I’m a little embarrassed to write this article after taking off a VR headset at E3 to see a bunch of guys giggling with video cameras as I wiped tears of sweat off my face.
I had just finished Capcom’s tech demo called Kitchen; the horror experience they previewed on Project Morpheus to show off their new VR engine at E3. My hands were shaking as someone handed me a clip board to sign a video release.
“You had really good reactions,” He said smiling. “We want to use them in a trailer if we can.”
The truth is. My reactions were very real. This scared the bejeebers out of me.
I am not exposed to violence very often. I am not a gamer and I rarely watch rated R movies so any ’surprise’ experience immediately drops me into fight or flight mode, followed by a couple hours of post-traumatic stress. I am what you call…. ahem… sensitive.
Match that with a Morpheus headset that puts me into a room tied to a chair covered in blood and you get this:
And while I won’t spoil it, I will tell you how this experience was expertly designed to be a complete gut wrencher.
Lighting and Design
The designers of this experience skillfully used lighting to give a familiar and eery tone to the space. From the minute it begins, a bright light bounces off dust particles drifting in the air leading your eye into softer shadows in the corners of the room. There is just enough light to see, but not enough to confirm objects at a distance or behind you. It’s the perfect balance to let your mind play tricks on you long before anything has happened.
Use of Space and Sound
One struggle many creators face when developing for VR is the complete autonomy the viewer has to look wherever they choose at any given time. This challenges creators to find clever ways to lead someone’s eye throughout a space without it seeming forced. The Kitchen does this flawlessly while using the full real estate of the room by using sounds, proximity of objects, and fear to keep you fully immersed in the story. Even if you don’t want to be.
Play on Emotion
From the minute you enter this experience anxiety sets in as you realize that although you have a controller in your hands, it does you no good. You are zip tied and immobile. They use this feeling of helplessness to their advantage throughout the demo, the worst part being that even if you closed your eyes it wouldn’t make it all go away.
Watch a scary movie and you can turn around to see your boyfriend.
Watch something scary on a VR headset and you’ll turn around to see your worst fear smiling back at you.
So go ahead, open your eyes to Capcom’s latest thrill. I dare you.