Michael Licht is a professor of level design at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering and has involved in video games for over 15 years and has an architecture background. He paired up with Nonny de la Pena in creating immersive journalism pieces because he wanted to use his skills beyond just making war simulations like Call of Duty.

michael-lichtHe talks about the importance of creating real and believable environments because our psyche will think that it’s fake unless it’s based upon real physics and has sound architecture. He also talks about the importance of being able to freely roam around in an untethered VR experience, and how can create a profound sense of presence

With immersive journalism, there’s not a lot of freedom to deviate from the source material because it starts to become fantasy and not a documentary of actual events. And he talks about the importance of creating virtual human characters through motion capture and facial capture to create an emotional resonance.

Michael is looking forward to continuing to collaborate with Nonny on immersive journalism pieces, but is also interested in creating an untethered VR game prototype to see if it’s something that people would enjoy as digital out-of-home entertainment. He sees that people are willing to take the red pill with virtual reality, and to be taken to a new place and have novel experiences there that will really blow them away. He’s looking forward to seeing the medium evolve and thanks Oculus for creating an open platform where people can experiment and innovate with the VR medium.


  • 0:00 – Intro. Game level designer and architect for 15 years. Looking for new application beyond war simulations with VR pipeline, and found Nonny & Immersive Journalism
  • 1:00 – Importance of creating environment and spaces. Creating immersion. Real environment that behaves in a real way. Architecture needs to be sound otherwise it’ll feel fake. Knowing how things are built plays a part of our psyche. Base it upon real physics and real life. Second part of immersion is that the space is plausible. It needs to seem realistic. Recreate environments based upon photos
  • 3:07 – Incorporating full body tracking. Use their own VR HMD system to create an untethered experience. Using a 20ft x 20ft space to freely move around. Creates profound sense of presence
  • 4:30 – Level design of games vs. immersive journalism. Forbidden from deviating from the event that actually happened. Use the audio to match it 1to-1.
  • 5:35 – Use of omniscient narration and whether that breaks immersion or adds more context
  • 6:31 – Virtual humans, and focusing on motion capture and emotional expression. Play actual audio for the mo-cap actors to match to actual events as much as possible.
  • 7:47 – Use of Force VR piece about an immigrant who was beaten to death. Recreated footage from cell camera footage
  • 9:30 – Where you’d like to go in the future with VR? Love to see more gaming applications in physical spaces and motion tracking within a large open space.
  • 10:30 – Faculty on level design
  • 10:50 – VR vs 2D screen. People want to take the red pill and taken to a new place. Facebook acquisition got people’s attention
  • 11:30 – Insights from Immersion 2014. Technology is so young, and there’s a lot of experimentation and lots of cool energy and looking forward to seeing what people do with VR.

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio

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