Downloaded, our first-person, interactive VR narrative, is now officially complete, but also officially not finished. In case you’re wondering what the difference is (I don’t blame you), what I mean by that is that the experience is now fully playable, but that there is still considerable user testing, QA and tweaking—based on the results of the user testing—left to do.
Remember that unlike most films, Downloaded is both fully immersive and fully interactive. That means that a lot of the experience needs to be generated in real-time based on where the participant is, where they are looking, what they are doing.
This was by design, in order to have a convincingly real human being as your guide through the experience and for the most part, it hasn’t presented problems. But there are one or two situations in which some participants are either jumping ahead in the story or getting stuck in ways that weren’t foreseen.
The lesson here is that we should have built a fully-playable prototype before we shot the live action content. That way we could have iterated a few times, ironed out any kinks in the story graph and been sure to shoot every conceivable outcome/interaction.
Of course, eventually, AI-powered real-time CG characters will be photoreal enough, human enough and performant enough that we don’t need to pre-record all possible outcomes. But then we’re entering the territory of a simulation, not a story. Who knows, that distinction might be the subject of another blog post in the near future.
In the meantime, we did have the foresight to record a bunch of additional off-screen dialog that we are using in conjunction with game engine tricks to help shepherd participants in the right direction whenever they get stuck.
If you’re in Vancouver and are interested in taking part in the user testing, please fill out the form below: