Paolo Villanueva

The Apartment is our midterm project produced for our course in Recursive Reality. The goal is to produce a VR  Horror Experience horror using film and video game techniques.

The project was produced in Collaboration with Jin Liu and Ta-Kai Shueh.

Role: VR Experience Design





The initial prompt was to produce a VR experience that would trigger an emotion, and the emotion me and my group chose was fear. Mainly because we felt that VR provided a perfect avenue of an experience where you cannot look in another direction to escape the fear.

Where most horror films you watch in the cinema can easily be removed by merely closing your eyes or looking away, VR despite looking away still keeps you within the experience and that I believe is what attracted us to build this experience. 



I began brainstorming the concept of the VR experience by analyzing the fundamentals I learned from film, namely Setup and Payoff as well as story beats.

In film you have a concept called Setup and Payoff, Setup and payoff is a technique used in storytelling, particular in humor, in which a seemingly irrelevant detail or statement is “set up” early in the story, and has an importance that becomes very clear later. This is also efficiently used in horror films where a detail of a monster or object is presented and is clear later.

Another concept in film is called Story Beats Story beats are the points of action upon which you hang your basic story. When you connect the actual individual action points, they build up to story, like a puzzle. These are the story moments that are the X happens, and then Y happens… and then Z happens… and on.

So we mapped the concept and spread it out on the VR experience evenly.






1. Introduce the player to the clean room
2. Introduce the player to the look of the scary rooms
3. Introduce the player to the normal background and the scare music
4. Introduce the player to the monster from a safe distance


1. Player is familiar with whats a safe room
2. Player is familiar with that’s not a safe room
3 Player is familiar with music
4. Player is familiar with the look of the monster




1. Player wakes up in a normal room (Payoff: 1)
2. Player continues to walk in a room that changes
3. Player encounters a scary  (Payoff 2)
4. Player hears music that changes (Payoff 3)
5. Player is back to the safe room (Payoff 1)
6: Player is surprised with the monster close up (Payoff 2, 3 & 4)
7. Player is scared and the experience resets



From these maps we were able to build an experience rapidly and quickly. Where I designed the rooms and sequencing and my team mates did the scripting and the room design.

From the onset we wanted the player to control movement, rather than sitting, that way the player has more agency towards the experience and would associate the actions to the emotions that they would be feeling throughout the experience.