VR Gamers Tool Up at the Shell V-Power Virtual Pitstop

Shell VPower Virtual Pitstop

Shell V-Power Virtual Pitstop is a four-player mixed-reality VR game in which players compete as a team to put a V8 Supercar through a virtual pitstop and back out onto the track as fast as possible. It was built by Sydney experiential and digital company Traffik to celebrate the 50th year of collaboration in motorsport between the Dick Johnson Racing Team and Shell Australia, and was launched at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide 2-4 March 2017. Traffik has entered their project into the AEAF Awards.

Narrated by Dick Johnson, the players first follow a training session, before they are transported down to the pits at the Clipsal 500 to work on the Shell V8 Supercar under real racing time pressures, noise and confusion. At the end of gameplay, every player receives a link by SMS to a customised video of themselves at work, seen in a mixed-reality scene playing the game, edited to other footage of their in-game experience. The game continues to tour during the 2017 and 2018 racing calendar across Australia, US and the UK.

Data Capture

James K. Neale, senior digital producer at Traffik, spoke to Digital Media World about designing, building and making the game work for players at the event. “Data capture and social amplification were the major parts of this activation,” he said. “On the day at the Clipsal 500, staff working as brand ambassadors would enter player information into tablets, and shoot a team photo and video to cut into our video output.

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“The tablet was then passed to other staff inside the playing area where they activated two cameras that each player had mounted on the wall near their playing position. One functioned as a ‘selfie camera’ to record a short clip of his or her face in the green screen environment.

“Mounted above the ‘selfie’ was second camera that was used to capture mixed reality footage. This camera was calibrated into Unity and produced a full gameplay-length clip of green screen footage which was used as the mixed reality composite, placing the player into the 3D scene as they play the game with their headset on.

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Game Control and Social Media

“The game control was driven by a webserver writing control files onto our Unity game server. The players’ data was added to the database via the tablets - name, age, email, mobile, and left or right hand preference. Then we could drag and drop players by name into their preferred position around the car before guiding them to the correct headset for that spot.”

“Once the players’ headsets were on and the game began, each player was filmed on the green screen camera while the server logged particular points in time for each player - for example, a log was written once the first tyre was off, and when the brake pad task was finished. These log points determined which parts of their green screen video to use in the edit.”

At the end of play, the team’s time was posted onto the leaderboard on a dedicated website, and Traffik’s video server would cut all the collected footage together (in-game greenscreen, team and selfie cam footage) to create a custom, mixed-reality video which was posted online to a personalised web page. The entire editing process was automated, making the videos quick and uniform.

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“Because the social media amplification was key for the client, each player would receive an SMS with a link to their web page where they found their team photo and access to their video, which they were invited to share via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. In the end, about 25% of players shared the link to social media and of those, 95% of people used Facebook.” View a sample video here.

Clipsal 500 Pitlane Experience

James also described the CG work involved in the experience. “The in-game part of the videos is 100% CGI 3D to take advantage of the stereoscopic view in the Vive headsets. The Clipsal 500 pitlane was modelled to replicate the real life pits exactly, and the Traffik team worked closely with Dick Johnson Racing /Team Penske to ensure the experience was as true to life as possible,” James said.

“From the outset of the project, we were in constant contact with Ryan Story, the Team's owner and manager. He was instrumental in supplying all necessary reference material and was very keen to help. He provided all sorts of reference such as artwork for official livery on the car and pit garage, the drivers' and pit crew suits and helmets and voice-over scripting.”

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They travelled to Queensland to meet the race team and tour their facilities as well as record Dick Johnson's voice for the voice over in the tutorial and pit section of the game. The car was modelled from a realtime library car they already had, plus unique parts created directly using their CAD files.

While in Queensland, they video'd the pit crew making practise runs, giving them a feel for exactly where people stand and where items are placed during the pit stop. They also used archive video footage of the Shell team during actual races to improve the animation of all the avatars in the game. During production, all 3D models, textures, lighting and animation were completed using Blender then imported to Unity via FBX.

Vive Hand Controllers

James said, “Each player had two hand controllers. Based on our research with the race team, we programmed them so that one controller was seen as a plain glove, and the other as a glove holding a rattlegun, the big pneumatic air guns used to loosen or tighten the wheelnuts on the cars.

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“Our global game control tablet allowed us to swap left or right hands depending on player preference at the start of any game. We also used the trigger on the Vive controllers to activate the fingers of the glove hand, allowing the user to pull the pins on the wheels to release the brake pads, or pick up the pieces required to complete the Pitstop.”

The Shell V-Power Virtual Pitstop game is a good example of how interactive and versatile VR games are becoming. Its use of automation increases the ability to personalise the experience with captured data as well. Apart from having a lot of fun and getting a good looking video to share at the end, the participants learn racing pitstop skills and have a greater awareness of the Dick Johnson Racing Team and the Clipsall 500. The clients have also extended their reach through the social media integration, using further automation.  www.traffik.com.au