All the ways 'Star Wars' is coming to virtual reality
Prepare to step into a cockpit, go toe-to-toe against Darth Vader and travel virtually to a galaxy far, far, away.
Since the first moment many of us saw the words "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away..." we've all dreamed of picking up a lightsaber, jumping in an X-Wing, and taking on the evil Galactic Empire. Thanks to the advent of virtual reality gaming, the dream of immersing oneself into the "Star Wars" galaxy is now no longer reserved for only the imagination. Below are four VR "Star Wars" experiences aiming to transform the future of entertainment. No force powers required.
Magic Leap and Star Wars
The future of mixed reality gaming will most certainly include a "Star Wars" experience. Secretive VR startup Magic Leap has announced a development lab on the Lucasfilm campus in San Francisco. The new site joins the company's extensive international footprint, complementing production facilities in Plantation, Florida, a research and development facility in Tel Aviv, Israel, and about a half-dozen offices in locations from New Zealand to the United Kingdom.
Magic Leap founder and CEO Rony Abovitz, the son of Israeli immigrants to the U.S., says his developers were able to build some "really crazy moments" in collaboration with Lucasfilm's ILMxLab.
“One-to-one scale ships and characters, things where you suddenly feel like you’re there," he told Wired. "I could be looking at somebody, and there’s also a ship taking off and a droid running around – like you walked onto the set, but it’s all real.”
Unlike the immersive VR experiences listed below, Magic Leap's technology is designed to create mixed-reality experiences in your own environment. Think Nintendo's Pokémon Go app – but instead of Pikachu hiding behind your couch, there's a stormtrooper.
“Our goal is all-day, every-day regular kind of computing, where instead of a small screen you have the whole space of the world around you," Abovitz told an audience at the recent Brainstorm Tech Conference in Aspen, Colorado. "It’ll be like a 'Harry Potter' world.”
While Magic Leap has remained tight-lipped on when its technology and any games might see the light of day, there are hints that a public reveal could come as soon as this fall.
Darth Vader VR
American screenwriter David S. Goyer is partnering with ILMxLab, a division of Lucasfilm, to write the story behind the studio's new "Darth Vader VR" experience. While the exact nature of the title is a closely kept secret, we do know that it won't act as a "game" in the traditional sense of the word. As Goyer explained at last week's Star Wars Celebration in London, the experience will be something akin to a becoming a fly on the wall in the life of Darth Vader.
"You are the visitor in this story, happening in and around you, which to a certain extent, you may have some effect on," he said.
Goyer says the medium of virtual reality is so engrossing that this experience is likely to be a more emotional one than people are expecting. "It’s surprisingly very emotional," he said. "It can make you sad. It can make you lean in and feel for a character in a way you haven’t before. In a way you really can’t do in any other medium, in books, in film … And it can scare you, trust me, in a way you’ve never been scared before."
Those itching to experience the Dark Lord of the Sith up close and personal should embrace some patience. According to Goyer, "Darth Vader VR" won't be released for "another year or two."
Battlefront X-Wing VR
Ask any fan of the "Star Wars" franchise what moment from the films they'd love to experience for themselves, and likely all will say something about flying a X-Wing spacecraft. Electronic Arts, the same people behind the wildly popular "Star Wars: Battlefront" video game, will soon offer up the virtual cockpit of a X-Wing to players in "Battlefront X-Wing VR."
Poised to launch alongside the Playstation VR headset in October, this "Star Wars" VR mission will feature players fighting against the Empire in a massive space battle reminiscent of "Return of the Jedi." While little is known about just how extensive the mission will be (or if it might feature a classic trench run on the Death Star), American producer James Svensson says the experience is poised to blow people's minds.
"Once you look outside your ship, you’ll start to take in and appreciate the sheer magnitude of the environment in which you’re sitting," he wrote in a post announcing the title. "Sure, you may think you know that a Blockade Runner or a Star Destroyer are big, but once you’re firing at Imperial forces alongside their hulls as you maneuver around their defenses, then you’ll truly comprehend the enormity of these starships. It’s intensely exciting!"
Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine
Earlier this week, ILMxLab gifted early adopters of VR headsets with a brief "cinematic virtual reality experiment" called "Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine." The free title, available through Steam, gives players not only the opportunity to experience the planet Tatooine in their living rooms, but also to wield a lightsaber against enemy stormtroopers. Like Goyer predicted above, the experience has proved to be very emotional for some users.
"As the lightsaber deactivated and the Falcon began to take off, the desert landscape faded away, and instantly, I was overcome with emotion and began to cry," writes Lucas Siegel for ComicBook. "They were tears of amazement and joy at having experienced something so real and so true to 'Star Wars.'"
According to Rob Bredow, Lucasfilm’s chief technology officer, "Trials" was designed not only for fans, but also as one giant experiment to see what could be done with today's virtual reality tech. The joys that people are experiencing with this brief demo, he said, are only the beginning of what's to come.
"ILMxLAB is powered by the technology created by the Advanced Development Group, a super high-end group of engineers and artists who work together to create the tools and the tech to make experiences like 'Trials on Tatooine' possible," he told StarWars.com. "You should see what’s next!"
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