Back in April, we reported that Jon Favreau, the director behind Hollywood hits like Iron Man and The Jungle Book, was making his own VR film. A few months on and Favreau is already preparing to release that movie.
The New York Times revealed the experience, named Gnomes & Goblins. Rather than a simple 360 degree experience, the kind that many directors are interested in, Favreau’s ‘film’ appears to be a fully VR and interactive piece. In it, you’ll find yourself deep within a thick jungle, apparently not too dissimilar to that of the recent live action version of The Jungle Book. You’re accompanied by a small goblin that lives within the lush surroundings and looks like Favreau’s sketch above.
Viewed using an HTC Vive for now, the experience lets you grab items such as fruit from trees using the position-tracked controllers. Your actions throughout the film will directly effect your relationship with the goblin, changing the story as you go.
Gnomes and Goblins is also co-published and co-produced by Reality One. Favreau also partnered with WEVR, the VR content producer best known for its aquatic experience, theBlu. In fact, Favreau’s interest in the technology spawned from trying out that very experience while working on The Jungle Book. Talking with the New York Times, the director said he wanted “find the humanity” in VR technology with this piece. The biggest challenge in doing so was getting the goblin to “react to you depending on the way you were acting toward him.” To do this, the team even considered the Turing test, Alan Turing’s concept for evaluating a machine’s ability to behave like a human.
Excitingly, we’re not too far away from seeing Gnomes & Goblins for ourselves; the experience will be hitting Steam, Viveport, and Wevr’s own content portal, Transport, for free a week from today on September 8th. It’s designed as the first episode in a series that will continue to expand the story (Favreau describes it as a “preview”), and support for both the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR will also be arriving later down the line.
Favreau might well be the biggest director yet to work in VR, and we applaud his readiness to adopt a new medium. We look forward to seeing if the man that helped give birth to the hugely popular Marvel Cinematic Universe can do something similar for the VR industry.