Normal VR’s first game receives big upgrades to facilitate better social experiences.
Cuteness is a hard thing to capture. Max Weisel, Normal VR’s founder, understands this better than most. During his fireside chat at OC6, Max discussed the long design process that resulted in Half + Half’s iconic avatar, “Wanda.” Realistic avatars, they knew, often creep too close to uncanny valley and can sometimes result in an unsettling experience for players.
They also found that this rule applied to realistic facial expressions, not just realistic likenesses. Over many iterations, they abstracted the avatar’s design until they were left with an unmoving, but gently smiling face and a vaguely humanoid body.
But something was still missing. How could players express themselves and convey emotion without the help of facial expressions? The answer: more expressive body language. While keeping the face simple and cute, Wanda’s new body draw inspiration from sources like Baymax to provide a friendlier, marshmallow-esque appearance. Like a teenager going through a rebellious phase, Wanda made some unique outfit choices before settling into a calmer design.
In the end, Normal VR settled on a simple color palette, cylindrical body, domed head, and what Max has dubbed “noodley” arms. The body and arms combine to create an adorable, highly expressive character that lends itself to the bright and friendly atmosphere that is Half + Half’s signature style.
Though the experience has already been applauded for its wonderfully unique brand of social interaction and kid-like fun (and even took center-stage in Oculus’ OC6 keynote alongside titles like Vader Immortal – Episode II and Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond), the team at Normal VR has been hard at work refining those systems and mechanics in an update that should be live at the time of this writing.
Improved logic makes it easier for players to get into matches with others. You will now be able to see the number of online players, as well as how many are currently in each mini-game. They have also allowed players to wait inside an experience until enough players join, with those on the opposite end able to see which mini-games are waiting for more players to join.
You’ll now see other Wandas in the Homeworld as they gather around doors that lead to each experience. With safety and comfort in mind as the platform grows, there are also new mechanics to limit and streamline the way players interact.
Similar to the mechanics featured in other social VR experiences, such as Rec Room, high fives can now be used across Half + Half to enable easy matchmaking. In addition, Swim + Glider are now open worlds, allowing players to hop in and explore alongside other random users.
There’s no question that as Normal VR’s flagship experience, Half + Half has set a new precedent for wholesome, VR cuteness. Available on Oculus Rift and Quest headsets, this new update will enable more people to enjoy this vibrant world of games, exploration, and noodley arms.
Half + Half is available now for $14.99 on the Oculus Quest and Rift/Rift S.
Feature Image Credit: Normal VR