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The Importance of Scale in VR

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You're sick. You need to take your meds so you roll over to grab the pill bottle and your eyes go wide as you realize the pill bottle is the size of a drinking glass. Don't even want to think about how big the pills are that are in it. Or you are gazing in marvel at a magnificent library of old. A wonderful study stuffed full of volumes and volumes of books. Wonderful except for one problem... the books are the size of suitcases. Now I can appreciate large text as much as anyone my age but these book must have had letters that reach to three or four inches in size. The effect of both of these scenarios was an immediate loss of immersion which is what VR is all about. It's hard to believe the world around you is real when it's made for giants.

Why bring it up? Because scale IS important... particularly to digital artists. How would our favorite mashup look if we had everything out of scale? Or even one item for that matter. If the entire premise of the scene or game is to be smaller then we usually don't have problem with that. In VR you take an almost God-like view of the world below and around you but when you oversize scale it just ruins the experience. Throws the senses out of whack and you start looking for other mistakes instead or enjoying the positives of the scene. At least most digital artist I know would do that and quite possibly miss the point of the scene altogether. We tend to be a critical bunch and scale is a sticking point for many.

bigpillbottle.jpg

I've written about this before but not to this extent. I'm not sure what is making scale so difficult to get a handle on. Even well-financed, triple-A game companies are getting scale wrong here and there. Why? Maybe it was a reuse of older assets. Assets made before VR when scale just had to be close not real. I'll also state right here and now that scale is one of my pet peeves and I send more work back because of improper scale than just about anything else. You can imagine how I feel when I get a project sent back because I missed the sale of an item. It happens with busy scenes. Sometimes you just miss it but when it's the main items in a scene like the books or the pill bottle then scale is important to keep that immersive feeling intact.

bigbooks.jpg

Instead of simply reaching over and grabbing the pill bottle to continue on... the game flow is completely stopped by the mind taking in the staggering scale of the bottle. As I mentioned earlier this can lead to one looking around and spotting other objects out of scale. Our total VR immersion is gone, destroyed by items we couldn't possibly use in real life. We are conditioned human beings no matter how much we might not like that or want to deny it. An overlooked but critical item like scale can bring down entire projects if it's bad enough and prevalent enough. I will say in most cases the items we interact with in VR are close to or in the proper scale but their brethren in the scene may not be of the same scale which ruins the effect.

Why bring this up on a digital art site? Because a lot of us that use this site develop games or assets for games so how we view scale is important and we can be the first line of defense against improper scale. I know that sometimes after countless hours of work it's hard to want to dig back into a scene and correct those little mistakes but the problem is... those little mistakes can start adding up to one big mistake and you wouldn't want your name on that now would you?

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M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. M.D. is currently working on VR projects and characters. You can learn more about MD at his website.

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