The VR Con Project

We started the VR Con project to try and create a more immersive experience for online conventions, to give the feel of walking through crowded corridors, taking your seat at a panel or interview or perusing the wares in the trade hall.

This was spurred on in particular by the dire straits people who depended on markets and conventions to sell their wares were in.

I had teamed up with Kelvin Ward to create this, my design and his Unreal skills but unfortunately Kelvins familial duties have meant he has had to leave the project as a full time contributor and so we’re making it open source in the hopes that some of you might complete the project.

You can access the Source Code here: https://github.com/KelvinHere/Unreal-Store

Below are a few notes on the design as I saw it.

The VR con is supposed to give a bit more of the feel of a convention to an online event using Unreal engine though you could probably use Unity or other engine just as easily but that’s what Kelvin was used to using.

We were utilizing Unreal engines multiplayer tools to achieve most of the sense of community design needs.

The Con runner could create a hall from modules to accommodate all their events. It was meant to be a very simple build process, literally drag and drop particular “bricks”.

For example a reception area block, three panel room bricks, one performance hall and one trade hall block would do for a lot of smaller events.

The con runner could then assign moderators to each brick and every avatar that entered them would be added to an active player list to allow moderation of that room.

They could also, if they so wished, give specific user names priority when it came to asking questions.

Associating a username and email could allow con runners to give priority access to events and other exclusives to specific users through out their event (Diamond passes and such+.

The con goer could then sign in, chose an avatar image with a display name and wander the generated halls between these modules between attending events or even socialize in them.

The avatars to start with would be simple floating picture frames with a chosen display name over them.

If we were to get into normal game avatars I wanted to ensure we could have representation of all the various body types and physical differences including whatever tools the user used to get around like canes, wheelchairs etc.

We decided that was a bit too much work and was something that would require continuous updating to get right.

 

We could monetize any number of ways but one thought was setting specific frames along the convention hallway walls to stream video ad would be a nice passive way of covering our own costs.

We were looking to cover costs with this move rather make it a huge commercial project.

This was to help out our con going community after all.

That said we know running cons cost money as well as all the time in the world so we did this with an eye to how our con runners could make raise some funds to cover their own costs.

Panel rooms

There are a couple of ways of making this work.

Embedding feeds from various video communication sites where the panelist were actually meeting or having the moderator and guests actually present as avatars for the panels/guest event.

The moderator could then use Unreal’s multiplayer chat functions to take questions from the live audience, or mute bothersome guests/attendees.

There’s also the potential for the con runner to prioritize question asking.

The Performance Hall.

This was different to the panels though a similar execution was needed.

So the layout of the room was to me more of an amphitheater style room. It had to versatile when it came to embedding feeds on a large central screen with a stage area in front of it to allow for avatar using guests

In the case of cos play skits or parades, efficient switching between the video calls would be needed and delivered in such away a slightly less tech savvy moderator would still be able to manage.

In the case of musical performances the idea was that the streams from the various musicians would be placed within the large screen as they would appear on stage normally.

A little forced perspective trickery should make that look great.

In the case of Guest of Honor interviews a simple split screen effect should suffice if they’re not “present” in the area

 

Trade Hall

The con runner decides the size and scale of each trade hall, how many stalls they need and so forth.

They can give the vendors username access to edit a particular stall module within the hall and the chat function for it.

(Each vendor could have a chat channel and users could press to chat on screen to ask questions etc.)

Thus our con runners can sell trade stand space to vendors.

Vendors could be assigned stalls and pictures of the goods displayed their would lead to their sales site if a con goer clicked on them, removing us as a middleman to their sales.

All they would have to do is upload pictures of their goods, assign them to a space on their stall and add a link to the appropriate part of their sales site.

This would allow more contact and give the vendor a better chance to sell their wares.

Again if you’re interested in continuing the work you can access the Source Code here: https://github.com/KelvinHere/Unreal-Store