The force of virtual reality is gaining more momentum every single day, people who have never heard of or tried VR are experiencing it in the masses. The smiles that spread across the faces of those everywhere entering these magical worlds for the first time are becoming the fuel to the developer’s fire. But what if the developers were creating something more than just games? Instead of a gamepad in your hands, you were invited to sit back and enter a deep, stylized semi-interactive story that is far from watching a movie in a theatre.
VR In A Bar saw the return of Psytec Games, creators of Crystal Rift and the first instance of material from Nick Pittom’s company Fire Panda which has received accolades for the reconstructions of Spirited Away scenes in VR. Little did I know what I was about to experience would leave me in a state of shock and awe, like I had seen the best movie trailer ever and couldn’t wait for the full release.
Storytelling in virtual reality is a concept that’s been getting my attention more than games lately, my curiosity has lead me in a search into how developers can use this expanding technology to bring us experiences that could overpower the movies we watch today. While some of these take a “hands off” approach there are technologies that I’ve witnessed that can bring the action to you, wherever you are in virtual reality. Colosse’s main attraction adapts to the viewers “gaze” which wields subtle control over the events that are unfolding around them, in a story that explores the themes of fear, power and respect.
I was given a brief introduction to the story from Nick before I donned a Galaxy Gear and plunged into a world saturated in blues, whites and immersive sound design. I was joined by “The Hunter” who I assumed was attempting to catch fish in the arctic iceberg infused ocean until he froze suddenly, looked straight over my head, and that’s when it happened. A large shadow crept over the icy beach accompanied by some very loud thudding and within seconds, a huge giant took a stride the equivalent of a football pitch over our heads.
The Hunter makes a run for a nearby cave where the screen fades and re-joins our protagonist taking shelter and inspecting inscriptions that resemble the giant on the walls, the audible thudding begins to echo into the cave. At this point I’m unsure who the antagonist of the story is, the giant reappears and leans into the cave to inspect its possible inhabitant, out of nowhere the hunter sneaks up in a tense moment and removes a crystal from the giant’s chest.
The sequence, coupled with some excellent atmospheric music, created a dramatic change to my perception of the hunter, the deep, vibrating cry of the giant as he fell lifelessly into the ocean hit me hard in terms of the possible selfish motivation of the protagonist. Is the crystal valuable? Was the giant a legitimate threat? These events are what prompted all the what’s how’s and why’s in my head to go crazy, the four minutes of story gave you enough information by the end to demand to know more, unfortunately it was over rather quickly.
After I returned to the real world I couldn’t believe how perfect the pacing had been, the dialogue free storytelling and the attractive polygon art style had completely captivated me, I wanted to return to the world to find the answers to the questions I was asking myself. Nick had a massive grin over his face when he was met with my reaction, I took the chance to fire off some questions about the experience and how it came to be.
L: So, that was incredible, where did the idea’s come from for the setting, characters and story?
N: Everything in the experience has been based off completely 2D art created by our artists, and after piecing together our own interpretations we came up with the concept of “Long Lost Great Spirits” and named them as the “Colosse”.
L: The art style is incredibly suited to the story and the world itself, how did you achieve this and were there any benefits opting for this type of aesthetic design?
N: The first thing we thought when the demo reached completion was people are going to say “Oh, it’s just another poly demo?” and we really didn’t want it to come across like that. Our artists worked entirely from 2D to 3D to create the characters and environments, the experience also runs under Unity 5 so native VR really helped to test how everything looks, it’s an experience we feel is very unique and hope to maximize the potential of mobile VR.
L: You asked me when the demo had finished where I was looking in the world when the giant appeared does the position of the viewer relate to how the story unfolds.
N: Yes! We’ve named it the “Gaze” mechanic, it allows a minor amount of control over the story by tracking where you’re looking in the world, this is more than just analyzing where you’re looking, we take into account the duration and periphery of the things that are being viewed and this is the magic that allows us to change the events to better suit the viewer. Moving key events to the viewer allows for an experience where you don’t have to look in a specific place to see something happen, there will be no need to look in a “correct” direction.
L: With that said, that means you can watch this multiple times and it will be completely different than the last?
N: Absolutely, the environments and characters will stay the same but as you just saw, the giant approached you from the right hand side because you could hear the thuds and turned around, the guy who tried this earlier had the giant appear on his left because he was looking at the hunter, it’s a really cool system that will entice you to go back for more to experience the story differently every single time.
L: Any hints on when the full story will be released?
N: Colosse is still in development, as you know I’m hard at work on Crystal Rift and another VR project called: The Apollo 101 Virtual Reality Experience which is going to be a really cool educational venture with VR.
L: Thanks for your time Nick and enjoy the rest of the show looking forward to seeing the whole thing!
N: No problem! Be sure to check out the Crystal Rift demo too!
If you own a VR device you can experience the demo for yourself by clicking Here to either watch via a YoutTube video or download the demo for android.
You can follow @RedOfPaw for more news and updates sure to come in the future!