16 Sep 2022 | Sam Sprigg
AWE Talks: Storytelling Techniques for AR Entertainment

Welcome back to AWE Talks, our series that revisits some of the most engaging content from AWE’s catalog of presentations and panel discussions from past events. With an extensive library of content from AWE USA 2022 available on the awe.live platform, as well as to AWE’s YouTube Channel, there are still plenty of talks to dive into.

This week, we take a look at a great panel discussion from Brett Bagenstose, Principal at NeoPangea, and Kristen Soumas, Director, Consumer Content Partnerships at Verizon. The talk, titled 'The Metaverse Protagonist: Storytelling Techniques for AR Entertainment,' examines how the arrival of Mixed reality wearables presents an opportunity to turn users into protagonists in their own interactive story. However, casting the user as the role of lead character poses many narrative, technical, and usability challenges that have never before needed to be solved. Read below for some quick-hit takeaways, and of course watch the video below for a fascinating glimpse into the world of immersive storytelling through AR.

See the full video below along with quick-hit takeaways.

  • NeoPangea created 'Forensic Detective' – a nonlinear, interactive Augmented Reality crime scene experience that was rooted in entertainment (as opposed to gameplay).
  • The experience was released at a time where true crime documentaries and shows were really taking off. Forensic Detective took the experiences that one would have when watching a show like Law and Order, and applied it to AR instead.
  • According to Soumas, the industry is still waiting on more ubiquitous hardware in order to enable more AR engagement.
  • With many AR projects, the average time spent in an experience by a user is less than one minute. This therefore poses the problem that building an AR experience is a lot of work, for not a whole lot of dwell time by users. However, once AR glasses are more commonplace, that will hopefully change.
  • As AR devices penetrate the market, and as the XR market in general continues to grow, it provides an opportunity for storytellers to make not just games, but interactive stories where the user is the protagonist.
  • This untapped market is going to be revolutionary, whether it comes about in the next two years, or the next five to ten years. Either way though, it is going to happen, according to Bagenstose, so now is the best time to learn the tools of the trade.
  • Of the lessons learned throughout their creation journey, the first issue that required solving was storytelling itself.
  • Another challenge was point of view (pov). In the example of movie making, the cinematographers are the storytellers. In an AR experience, the user/the protagonist is the cameraman, as they are the ones walking around and choosing the shots.
  • Wireframes for the experience were built in VR using Tilt Brush, which greatly assisted with collaboration between storytellers, developers and digital artists, since all parties could work in parallel whilst prototyping. 
  • With iteration, the advice is "build something dirty, iterate quickly, use temporary assets - anything you can so that you can get a user flow in place so that somebody can test it," according to Bagenstose. It is important to not let your own developer bias cloud testing also.
  • User Interface is very important in AR. This experience used a hybrid of 3D and flat 2D UI elements.
  • The finished experience went to the #2 spot in the iTunes store under 'Entertainment Apps' in eight weeks.
  • The biggest complaint about the game was that there wasn't actually enough of it. Essentially, users were left wanting more stories.
  • In terms of dwell time in the experience, Forensic Detective only had about seven minutes of story content to it. This was also the average time spent in the app.
  • Looking towards the future, exciting aspects of AR storytelling are going to be: AI-driven characters in the room with you; co-play; GPS world mapping and utilizing a user's surroundings as part of an experience.

Watch the full video below.

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