Tombs of NY - A Speculative VR Tour Experience

Game Concept

Tombs of NY is a speculative far-future VR series which takes place in the abandoned tunnels of New York’s former subway. 

The caverns are now home to billionaire tombs, corporate bunkers and celebrity doomer palaces guarded by sophisticated traps and automated systems. 

As a tourist-looter underground, you will discover the buried secrets and most of all the priceless treasures that have been hidden away for centuries.

I began work on the design phase of this project through Out in Tech's mentorship program, many thanks to my mentor Zach Deocadiz and to all the people who make OiT possible.

Field Research

To base the experience off the real subway, I documented as many aspects of the MTA as possible. 

Photos included signage, door locks, grit and grime, machine interfaces, maps, train signals and more.

The subway system is so rich with details that usually go unobserved.

Flowcharts of the MetroCard acquisition process to inform Tombs game assets.

Interactions: Card Machine Interface

As any commuter knows, getting a fare card is best done quickly. To simulate this experience, I simplified the usual MetroCard acquisition interface.

First the user taps start, then selects the card and enters their pin number (any #). After that the machine processes the transaction and issues the Card.

The touch buttons pop out of the screen for more tactility in anticipation of future interfaces that might be implemented by the time this game occurs.

Assets: Tile and Placards

No station is complete without grungy tile, subway ad spaces, and old dried up gum. 

Strategically placed vector graphics replicate spots in paint application, various stains, and longterm water damage.

This announcement poster gives context and a direction for the user to follow in the game in an integrated way.

Font choice is New York by Susan Kare.

Interactions: Check Inventory

The game inventory is implanted in the user’s left hand.

Easy to check, simply turn the hand over to display your keys and TombCard.

Smooth and intuitive gesture controls that are ideal for VR.

Assets: TombCard and Key

The TombCard is based off the original MetroCard and the Key is created from research into subway car keys. Both tools are thickened and made more dimensional for greater ease of use interacting in VR.

A Card is easily understandable by users based on prior subway knowledge and common affordances

Shape of card is more amorphous to be reminiscent of an ancient tablet with raised letters and shapes.

The Key retains helix cutout in fob and zig-zagged teeth. 

It can only be turned the correct direction and when a hatch is unlocked it will pop open

Interactions: Swipe TombCard

You can spot New Yorkers by their flawless swipe.

The user has to swipe their TombCard at the correct speed to gain entry to the caverns below.

Screen says Enter to tell user what action to perform, and the swipe slot has been enlarged for ease of use. The turnstile has big indicators to show successful swipe.

If a card swipe is too slow the turnstile will flash a red X, if the swipe is fast enough a green checkmark flashes and the turnstile will be activated

Sound Effects

This compilation video includes all of the final scene sound effects for the machine buttons, swipes, beeps, and background atmospheric noise.


Working on Tombs of NY was an absolute delight, and I couldn’t have asked for a better interactive design mentor!

I learned so much about UX research, diagramming, & 3D rendering. I feel much more confident in my design chops than before.

I look forward to more multifaceted projects like this in the future! The career tips I have picked up during the program were so helpful.

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