In our continued exploration of the VR/AR space, it became increasingly evident to us that in many VR applications, the player is spending the majority of their time getting face-to-face with other players or NPCs throughout. As most VR applications use a first person view system, this is more or less expected; The different is, of course, that instead of taking up the space of less then an inch on your monitor, character faces now take up a realistic portion of real estate in the player’s vision.
The players in Rec Room seems to randomly change faces based on a mixture of activities, creating an emergent story that ends up being hilarious.
Invasion! from Baobab Studios uses this expressive bunny to convey the tone of your encounter with the third kind.
Due to this closeness, it becomes painfully evident whenever characters have static, emotionless faces. Immediately, the interactions become robotic, and the illusion of NPCs being real quickly falls away.
Since we are dealing with humans in The Torus Syndicate, we decided that the NPCs the players interact with should have some level of animation. By Extracting the eyes and mouth off our character textures, we converted them to sprite sheets, which was then re-introduced to the character as a series of faces that can be changed programmatically.
The end result makes the NPCs look dramatically more alive. Using the system, we can now create idle states for the NPCs, and have them actually “speak” to the player when they’re talking about something: