Interview with Brenda Chen of Chrysalis VR

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“Chrysalis” is a virtual reality (VR) exploration game in which players get swallowed by a large aquatic beast and go on an adventure in its belly. Creator, Brenda Chen, designed “Chrysalis” with the intention to craft an experience that immerses players in a vibrant world full of wonders and sights that would never exist in reality. USC Games interviewed Brenda, a recipient of the Oculus Launchpad Grant to understand her aspirations in VR.

1. Please briefly introduce yourself.

I’m Brenda and I’m a senior in animation here at USC. I enjoy pushing the boundaries of tech to create immersive experiences — this includes installations, VR, AR, and anything in between. I made my first VR project, “Santiago,” sophomore year with a group of friends. “Santiago” is a multi-sensory dance party that integrates a real-world sculpture that players interact with to affect visuals and create music in a funky virtual world. This project was an experiment in tactile VR and my “gateway drug” for developing VR content. After “Santiago,” I pitched my next VR game, “Chrysalis,” to Oculus and received a grant from their Launchpad Program. We just wrapped up production and it’s now available on the Oculus Store free to play!

2. What inspires you to work in VR?

Ever since I was little, I fantasized about traveling to alternate realities, and with VR that is now possible! To me, VR feels like a physical manifestation of a dream. It’s magical and has the ability to make you feel as though you have been transported to a new world. With VR, my work is no longer limited to a canvas or a 2D screen, but instead I have the ability to craft whole universes. The possibilities are endless and I think that’s really exciting.

3. What inspired you to create “Chrysalis”?

I’m a huge fan of absurdity, designing weird creatures, and building virtual worlds and so decided to combine these passions into a wacky VR game. I wanted to create a feel-good experience that would allow people to escape from their stressful lives in the real world and unwind in a whimsical undersea maze filled with fish friends and comical narratives. I drew a lot of inspiration from Rick and Morty, Spongebob, and Accounting VR. Like these games and TV shows, “Chrysalis” introduces a fun cast of characters and immerses audiences in a humorous world that’s a bit wonky.

4. What makes “Chrysalis” unique? What are the unique experiences that the players will receive?

We designed “Chrysalis” to be a casual VR game (casual in the sense that it does not require VR experience to play) so that it is accessible to everyone. Unlike other VR experiences, the narrative is not the main focus of the game. Rather, players are given the agency to discover it at their own rates or ignore it completely. Our main goal is to craft an intricate world of mysteries to promote exploration. We feel that it is more important that players feel present and autonomous than hear a story. Our art style is also unique. The textures for the corridors and characters were all hand-painted to create an organic look. We put a lot of love into the characters and environment designs and modeled them all in-house to make sure they really reflected our art style.

5. What is it like to work in the field that is new territory, new technology, and a new way of designing? How does “Chrysalis” reflect that?

It’s exciting and so much fun! Since VR is still such a new medium, there have yet been any established hard-set rules or guidelines. This gives emerging creators like me and my peers the creative freedom to experiment and invent. For instance, in “Chrysalis,” we toyed with the idea of having a virtual companion. In the game, players are accompanied by Adam, their stir-crazy angler fish sidekick, throughout their journey. We wanted to see if it is possible for players to form a bond with a digital being and if so, what that connection means. Aside from this, we also experimented with the quality of our visuals. We were constantly adding new assets and effects into the game and seeing how far we could go before the frame rate started to drop. We were in a constant battle with the GPU trying to find the right balance between playback speed and high-fidelity graphics. While difficult, it was a lot of fun to experiment and build experiences that have not yet been created.

6. In three words, how would you describe “Chrysalis”?

It’s whimsical, weird, and fun!

Find out more
Website: Facebook: /ChrysalisVRGame
Twitter: @ChrysalisVRGame


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