Sit back and enjoy the trailer for the Star Wars VR experiment coming out of ILMxLAB, “Trials of Tatooine” above. Now that you’ve seen it, I guarantee our reactions were very similar: it reminded you almost exactly of what you were imagining as a child (and even last weekend for me) when you were swinging your toy lightsaber around your backyard/room/basement/home/friend’s house. While it might be a ways away from something you can experience in the comfort of your VR-friendly home living room, though now much closer than ever before, it has some mind-boggling potential that I can’t wait to see be explored no matter when it releases. Details on the making-of from the creators themselves, as well as impressions from the gaming press who have been lucky enough to test it out, below.
First off, the ILMxLAB group was only recently created last year, where they put together such experiences like the 360° video of Jakku that was released on Facebook and the Jakku Spy VR videos launched through the Star Wars app. It puts together all the creative minds from, “… Industrial Light & Magic, Skywalker Sound, Lucasfilm’s Advanced Development Group and the Lucasfilm Story Group to create story-driven immersive entertainment including virtual reality and mixed/augmented reality experiences.” The video below teases their work and gives us a glimpse at the crew working to bring us this new way to interact with the Star Wars universe.
“Trials on Tatooine” might only be the tip of the iceberg, but it’s already looking quite impressive. The official site has an interview with Lucasfilm’s Chief Technology Officer, Rob Bredow, who guided the development of “Trials” as well as was a co-writer with the Story Group’s Pablo Hildalgo. The interview reveals the basic set up for “Trials,” where you’re a hopeful Padawan of Luke’s new Jedi Order who must help out Han Solo, Chewbacca, and R2-D2 on Tatooine by interacting with the world, the Falcon, and deflecting blaster shots with a lightsaber (which basically sums up every imagination session I had swinging my lightsaber as a kid). It’s a cool little hint at the post-Return of the Jedi era which is secretively and slowly being unraveled in the new canon and it proves they aren’t just making these VR moments to show what they can do, but because they are serious about pushing Star Wars into the VR world as various companies begin launching their gear into the public’s homes this year (here’s a great run down of all the devices coming in 2016, including prices, release dates). UPDATE: I played it at Celebration Europe 2016 and here’s my review!
My first thoughts after seeing the video where not just how cool it would be to play through the events, but also to mess around with it and see if you could break it. Putting me in a virtual reality simulation with a lightsaber means I want to just chop up the surrounding stuff, even the Falcon, to see how it would look. In the interview, Bredow says people experimenting with the world as they played helped them develop it in the first place,
The key way we discovered how people wanted to “play” in our world was to watch different people try the experience over and over. It turns out with immersive experiences like this, the more times you can deliver when a user taps on a box or tries other things in the experience, it really helps with the sense of presence and it’s simply a lot of fun. The artists at ILMxLAB are always looking for new opportunities to add those fun bells and whistles to the experience. I can’t wait for people to try them all.
If you’re hiring play testers ILMxLAB, I’d love to test every limit possible! But I’m not alone in the desire to test the limits of the VR experiences: in Charlie Anders impressions over at io9.com, she tried to chop at Artoo with the lightsaber, but it seems the little droid backed out of the way instead, meaning someone during development tried the same thing and they already prepared for that. She went on to say, “…the visuals, and the sense of actually standing on Tatooine and interacting with R2D2, and swinging a lightsaber to deflect blaster bolts, were magic.” Mitch Dyer of IGN had similar praise, “…is incredibly impressive, with excellent writing, scale, and fan-service.” And John Gaudiosi from Fortune revealed it’s short length barely mattered, “The whole experience is only about five minutes long, but it seems like you’re on the planet surface for longer because you’re completely immersed.”
The press got to play it at this week’s GDC (Game Developers Conference) using an HTC Vive and its controller, but no word yet if it’ll ever be released commercially and if it’s exclusive to the HTC Vive. However, an upcoming Star Wars Battlefront VR experience will be exclusive to Sony PlayStation’s VR, though no details beyond the initial announcement.
“Trials” isn’t technically a video game, more of a playable demo of the technology, but it has hints at what will come from the group in the near future. But it’s not just playable VR they’re developing as Bredow revealed they created some digital sets for the upcoming Rogue One so director Gareth Edwards could walk around the environment to see what they’d look like before it was built. From upcoming story experiences (all to be set in canon), to helping filmmakers with their movies, ILMxLAB’s work is something we’ll be watching with great interest.
All images credit to Lucasfilm/ILM
Video Game Review: Trials on Tatooine (ILMxLAB VR Experience)
It’s a Wrap: Celebration Europe 2016 News Roundup – Han Solo Casting, Ep. VIII Teases, Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel Author Revealed, Battlefront DLC
Battlefront: X-Wing VR Mission Teaser, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Demo Impressions
EA Provides Minor Updates on Upcoming Star Wars Video Games from Visceral Games, Respawn Entertainment, and More
LEGO Game Expands The Force Awakens Lore, Respawn Entertainment Working on New Star Wars Game
Movie Review: The Force Awakens
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Video Game Set to Release June 28th
D23 Expo: Rogue One Cast Revealed, Ep. IX Director, Star Wars Land News
New Star Wars Anthology Series: Rogue One Details Revealed (SWCA 2015)
Star Wars: Battlefront Beta Impressions with Video
Footage And Details For Cancelled Rogue Squadron Games
Choice Isn’t an Option: The Future of Star Wars Video Games (Part 1)
Always On The Move: The Future of Star Wars Video Games (Part 2)
A Good Blaster At Your Side: The Future of Star Wars Video Games (Part 3)
Lead Uncharted Writer Joins Visceral Games Star Wars Project
EU and Gaming: Thoughts on Their Relationship