Sunday, October 30, 2016

Virtual Somnia

Narrative story-telling is climbing onto new platforms. In this case, Virtual Reality.

... Somnia is IP [that VFX house Framestore] created to utilize its own storytelling and technical talent for projects that actually mean something to itself beyond a paycheck at the end of a few months’ of work. ...

Quietly announced earlier this month, Somnia is the latest in a growing trend of narrative-driven VR experiences that aren’t necessarily games so much as interactive stories. Like Jon Faveru’s Gnomes and Goblins or the upcoming Darth Vader Star Wars story, it casts the audience as an actual character in the world that they’re free to explore, but they won’t encounter any significant challenges or mechanics to block their path to the end. They’re there to experience a story in an intimate, personalized way, not triumph over evil or rack up high scores. ...

From the sounds of it, Somnia could have easily been a survival horror game with full mechanics, but that idea isn’t of interest to its creators. ... It’s releasing in 2017, though Framestore wouldn’t confirm any launch platforms. It did state they would like it to be on all headsets eventually.

Framestore is doing what other visual effects houses have contemplated but seldom done: it's jumping off the job shop treadmill and making product that it owns. And Framestore is betting that doing a virtual reality piece will be an good way to go.

Not long ago, every visual effects studio toyed with the idea of doing their very own CG feature from story brainwave to final distribution. But the infrastructure is more complicated, the outlays for development and production fairly high, and theatrical distributors need to be cut in on the action (meaning they take their distribution fee whether the movie goes into profits or not).

So, leave us to face it, the chances of success somewhat spottier. VR has lower ramp-up costs and distribution paths seem wide open. Added to which, everyone and their younger brother is betting that virtual reality is going to be the Next Big Thing. (The next few years should answer that question).


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