Museum of Symmetry
| 20 min
Selections and Awards
Best VR GameCanadian Screen Awards 2019
Winner - Interactive Production - FictionNumix Awards 2019
People’s Choice for Interactive Experience AwardFIVARS 2018
Official SelectionAnnecy International Animation Film Festival 2018
Official SelectionAnima Mundi Festival 2018
Official SelectionSiggraph Vrcade 2018
Official Competition: Virtual RealityOttawa International Animation Festival 2018
Official selection Festival du nouveau cinéma 2018
Official SelectionA MAZE. International Games and Playful Media Festival 2018
Best Out of Body ExperienceNorth Bend Film Festival 2018
Gold Audience Award, Best VR WorkFantasia International Film Festival, Montréal, Canada (2019)
Kids Choice Award Cinekid, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2019
“There are no rules here. Just enjoy!”
Part invitation, part dare, an impish game mistress welcomes you into a delightfully disorienting pleasure dome inspired by geometry and nature—and wired with infectious dance beats.
What happens next feels like swimming through poetic rainbow juice.
An absurdist mind-and-body romp through the highest clouds to the ocean deep, Museum of Symmetry is the explosive feel-good alter-universe of cartoonist and animator Paloma Dawkins—a room-scale VR experience with 2D animation in a 3D playground as never been seen before.
An “other-dimension” VR adventure game that takes you on an absurdist mind-and-body romp through the highest clouds to the ocean deep.
An absurdist mind-and-body romp through the highest clouds to the ocean deep, Museum of Symmetry is the explosive feel-good alter-universe of cartoonist and animator Paloma Dawkins—a room-scale VR experience with 2D animation in a 3D playground.
“There are no rules here. Just enjoy!”
Part invitation, part dare, an impish game mistress welcomes you into a delightfully disorienting pleasure dome inspired by geometry and nature—and wired with infectious dance beats. What happens next feels like swimming through poetic rainbow juice.
An absurdist mind-and-body romp through the highest clouds to the ocean deep, Museum of Symmetry is the explosive feel-good alter-universe of cartoonist and animator Paloma Dawkins, produced by the National Film Board of Canada and brought to life by pioneer VR studio Casa Rara. A room-scale VR metaphor for life, it takes the player through landscapes of earth, fire, wind and water, where vivacious 2D characters live in a 3D playground. Museum of Symmetry disrupts conventional game storytelling to create an unexpected pleasure-positive trip in VR as never experienced before.
Grab your Vive headset and take a trip on a kaleidoscopic interactive joyride!
The game begins in a virtual museum. As you explore your surroundings, a gentle “psst” grabs your attention. You look around to see a pair of wild but friendly eyes peering out of the dark. You’re invited to follow and leave your fear behind…
A refreshing and uplifting burst of artistic expression that takes the player through earth, fire, wind and water, Museum of Symmetry disrupts conventional game storytelling to create an unexpected pleasure-positive trip through nature and self.
There are no time limits or dead ends, only possibilities and room for reflection. You can explore at your own pace—with some gentle nudging along the way.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is not what happens during the gameplay itself, but how you feel once you return to the real world.
About the Technology
Museum of Symmetry is the NFB Animation Studio’s first foray into interactive VR. It sets out to test assumptions about “reality” versus “believability” in this powerful new medium. The goal was to offer the player a fantastical journey that is both emotional and physical, and to test the possibilities for suspending disbelief in VR. The decision to use hand-drawn 2D animation, which had never been seen previously in VR, was a conscious extension of this goal—to embrace a stylized reality from the imagination and pen of a talented artist. Here’s a brief look at the key technology that brought this magic to life.
The project was first developed as a 2D desktop game, using hand-drawn animation to take the player on a playful journey inspired by patterns and symmetry in nature. As the environments and characters took shape, it became increasingly apparent that, to have a cathartic experience, the player must embody the simulated environments. The NFB teamed up with then-budding VR upstart Casa Rara, a studio with expertise in AAA and empathic games and a desire to branch out into more unusual immersive experiences. The core concept was adapted for HTC Vive, which allowed the player to walk, hold and explore at their own pace. Immediately, Paloma’s intuitive artistic language clicked with the form. Unnecessary game mechanics were trashed and the story was unburdened from typical narrative tropes.
The biggest challenge was figuring out how to make VR convincing with flat 2D animation. This had never been done before and posed fundamental hurdles, creatively and technologically. To respect Dawkins’ unconventional stylistic choice, Casa Rara turned to the Unity game engine, widely used in creating 2D and 3D games. The team used the engine’s VR Toolkit plugin; its quasi plug-and-play pre-built VR tools eliminated a sizeable chunk of the coding needed in order to incorporate specific elements into the gameplay.
Next was finding a way to bring depth to Dawkins’ 2D cartoons, created with TVPaint animation software. This was largely done inside the Unity engine with script that turned the 2D sprite images into camera-facing billboards. This meant that no matter how the player moves around a 2D object in the 3D space, the object always faces the player. This creates the impression of being immersed in 2D decor without ever seeing objects from the side, which would break the illusion, like looking at the edge of a piece of paper. Casa Rara also experimented heavily with Shaders to adapt how 2D material would be rendered in the 3D environment. The result is a surprisingly seamless and beautiful design.
Museum of Symmetry runs on the HTC Vive VR headset and was launched in April 2018 at the A MAZE. 7th International Games and Playful Media Festival in Berlin.
Directed and Animated by
Ashley Obscura & Paloma Dawkins
CASA RARA STUDIO
Lead Game Designer
Lead 3D Artist
Eliott le Calvé
3D Artist Intern
Sound Effects Editor
Desert of Dark
Sienna Mazzone as Peak
Alyson Leah as Dawn
Nicole Jones as Octa
Kaoru Matsui as Gaia
Adam Capriolo as Torus
Valerie Mervis as Rococo
Adam Capriolo as Sappho
Rosalina Di Sario
Technoculture, Art and Games Research Centre (TAG)
Avalon Duhaime Pyott
Thanks to our playtesters
Francis Sheridan Paré
Avalon Duhaime Pyott
Tanya A. Short
And a special thanks to all friends and family that helped along the way. Couldn’t have done it without you.
PRODUCED BY THE NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA © 2018
About the NFB
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is one of the world’s leading digital content hubs, creating groundbreaking interactive documentaries and animation, mobile content, installations and participatory experiences. NFB interactive productions and digital platforms have won over 100 awards, including 21 Webbys. To access this unique content, visit NFB.ca.