Podcast legend Dan Carlin immerses you in one of the most brutal battlefields in history.
War Remains is an immersive VR experience that drops you deep into the chaos of WWI, placing you right in the center of a raging battle filled with heavy explosions, entrenched soldiers battling for their lives, and an endless barrage of bullets. Now the historical VR experience – or immersive memory as the creatives call it – is opening up to the general public for a limited run in Austin, TX, with more locations to be announced soon.
The 12-minute free-roam experience combines the immersive power of VR with tactile elements and practical effects to immerse you in the disarray that is trench warfare. You can feel the floor rumble beneath your feet as a bomb explodes just yards from you; as you watch soldiers scramble for safety you feel the wind and heat hit you in the face.
Hardcore History’s, Dan Carlin worked with MWM Immersive to take you deep into the trenches of one the most extreme battlefields in history, where your role is more than to simply witness. Wearing only a VR headset to deliver the visual and audio content, your physical movements—hands, and feet—all become part of the experience through strategically placed sensors located throughout a custom playspace resembling that of a WW1 battlefield. As you walk through the trenches and run your hands along the side, and you can feel the wooden planks holding up mounds of dirt; reach out to shut the door of a small bunker and you’ll feel an actual door squeak shut.
War Remains premiered this past May during the Tribeca Film Festival where it received a warm reception by attendees. One emotional attendee told VRScout that he’s never experienced something so incredibly intense before in his life.
It was obvious that the experience had a profound emotional impact on the visibly-shaken attendee.
I personally was able to step into the War Remains experience, and he was right. You start off in a balloon high above the battlefield with narration from Dan Carlin talking about war. There’s wind and it all feels calm, even though there are explosions happening below you. Then the environment turns on you and you’re quickly disoriented by bombs falling from the clouds. As you exit the balloon, everything changes in a flash and you are now standing in a warzone, and it is intense.
“There’s intense curiosity about what these wars were like for the participants. We can’t simulate that, and you wouldn’t want us to,” said Dan Carlin in an official press release, adding, “But we can use the latest technology to make the experience more immersive and real than any previous portrayal could. If it were any more real you wouldn’t want to see it.”
To bring the realism of war to life, the MWM Immersive team and Dan Carlin sought the talents of Flight School, Built By Bender, and Skywalker Sound. Together, they created a movie-set-like environment that worked in conjunction with the VR content, a process that took months to perfect.
Talking with VRScout, Brandon Padveen, Associate Producer at MWM Immersive, and one of two producers of War Remains said, “War Remains took a long period of time to develop. For us, we had to figure out how to take Dan’s nearly 30 hours of material on WWI and try to get it down to a 15-minute experience that is satisfying and realistic,” adding, “we spent a long time trying to make sure we got the vision right.”
They did get it right. As I trudged through the VR experience, my brain was completely hacked. Throughout the incredibly visceral experience, I found myself regularly ducking to avoid pieces of sharp debris created by explosions and hiding from the sounds of guns; walking past dead bodies and body parts felt brutally real, leaving me with a constant sense of dread as I navigated my way through the muddy graveyard.
“When Dan told us he wanted to put audiences in a time machine, we knew pretty quickly that VR alone wasn’t going to cut it, and we had to go bigger,” Ethan Stearns, Executive Producer at MWM Immersive said. “The physical set and haptics combine with VR to provide a tangible, immersive experience that implants itself in your memory. Skywalker Sound’s audio design and Dan Carlin’s signature voice further root you in this time and place, so ideally you forget you’re wearing a headset.
War Remains isn’t a VR experience designed for entertainment, it’s a VR experience designed to teach us about history; to give us a slice of the reality millions of soldiers have faced.
Bringing War Remains to museums and science centers was always the team’s goal. That’s why the set is completely modular. Padveen explains, “It’s basically a giant lego set. It’s a series of 25 pallets with pieces that all easily hook together.”
War Remains will be available in downtown Austin, TX (500 E. 5th St.) August 12th toSeptember 1st. Advance tickets and showtime info can be found here.
Featured Image Credit: Dan Carlin, MWM Immersive