I’m a sucker for convincing characters in VR experiences. Some of my favorite moments in different VR apps came from the characters I interacted with and the sense of presence they afforded me. Things like eye contact, subtle movements and mannerisms, or even just quality voice acting all go a long way towards making a VR environment feel more real. These are all things that Wolves in the Walls by Fable Studio excels at.
Based on the Neil Gaiman story by the same name, Wolves in the Walls tells the tale of a cute, scared, and lonely little girl named Lucy that lives in an attic. She is certain that wolves live inside the walls but no one will believe her. That is, until you see them too and begin to understand this bizarre, strange world she lives in.
Check out the debut trailer for Wolves in the Walls below:
At a pre-Sundance screening this week we got to see a small slice of the first chapter of the experience and I came away completely in awe. The very start is nothing but a black void as swirling lights appear in front of me and I hear a faint murmur of a little girl’s voice and then poof — I’m standing in an attic in front of a little girl holding a pencil. She looks up at me and remarks that she “drew me too tall” and erases me. Back to black.
Soon, I’m back again at a shorter height — closer to her own — and she starts talking to me like I’d been there all along.
The stylized, slightly cartoonish visual style fits the tone perfectly and immediately grants the small girl a sense of believability. She wanders around the room, fiddling with things in corners and peering down at a notebook, or pictures, or even just whatever she’s holding. When she looks up to speak she makes piercing eye contact and commands my attention, just as a real person would. At one point she goes to hand me a camera, but looks away to keep doing what she was doing as I walk over to grab it with my Oculus Touch controllers.
It feels like she’d continue rambling and rummaging even if I weren’t there and that this is a world I’m becoming a part of, rather than a passive story that’s being told to me through VR.
Holding up the camera I snap a picture of her drawing and writing in her notebook and she startles, telling me to focus on getting proof of the wolves, not her.
After shaking the polaroid out and letting it develop it becomes clear — there is clearly a wolf on (or rather “in” as it were) the wall right behind her. Creepy.
You can see how I discovered it using a magnifying glass like in the GIF below:
Just before this Lucy had been running around the room pointing out all of the different sounds she’d heard from the scratching and clawing to the howling in the distance. The lighthearted tone and visual style can’t hide the sinister, somewhat nightmarish underpinnings of this story that evokes a slow-building sense of dread.
I only got to see about 10 minutes of this VR app, but I can’t wait to see more. This is easily now one of my most anticipated non-game applications of VR to date. It’s on display at Sundance this weekend.
Let us know what you think of it if you try it or what you think of it from reading here down in the comments below!