Design principles are valid whether you are creating a game, app or event a physical event.
The primary benefit of basing your design around a single theme is that all of the elements will reinforce one another, working towards a common goal.
To understand how you can reinforce the theme again and again in your design, we will look at an example. The author Jesse Schell, who is a video game developer, worked on a virtual reality game for Disney based on Pirates of the Caribbean. He used a number of elements to bring about the central theme - "being a pirate".
The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is not about pirates; it is about being a pirate!
Computer Augmented Virtual Environment (CAVE) is basically a small room with 3D projections on the walls.
Square and hexagonal CAVEs are common, but they built a new four-screen CAVE shape that was better suited to a pirate ship simulation.
Not every CAVE experience uses stereoptics, but they chose to do so, because it gives a sense of depth. Letting your eyes focus on infinity makes it feel like you are out at sea.
To give the feeling of a rocking, swaying boat they custom built a platform using pneumatics, because it felt the most like a ship at sea.
The sound designers created a custom ten-speaker sound system that could play sounds from all directions. Some of the speakers were designed only to play cannon blasts and were placed at precisely the right distance from the boat so that the waveform would collapse in your stomach, so you would not just hear but feel the cannons firing.
Part of the pirate fantasy is steering a ship, and part of it is firing cannons. They could have used joysticks or other off-the-shelf hardware, but that wouldn’t be very good theming. Instead, the ship is steered with a ship’s wheel, and they had real metal cannons that players would use to aim and fire.
People who step up to the controls need a place to put their bags, purses, etc. A shelf would work but instead, they created bags out of fishing nets that really look like they belong on a boat.
The vents were placed at the front of the ship, blowing back, so players feel a breeze as they sail their ship.
Everything they did and every decision they took were focused on whether it would reinforce the theme and deliver the essential experience they wanted to get across i.e. "feel like a pirate".
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How the Pirates of the Caribbean themed virtual reality game at Disney was designed by using game design principles.
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