Mars Solo began concept work in April with research inspired by combining the mechanics and immersive experience of gaming with a fully remote (or distributed) work life for modern teams, starting with Space Age itself. What if we could create a more connected environment online for our team to enjoy the at home or remote experience that could integrate and access on demand our best software and cloud based company resources as well? That became the Mars Solo mission.
With the prototype idea fleshed now fleshed out May become the ‘big push’ month. The team explored, learned, tried, experimented, and accomplished a lot. We dived deeply into the possibilities of Virtual Office HQ, and made our first step creating a gamified virtual experience that helps people working remotely to gain a more efficient, engaging, and connecting work experience. Most importantly, we constructed a solid foundation for our future design and development.
Before starting the prototype, we did research on previous competitor products, development tools, and potential target users, in order to make the best decisions both design wise and development wise. We learn about eXp World – the billion dollar virtual brokerage, on how it has been successful by connecting agents all over the world together and offer online training for them as well. We learned about VirBELA and were inspired by how they understand and design their virtual workspace.
To figure out the most needed features that should be included in our prototype, we research our target demographics. Their feedback helped us gain a deeper insight on our potential users and paved a way for us to design a user-centric experience. We researched and tried out SineSpace and OpenSimulator as potential development tools. Although none of them appear to be ideal, we were able to quickly switch to Unity 3D and start a new project there. This is a challenging while also ambitious move, but we are and will keep devoting our effort to overcome it. Here in May we have already had some achievements on our prototype.
Our current prototype in mainly focuses on three aspects, the basic project setup, avatar functionalities, and interactions. In order to start a basic playable project, we set up the camera, UI, and basic placeholder environment.
For our avatar functionalities, we implemented the basic animation, movements, gestures. Avatar customization has been a challenge for us, but we were finally able to implement a customization system that offers users flexibility to customize their unique character with basic models and clothes assets. Besides, the interaction is a big part in our May Sprint. Interaction systems allow users to interact with different kinds of objects or with other avatars. Some interact-able items are collectible, they will be stored in the user’s inventory once they are picked up. Each item has its own properties and are stored in the database. This system creates the possibility of various interactions and a sense of immersive.
All in all, April and May have been both challenging and exciting first months for the new Mars Solo project!
In June, we will expect to face different design challenges and new technical goals, and we are ready for them.
– Jasmine & the atom lab team