VR and the un­likely re­turn of the in­ter­ac­tive movie

EDGE - - GAMES -

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.

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