The Talking Dead

A virtual reality storytelling game integrated with Twitch Chat.

CHALLENGE

How might we help people overcome stage fright?

SOLUTION

In The Talking Dead, players tell a story to an audience of approaching zombies. Each zombie is associated with a word, and the only way to kill the zombie is to weave that zombie’s word into the story.


When the game is played live on Twitch, viewers can use the chat to add words that are used to generate zombies. Viewers can also affect the speed at which the zombies approach the player by voting on the player’s performance.

Check it out on Github!

TEAM

Cameron Erdogan

Nathan LeBlanc

Po Bhattacharyya

Tony Wang

DURATION

8 weeks

PLATFORM

Oculus Rift

TOOLS
KEY FEATURE - 01

A storytelling game that challenges players to maintain a consistent narrative

Players need to tell a story within a time constraint. Speaking in public sometimes involves coming up and maintaining a logically coherent narrative under pressure, so we wanted to create a similar feeling for the players in the game.

1.1 Provide guidance to players to boost creativity

Before the game starts, players are provided with a prompt with a person, a location, and an action. Players are also tasked to tell a story that lasts for a certain time period.

1.2 Help players evaluate the story through Twitch audience

Players have the option to connect the game to Twitch and have their stories evaluated by Twitch audience in real-time. Details about the Twitch platform integration can be found below.

 
KEY FEATURE - 02

Approaching zombies to add a sense of urgency

Each zombie walks toward the player with a word on its head. The player must use the words in their story to kill the zombies or get eaten by the zombies. Stage fright sometimes comes from having to think fast within a short time, and we wanted to create a similar sense of urgency by adding endless approaching zombies.

 
KEY FEATURE - 03
Involve Twitch audience

Through a chatbot built in the channel, the audience provides words that appear on zombies and votes on players’ stories. Presenting or performing in front of an audience is another source of stress, and we wanted to mimic the stress by involving real audience watching players live on Twitch.

3.1 Add an audience-oriented interface to encourage engagement

We designed an interface for the audience. Changes audience made to the game: word added and vote cast are shown in the overlay UI so that the audience is able to see their actions realized in the game in real-time.

3.2 The audience control the game through a chatbot

We built a chatbot that takes audience input through Twitch chat. The audience can provide words and vote on current stories with basic commands.

HOW WE GOT THERE - 01

Why making it a game?

Our initial idea is to build a therapy tool for public speaking in virtual reality. After conducting competitive analysis on existing solutions, we saw one limitation standing out among the tools –– people who are intimidated by public speaking won’t start using the tools in the first place. ​​

We decided to make something fun instead so that it:

Helps get people stared

Keeps the stressful experience

 
 
HOW WE GOT THERE - 02

Coming up with fun ideas

By Round Robin and quick playtests

We used Round Robin to come up with ideas to make the game fun. To see how effective our ideas were in an early stage, we playtested the experience with minimal artifacts.

One of the idea sheets generated by Round Robin.

Playtesting with just paper.

Game flow map

We finalized the flow of our game after a few rounds of playtesting. Here is the final game map that guided our development process afterward.

Created by Po.

 
HOW WE GOT THERE - 03

Refining details

Word filter: solution for heckling and inappropriate language

Twitch community is notorious for its habit of heckling and usage of inappropriate language. We implemented a word filter in the chatbot to try to eliminate this issue.

Environment design

To create a context for players to feel immersed, we designed our main game scene around the theme of a gloomy graveyard. We put a podium in the middle of the graveyard which is where players stand. All UI components for players are displayed on the podium as diegetic UI to increase the sense of immersiveness.

Early sketch of the podium when designing an interface for players in VR.

 

Limitations and next steps

1. Metrics

In order to help players improve their skills, an evaluation system with meaningful metrics is necessary. We could explore and establish metrics that measure how good a performance is, such as usage of filler words.

2. ​Level design

We want to ease players into the game. Starting with a practice mode that doesn’t involve Twitch audience, the game would level up by adding more zombies, increasing the speed of zombies, and eventually connect to Twitch.