One focus of this project was blind accessibility, specifically for students at Perkins School for the Blind. Many virtual reality games ignore or underutilize the player's other senses, making the world feel emptier and significantly harder to navigate for the blind or visually impaired. So, many of the mechanics were focused around the sense of sound, and the player is equipped with many sound-producing gadgets to navigate and mentally construct their environment.
Late Returns is a virtual reality audio based stealth game set in a library. The player must navigate past a series of noise-loathing librarians in order to return their extremely overdue library book without detection. The architecture of most libraries includes designs and acoustics which allow for engaging sound and level layout for stealth. There are sprawling mazes of bookshelves, and a variety of sound dampening and exaggerating features. The detection is heavily based around the sound levels of the player, so as they navigate and use their gadgets, they must be careful to avoid alerting any nearby librarians. The game and level were designed with the game engine Unity which allowed for easy implementation of virtual reality, audio-based mechanics, and AI navigation.
Late Return: a VR stealth game set in a darkened library in which the player uses audio navigation tools to locate a return cart. Late Return is a VR experience that demonstrates the use of sound for navigation in VR. Due to its use of specialized navigation tools, Late Return can be played by the visually impaired. The player explores a completely darkened library with nothing but several audio emitting gadgets to navigate. In order to win the game, they must use the gadgets to return a book while avoiding detection from the librarians that patrol the shelves.
Unfortunately, most games in VR that can’t be played by the visually impaired because, without visuals, the players have no indication of where they are, the player has no idea where they’re going and where they are in relation to the virtual world. Drawing inspiration from a partnership with Perkins School for the Blind, this project was designed to solve this problem with an intuitive audio based teleportation mechanic that the visually impaired can easily use.