VR and the unlikely return of the interactive movie
When Edge launched, a little over two decades ago, certain parts of the videogame industry were still in thrall to the concept of the interactive movie. It wasn’t until 1996, in fact, that Digital Pictures, the company behind the Senate-baiting, FMV-driven Night Trap, packed up its cameras and called it a day. It may be difficult to believe now, looking back at a Mega-CD title such as Double Switch (starring Corey Haim), but for a brief period this authentic fusion of interactive entertainment and Hollywood felt properly exciting, like a legitimate new form deserving of exploration. But then… pop. Done. Goodnight. In the background, though, the core concept continued to simmer patiently as it awaited some kind of revival. Now, it’s here, albeit in an unexpected form, thanks to Oculus.
The company may not have even released a consumer-ready product yet, but Oculus’s entry to the world of virtual reality movie production demonstrates how much expectation continues to surround its technology, not least from parent organisation Facebook. And although this is experimental work at the moment, it’s not some flaky whimsy: the company’s new Story Studio is headed up by Saschka Unseld, a former Pixar man whose credits include Toy Story 3. Using the realtime rendering capacity of high-end PCs, his team’s variously themed work aims to show audiences what VR adds to a traditionally passive experience.
VR faces a long road ahead. The technology as we know it today has its origins way back in the 1980s, but while head-mounted displays have come a long way since then, the issue of giving players a convincing sense of control in a VR context is without one clear solution. As discussed in our lead Knowledge story this issue, progress is at least being made.
In the meantime, we can turn to something more tangible in Fable Legends. This month’s cover story reports from Lionhead’s storied HQ, and a team bent on resurrecting the glory days of a very British fantasy.