French creator Charles Ayats started early in immersive, with a VR game inspired by a comic book, SENS VR (link), in 2016. Since then, his passion for videogame and storytelling leaded to innovative and complex experiences. With THE SCREAM VR (co-created with Sandra Paugam – link) and 7 LIVES (co-created with Sabrina Calvo – link) released last year, he offered confirmation that interactive stories need more challenges.
LEAVING THE FESTIVAL LIFE
My first experience – SENS VR – allowed me to discover the way a VR experience in festivals can be distributed, and to meet at the time the first audiences interested in virtual reality. It was in 2016, we were close to a “traveling circus” approach where we had this sophisticated material to put on the heads of curious people.
Today, even if it’s still looking for itself, our industry begins to live its own life, in particular with broadcasters like Diversion (our interview) and places that reflect the scenography of immersive works – see what Phi Center is doing in Montreal. We also see international festivals evolving; very fond of the facilities … but less of the costs associated with them.
There is now a real, positive ambition to work on immersion through scenography, even if it often costs a lot to deploy. Are we going to have to reduce the size of our projects to take better account of this aspect?
INTERACTIVE VS 360
At the same time 360 videos circulate much more easily, since it is enough to transfer a video file, by email in example. Cinema VR also has the advantage of bringing dozens of people at a time, what a luxury! However, are the public ready to spend on non-experiential entertainment, very close to traditional cinema?
With THE SCREAM VR we dreamed of a roomscale installation, with sets to explore. Despite everything, during the development phase, we had to return to a more humble system to offer the project to the greatest number of venues.
One thing is certain, the interactive scripting is different between an experience deployed on 4m² (minimum required on blinds) or 30m².
Thinking about distribution from the very beginning of writing and development is quite new for us. Usually, we know that the work arrives on the big (or small) screen, so the reflections are more about the content itself and storytelling. VR is a constantly changing medium, a sandbox where everything is reinvented with each new evolution of the material. Which makes it quite exciting for a creator!
I think we lack standard, format. I chatted with people who have made VR escape games for Ubisoft, they are targeting multiplayer where everyone is connected to a workstation (4m² / person). It seems a wise decision to include connected users (PSVR, OCULUS, VIVE,…). For my part, I would like to offer more space to the user – to give him greater freedom and better consideration of his movement.
I would love to see a standard of type, pre-equipped room, 100m², emerge.
WHERE IS THE PRESS?
On another side the absence of generalist and / or specialized press during international events is a real miss. An absence of echo which does not facilitate alliances with the cinema and/or video game markets, where medias are a great deal to connect creation with mass audiences.
There are too few journalists interested and, combo, if you don’t have your own PR stunt, there is little chance that these rare birds will come to see you out of curiosity (which was the case at the beginning, in 2016). The professionalisation of the community is not complete on this side.
In 2019, at Tribeca Immersive (link), we had the chance to meet Hideo Kojima by chance and freeze him so that he tested 7 LIVES – It was a stroke of luck. Guillermo Del Toro, who had launched a transmedia company Mirada a few years ago and Elijah Wood producer of TRANSFERENCE VR in 2018, were close to the “film” part, but were not bothered to come and test the selection international premiere.
There are quite a few examples like the GIFF (link) or the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (link) which juxtapose VR works and films (at least in their trailers), but VR is still the outsider who is of little interest to those who have the cards in hand.
To complicate matters for us, eyes are already turning to AR.
Post-POKEMON GO, many believed in a new El Dorado, but this success is due to the fact that this license has been looped on TV around the world for more than 10 years. With their “winners takes all” (the first captures the audience then sets the standard) all GAFAM are in the race for MR glasses (look at CES this year).
It will take another 5 years, in my opinion, for this technology to be ready. Today, when you develop on it, you have to think about the light, the weight of the smartphone, the sound management, the loss of tracking, … and as long as there are no suitable AR glasses it will remain complicated. And for what purposes? It was never easy to anticipate uses. All you have to do is watch a few videos from the INA announcing mobile or internet, it was yesterday and this is where we are!