108 Koans Art

108 Koans Retrospective – Koans 70–79

This week: Koans 70–79, in which I eat a donut, fix my keyboard, break my website, open some windows, remove some staples, and finally put a piece of art in a proper gallery.

View the Koans at

108 Koans Art

108 Koans Retrospective – Koans 60–69

This week: Koans 60–69, in which I conclude the mystery of the road CD, cut some paper, and run at a sign.

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Game Design Interaction Design UI Design Usability UX Design Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality Puzzle Game


My most recent VR project is a simple Simon-esque game in which the player must select floating orbs in the correct sequence in order to pass through a dungeon. This was the fourth project for Udacity’s VR Developer Nanodegree. I enjoyed this project a lot because there was more emphasis on designing a good user experience. I got to put my UX skills to use to create personas, draw sketches, conduct user tests, and iterate on the design.



One of the first things I did was create three personas of different users who might be interested in this game. I already wrote about this in a previous post, where you can also download the persona template that I designed. You can click the images below to see them bigger.


I made several sketches throughout the process. I haven’t make all of the sketches a reality yet, but I have a clear idea of what I want the final experience to be like. I added several bits of backstory to the game to make the player more invested in completing the puzzle.

Working in Unity

I created the game in four stages, with user testing and iteration after each stage.

  1. Create the environment (3D models and lighting). Do user testing for mood and scale.
  2. Create the UI for starting and resetting the game. Test for scale, placement, legibility, and clarity.
  3. Add camera motion and program UI buttons. Test for speed and comfort to avoid simulation sickness.
  4. Program game mechanics. Test for playability, understanding of rules, and overall experience.

User Testing and Iteration

Below are videos of my first playtest and my most recent playtest, so you can see the progress made so far.


Some of the things discovered and fixed from playtesting included:

  • Some people felt too short. Adjusted the camera position and the overall scale of the environment.
  • The UI was much too close to the camera at first. Repositioned it farther away.
  • The start UI blocked the view of the dungeon, so it was really disorienting when the camera started moving. I fixed this by making the UI partially transparent.
  • The camera motion was too fast. Slowed it down to create smoother transition into dungeon.
  • The positioning of the orbs was too high to be able to comfortably select the top two. Repositioned them to be more in the line of sight.


And these are some things that I haven’t fixed yet:

  • There is a glitch where the back wall of the dungeon changes color when you look at it.
  • Some people do not recognize the “Simon-esque” aspect of the game, so they don’t know what to do when the orbs light up.
  • The negative feedback sound when you select the wrong orb is not clear enough.

Current State

Here is gameplay video of the game in its current state, as of Oct. 1, 2017. For some reason the screen recording software did not capture the ambient environment sounds.


Planned Improvements

  • Incorporate all the story elements to give players more choices (see sketches above).
  • Program a lose condition if they select the wrong orb too many times.
  • Program different levels of difficulty.
  • Create either clear instructions about how to play or hints if the player gets stuck.
  • Animate the orbs to move out of the way upon completing the puzzle.
  • Give each orb a unique pitch and color.
  • Create background scenery.
  • Improve UI design.
  • Improve sound design.


108 Koans Art

Midpoint thoughts on 108 Koans Retrospective

I am now over half-way through recording the 108 Koans Five Year Retrospective. It feels good to be regularly putting stuff out there, even if no one is watching. I’m not even sure I want anybody to watch them. But that’s the perfectionist in me talking.

The Retrospective is really all about the act of making something, exposing my thoughts to the world, becoming comfortable with that, and getting in the mindset to keep doing it. I think posting the commentary online has helped me overcome some hang ups.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but rejoining social media within the last year might be having a very positive effect on my life.

I have been somewhat afraid of voicing anything online for a while. I was totally absent from social media for about five years. I think I had this idea that if I were to become well known someday, my social media accounts would become this archive of me and all the stupid stuff I ever posted. I didn’t want anything I posted on social media to become the canonical thing that I had said on a certain subject. But that led to me being afraid to put anything out into the public. Or, if not afraid, at least not in the habit of doing so.

With zero votes, the results are in. I am neither on nor not on Twitter.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but rejoining social media within the last year might be having a very positive effect on my life. I made my accounts totally public, and gradually became accustomed to publishing things for the whole world to see (not that many people actually see it, but the potential is there). Now that I’m recording the Retrospective, I can’t wait until I’m done with it so I can move on to making and sharing new art.

The Retrospective is also about devoting attention to your own work and recognizing it as important enough to think about, enjoy, and celebrate, even if no one else does. In a way, 108 Koans was about getting people comfortable with creating their own art as part of their everyday activity—art that is just for them. 108 Koans Retrospective, then, is about appreciating and celebrating that art at the same level as you would someone else’s (or maybe more, because it’s yours).

Instant gramification.

Part of the reason certain artists became well known is because they were writing about themselves and their friends. It’s easy to just want and hope that someone else will see your work, recognize its brilliance, and start writing about it. But that’s never going to happen until you have the confidence to promote yourself and recognize your own work as having significance.

So … forty-nine koans left to go. There are some good ones coming up. I might even get a bit nostalgic and sentimental toward the end. About my fear of saying something online that becomes canonical … I don’t want anything I’ve said in the commentary to become the canonical interpretation of a koan. But I also know I have no control over that. If, at some point in the future I become well known enough that some art historian looks back at all these hours of commentary, surely what I’ve recorded will become the default, definitive statement about each koan.

The difference between me now and me a year ago is … I’m okay with that. It’s not my intention, but that’s not going to stop me anymore from just creating, and sharing my creations. The more there is of myself out there, the more complete the picture is, and the more nuanced peoples’ understanding of me becomes. If only people payed attention to nuance.

It’s pretty hard to contextualize ten koans in 140 characters. Notice the number of likes.

You can view 108 Koans and all of the video commentary at