ILMxLAB’s Star Wars: Vader Immortal episodic series was one of our favorite VR experiences of 2019. But it was almost a very different piece entirely.
Speaking to Tested in an in-depth Making Of video, series director Ben Snow revealed that the series was originally more of a passive piece in which players didn’t embody a character at all.
“It was originally going to be a fly on the wall narrative where you essentially observe the goings on,” Snow explained. “And so the first prototype that I became involved in, we were essentially trying to grey box/proof out/pre-viz the first script that he [David S. Goyer] had written.”
Longtime VR fans will remember that ILMxLAB originally teased the experience that would become Vader Immortal all the way back in 2016. We didn’t see it again until late 2018, by which time we’d begun to wonder if it was still in the works. As it turns out, it was the introduction of The Void’s location-based Star Wars VR experience, Secrets of the Empire, that ended up changing the direction of Vader Immortal.
“So we kind of put Vader Immortal, or what became Vader Immortal on hold and then focused on this interactive experience, ” Snow continued. “And it was great because it gave us a chance to step back and say “You know what? People are going to enjoy this more if they are not the fly on the wall. They’re in VR, it’s really disappointing to stand in VR and watch two other people have a conversation around you. We want you to be part of it.””
And so, after a new pitch, ILMxLAB created a new prototype that ended up being very similar to the scene in the cells in Episode 1.
“We finished that, showed it and everyone was like “Yeah, this is the way to go with it,”” Snow added.
And the rest is history from a long time ago. Snow also revealed that this was around the same time Oculus became involved with the project.
Though we definitely would be interested to see this other version of Vader Immortal, we’re glad it turned into an interactive experience in the end. The storytelling is hugely compelling and the cinematic battles are a thrill to take part in.
All three episodes of Star Wars: Vader Immortal are available now on Oculus Rift and Quest.