needed to implement an immersive environment geared towards helping ASD individuals build skills. She requested that we pay attention to the realism of the environment, since the users would need to translate the lessons learned in the VR environment, to the real world. She also suggested that we create variations in the time of day for the different levels, so the player could have a varied experience while in VR.
Our talented Environment Artist, Meredith Gammon, who is currently based in Philadelphia, helped gather a lot of the reference material we needed to recreate our own version of Philly. We then worked hand in hand to plot a way forward in terms of appearance, mood and visual representation. We combined both first hand input from Meredith (lunch breaks busy walking her dog while taking photos) and Google earth references.
We modeled the 3D environment using 3DS Max 2017, used Photoshop for the texturing, and lighting and rendering was done with Octane Render. We went through a number of iterations as the Floreo team shared their feedback.
We are proud to report that the content featured will be tested with real users in an upcoming research study later this year. We can’t wait to see how this VR game level impacts the lives of the study participants.
Below is a collection of the renders showcasing the result of our team effort.