HTC Vive VR Events

‘The Key’ VIVE Experience Premieres at FIVARS Festival of VR & AR Stories

The Festival of International Virtual & Augmented Reality Stories (phew), also known as the much easier to say “FIVARS” returns for its second year to its native Toronto, Ontario, smack dab in the middle of Toronto International Film Festival hubbub.

The three-day virtual reality and augmented reality festival is not limited to merely 360 degree immersive videos (of which it is showcase the largest collection in the world with over 30 official selections in 2016 including the world premieres of Lilian Mehrel‘s “Invisible,” Michealla Vu‘s glitch-art inspired “Neural Path” and others) but also includes an audio-only virtual reality audio chamber designed by David McKevy and Cinehackers‘ experimental experience for the HTC Vive “The Key.”

Cinehackers is the VR label for the work of director/producer Elli Raynai, best known in VR-land for his groundbreaking Oculus short story “I Am You.” In an interview with RoomScalist, he explained the design thinking behind the creation of his latest work:

“The Key is a narrative cinematic VR experience that allows the viewer to inhabit the perspective of the protagonist in order to explore a traumatic memory in their past. Through the narrative the viewer not only has ability to observer the memory, but must follow an alternative path that fundamentally changes what happened and as a result brings the protagonist to a healing moment.”

The experience is a blend of elements – using photogrammetry to build environments and Depthkit to capture real performances that are then composited in the experience, which fundamentally results in a uniquely styled interactive narrative. Raynai went to Berlin where he spent a month putting his ambitious idea together on an independent budget and sheer force of will. He returned to Toronto in September where he presented the production process to the Toronto VR community.

“This was the first time I attempted a room scale experience for the VIVE and it was very challenging,” Raynai says. “I’m talking specifically about how you tailor the story, which interactive elements feel intuitive to the viewer, but also not very obvious. I almost made the experience very fast, so, a lot of the feedback I get will influence the way I make narrative experiences in the future. This is the importance of demoing your experience and watching closely how your users react.”

The experience will be available to all festival wristband carriers, as opposed to the timed programme, so that a discussion may form about the new design concepts presented in Raynai’s evolving work.

“FIVARS is about experimentation and novel mechanics,” says FIVARS festival director Keram Malicki-Sanchez. “The Key represents the FIVARS mission to explore new possibilities and push the various technologies to their current limits in search of new forms for storytelling.”

The Key makes its public exhibition world premiere at FIVARS September 16-18th 2016 in Toronto, Ontario Canada.

For more information visit the official FIVARS site.

HTC Vive

Astroderps – Review for HTC Vive Version

In Astroderps, you are tasked with guiding your derpy little space denizens from a starting point to an exit. Very much like the deceptively spartan design of reverse tower-defense “Cubemen,” wherein you are not tasked with preventing the bad guys from marching to your defended zones, but instead, clearing a path for them, Astroderps will have you deftly manipulating physics-based obstacle courses to clear a safe path for your crew.

Anyone who has used VR understands quite quickly that a sense of scale distinguishes it from other media. Astroderps takes advantage of this by emphasizing the Lilliputian nature of the levels, making you feel like an over-sized 6 year old playing with Star WarsTM action figures.

Besides this charming effect, the game doesn’t truly make use of the opportunities in room-scale; you generally stand in position and look down at a 45 degree angle. You can, technically, walk around to get a better view, buy nothing you could’t manage from a seated position.

A brief tutorial demonstrates that you can use the trackpad menu to reset your ‘derps or speed them through the level. Pulling triggers allows you to move and manipulate the objects on the board. It’s plain and simple and without much fanfare. There is no story or context to speak of, unlike tower defense titles like Defense Grid.

Astroderps also features a scoreboard so you can check your time scores against others.

With clever multi-layered puzzles, an adorable aesthetic and solid implementation, with smooth progression though its increasingly challenging puzzles and makes a great introduction to room-scale VR. It is a short game though, and at the time of this review, the asking price of US$17 feels a bit steep.

Title: Astroderps
Release Date: June 17th, 2016
Developer: Chronos VR
Genre: Puzzle, Strategy