Feeling the Force: are shared VR experiences the future of entertainment?
Earlier this year, I went to The Void’s Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire virtual reality experience. In a specially designed pop-up in the middle of a London shopping complex, a group of friends and I were equipped with a PC backpack, haptic vest and modified VR headset before we infiltrated an Imperial base on Mustafar.
It was the best VR experience I’d tried for a whole host of reasons. It required zero set-up, the Star Wars tie-in was spot-on (even for die-hard fans), there was lots of shooting, plenty of puzzles to solve and clues to find, and the hardware felt high-end and performed well – it was great to roam around in VR untethered, and the haptic suit meant I could feel what was happening in front of me. And, most importantly, I was able to experience all of this with my partner and two friends by my side.
One of the latest (and greatest) in a string of location-based VR experiences, Secrets of The Empire points to the huge potential of using VR to really bring people together, both physically and in a virtual space – and it turns out it was designed with exactly that in mind.
We asked Ian Bowie, Lead Experience Designer for Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire at ILMxLAB, Lucasfilm’s Immersive Entertainment division, what the thinking behind including a group of friends in a Star Wars story (and allowing them to connect within it) was.