Puzzler is a Virtual Realty mobile app I created to keep improving my Unity, game mechanics and UX design skills. This game was designed to create an immersive, beautiful space where the user could relax for a little bit while exercising their memory through a Simon-Says-like game. I wanted to create an experience from scratch, including sound design and music that was intuitive and fun to use. I loved the process of creating the virtual space and the music while getting on a micro level to debug and optimice the app.

Story of the Process

The project started out with the idea of an ancient temple on a hill surrounded by mountains. I’d just been hiking in the Appalachian Mountains and wished I had a way of going back anytime I wanted so I started out designing the terrain. I painted different layers of texture to give the soil and landscape the surface quality I wanted and planted a little forest on one of the sides. Once this was completed, I drew inspiration from Greek and Celtic ruins and Andalusian ornaments to create a place that doesn’t try to fully imitate reality but rather create its own alternate one. Next, I worked on the sky and lights to give the scene the ambiance I was looking for and dived right into the game mechanics part of the app. Before, though, I deployed the scene to an iPhone and conducted user tests to find out if the proportions felt right. I created interactive user interfaces to guide the player through the experience, wrote some code to make the game run just as I envisioned it and created the sound design and musical elements to be implemented in the game. After several iterations and some other user tests, I got to the current version of this app.

Initial sketches for Puzzler

User Persona

User Testing Outcomes and Iteration

During the iteration process, I conducted several user tests to find out if I was missing any important design points that needed to be addressed. During the first one, the tester claimed to feel too small, which led to a change on the Y axis of the camera. During the second one, I learned that the orbs were not within a comfortable visual field, so that was fixed. For the next couple tests, I had to change the volume of the music and sound effects several times until they felt good, I had to add movement mechanics so the user wouldn’t teleport from the end point to the beginning and finally, add an interactive warning message to inform the user they would travel backwards, which could cause simulator sickness if experienced by surprise.

My friend Jan trying Puzzler for the first time

Breakdown of Final Piece

After launching the app, the user appears on top of a hill surrounded by green mountains and birds chirping. There is a temple, to which they’re dragged after clicking on the start button. Once there, the music changes to a sustained pad with crescendos and decrescendos to add tension. Inside the temple, there are five orbs that light up in a random order. Each of them triggers a different musical note too, which translates into more sensory engagement towards memorization. After the orbs finish lighting up, the user needs to click each of them in the order they were originally triggered. Each time the reticle overlaps with a sphere, the latter lights up to intuitively let the user know the orbs are interactive. If the player fails to reproduce the pattern, a funny “fail” melody is played to let them know they should try again. Once the task is correctly performed, the user is once again dragged towards the exit of the temple, where another user interface offering them to restart the game awaits. If clicked, the restart button will drag the user backwards from the exit, to the entrance of the temple again. Since this can cause discomfort if not expected, a warning message conveniently pops up when the player is about to click on it. This way, the game can be played indefinitely, each time having a different puzzle to solve.

Start, Play and Restart positions as seen at gameplay