What Any VR Game Can Learn From the ‘Electronauts’ Interface – Inside XR Design



The hierarchy design in Electronauts also lends itself well to flexibility. With tools contained in physical cubes, the user is free to manipulate them in whatever way is most useful for their specific needs. This also makes the interface inherently ambidextrous; instead of having the Backing Tracks tool hard-coded into the right position, for instance, I can easily swap it to the left side which is better for me because I’m left-handed.

Being able to quickly and easily arrange the interface in the way that’s best for you is a lot like being able to drag windows around on a computer. In the context of making music, being able to quickly and easily adapt the workspace for the given task makes the interface more useful than if it was hard-coded to a single arrangement.

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One test of a great interface is if it can be used quickly and precisely, without getting into the way of the user. Electronauts couldn’t demonstrate this more clearly, as it allows users to smoothly control tons of variables even while being rushed along by the beat of each song.

What I really want people to take away from this though is that the principles of ease-of-use, hierarchy, and flexibility are ideal in any VR user interface, not just in a music game. The core design concepts imbued in the Electronauts interface can be applied to many other VR experiences, right down to using drumsticks—or some kind of hand-held implement—as the primary means of interface interaction.

Enjoyed this breakdown? Check out the rest of our Inside XR Design series and our Insights & Artwork series.

And if you’re still reading, how about dropping a comment to let us know which game or app you think we should cover next?


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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Happy Sandwich

    Loved the analysis! Please do more of this kind of content.

    I’m specifically interesting in the “golden rules” and “cardinal sins” of VR design, and how to create really immersive experiences.

  • Great idea on the VR design series, loved it! And Electronauts was definitely a great way to kickstarting it. Keep ’em coming Ben

  • This is why I love Road To VR… cool technical articles that teach me something. Please keep this series going

  • Would love to see an analysis of the movement systems used in the abandoned PCVR game “In Death”.

    The sheer physicality of moving and firing using the virtual bow generates rich proprioception giving a really grounded feel in the game world, easily the best implementation of teleportation I’ve used. You have to work your upper body to move, its very smart.

    Whether creeping slowly with the slow stick locomotion, throwing a short range teleport shard or shooting teleport and combat arrows, pushing enemies back with shield bash, the physicality is simply fantastic.

  • D

    From my point of view, this type of attention to space is as fundamental as it is underrepresented, and is one of the biggest first steps to recognizing its potential. I’m glad I’ve found this site.

  • Corey Reynolds

    “Humans are evolutionarily adept at manipulating tools…”

    The Victorian Era called and wanted you to know they even they are ashamed of their garbage theory. You can do better.

  • foamreality

    You missed one the best design features of electronaughts: The drums (bell balls) themselves. When you hit them they move down with the stick. Without tactile feedback this allows you to see how hard you are hitting. If gives a sense of feeling/feedback that no other VR drum games have managed. I’ve played many, and electronaughts way works. I also like the ball shapes as drums too. A great game, great design, and this was an OLD game now and I remember thinking at the time the future looks amazing for VR, but almost nobody copied these great immersive designs that were extremely focused and tested for VR specificity.

    • Ben Lang

      Good point, that’s a great detail

  • ameba#23234 mdrea

    Without physical feedback such programs are merely a gimmick