An Interactive Horror Ride

WARNING: This game and its recordings feature flashing lights and loud sounds which may affect users with photosensitive epilepsy or other photo sensitivities.

Commute Overview: 

  • An interactive horror ride built using the Entertainment Technology Center's Cave hydraulic floor and surround projection screen system

  • 5-person development team (2 programmers, 2 artists, 1 sound designer)

  • I personally focused on narrative design and project production/management

  • Commute was ultimately selected for showcase at the ETC Fall Festival and received over 300 guests


Creative Goal: 

  • Tell an interactive horror story by simulating a subway using the CAVE's pneumatic platform. Live actors were also deployed to keep the entire experience cohesive and brisk.   


Process over 2 weeks: 

  • Week 1: Display a Subway interior on CAVE screens and simulate a subway crash on the platform

  • Week 2: Refine narrative arc between 3 train cars, implement monster, design puzzles, rehearse script

Process after acceptance to Festival

  • Week 3: Playtest ways to make the experience work with less manpower and design a new, more dramatic ending

  • Week 4: Rehearse new ending with all actors, create rotating actor schedule, and refine flashlight "feel" (make it easier to make monsters go away)


Design Tools used

  • Frequent playtesting and iteration of intuitive player "actions"/"controls" in the CAVE

  • Drafting of improvisational acting beats 

    • i.e. the Subway worker will always say "look at that smoke" to draw player attention to the monster​

  • Moving from working prototype to working prototype, pivoting as necessary (agile)

  • Fine tuning flashlight/monster "feel"

    • Players cannot lose the game, but they have to think they can​

Production Tools used

  • Agile-based feature lists that are agreed upon by the team for the next build version

  • Collective brainstorming to find an idea everyone could be excited by

  • Letting teammates agree on deadlines and the order they want to perform tasks

  • Consulting experts for help with pneumatic platform, trip hazards, warning signs

    • resident electrical engineer David Purta and set designer Ruth Comley  

  • Facilitating communication between teammates of different disciplines, languages, and cultures

  • Prioritizing key features and functionality over others

    • e.g.  making a subway scene appear on all screens before creating a detailed monster model) 

Future Features

  • Make the experience run automatically, i.e. without physical actors or board operators

    • e.g. Train Conductor gives tips through intercom/speakers 

  • Make the experience longer to justify having actors and specific showtimes

    • Adding more tools/puzzles ​

    • Incorporating more ride elements 

  • Incorporate more practical effects 

    • e.g. fake blood, real monster costumes, smoke machines, etc.​


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©2019 by Derek Chan