concept art

Designing a Custom VR Controller

23rd June 2017


Hey everyone, Jarrett here. Today I will be sharing my progress and processes of designing our custom in-game controller for Shapesong so far.


With our current build of Shapesong using replica models of the Vive and Touch controllers respectively, we’d much rather have a custom in-game model to represent the overall aesthetic of Shapesong’s main hub, which can be described as clean sci-fi infused with music and magic (another blog to come in the future), and to better suit our functionality. So that being said, let’s get our hands dirty, digitally of course.



How Does the Whirligig Function?

Now we already knew what we wanted to shoot for aesthetically along with the idea of having interchangeable parts, but before jumping into concepting it was important for me to understand what core features would be expected for the player to have access to at any given point to guide my design. After going over the in-game workflow as a team, we came to a realization that instead of having access to all the features at once, it may be more beneficial to group them into interchangeable modes with some common features in all the modes such as locomotion, an attachment slot for head, and a way to switch between the various modes. Thus concepting could commence!


Quick and Plentiful is the Name of the Game

As I do with any project, I spent a good amount of time finding references to help aid my design. For the first run of concepts, I kept them quick and rough trying to get a lot of varying ideas to refine afterwards. I started by blocking out silhouettes, then refining the strongest designs by adding details and the perception of depth with a palette of only 4 tones (white, 33% gray, 66% gray, and black). However, the first batch of concepts came out a bit bulky and less like an efficient  music creation/editing tool. But not all was lost as I was able to carry over elements that went well for the next batch, such as rounder surfaces over sharp edges.



A Narrowed Down Style Makes the Papa Bears Happy

After reviewing the previous round of concepts and taking aspects of what worked well, I moved on to another round, focusing more on simpler handle/grip to avoid bulkiness. I followed a similar process by creating a silhouette then using a simple palette to suggest details. The only difference this time was I focused on one design at a time.




A few designs in I decided to change things up a little and go with a white silhouette to suggest an outer shell with fewer details instead of micro details. This was a step in the right direction as it nailed the clean sci-fi aesthetic by having larger/simpler panels which could then expand to show micro details for the final version if needed. I then duplicated this new design and made some minor alterations for a variant of the same design. Having narrowed down the style, I could now focus on creating more variants and really hone the design down!




Splicing and Dicing: The Birth of a Custom Controller

With the style narrowed down, it was time to get some variants and see where it’ll take us. I began by duplicating the stronger of the two designs then making minor adjustments to the head and paneling as the grip area was pretty solid already. I made three quick variants and ran them by the rest of the office with much satisfaction all around.



It was suggested by Ryan to combine elements of two of the strongest designs, which I obliged. With a little bit of photoshop magic, I spliced and diced elements of the two designs and played around a little with functionality to Frankenstein an even stronger concept! It’s Alive! Boy were the masters pleased!


The core design was locked and ready to go! Now what? My next steps are to take the side view I had just completed and make a model sheet of its other views to ensure a solid design before moving to modeling. Stay tuned for part two of Designing a Custom VR Controller as I break into the processes of going from concept to creation.



Once again, this is Jarrett, and this has been a look into my design processes for the art of Shapesong. As always, feel free to ask any questions you may have regarding my process or just to say hello. I look forward to sharing more insights in my next post. See you then!



Jarrett Rhodes - Environmental Artist

Concepting, Design, 3D Modeling, Texturing

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