Giving VR Flight

Original Article

An introduction to Animal Instinct (an idea for a new VR game).

The games starts the same for every person: In almost complete darkness and silence.

You look around, turning your head left and right, and up and down, trying to find something of interest or some hint as to what you are supposed to do. But you can’t see or hear anything other than a very subtle red tint to the darkness and the quietest of muffled sounds, which you can’t quite make out clearly.

It’s dark.

Nothing appears to encourage you to do anything other than sit there. No text pops up. No button prompts flash onscreen telling you what to do. No sound cues point you in a certain direction.

So you decide to push a button on the VR controller, in this case the trigger, and you hear a soft thump. You press it again, and the thump sounds again. You press it a few times, and suddenly a small crack of light shatters the total darkness. It’s still near pitch black, with that hint of red all around you, and now the thin line of bright white light that is the crack.

You press the button again, tapping it repeatedly. The crack gets bigger, and now there’s a little bit more light.

You’re making progress but it seems like a bit of a slog.

You press the button on the other controller and get a similar thump sound, and the crack gets bigger. You try tilting your head and body forward, which creates a tapping sound a little bit louder than the thump, and the crack opens more. You press the triggers on each of the VR controllers, shake your hands like maracas, and bob your head like a chicken pecking at corn. Thump, thump, whoosh, thump, tap, tap, crack!

The crack splits open into a larger hole and light floods in, revealing that you are inside a spherical object wrapped all around you like a cocoon. It’s appears as a deep pink colour on the inside, but where the light hits, you can see it’s actually a solid white surface that’s smooth in texture–like a giant shell.

You’re inside an egg.

But what’s outside the egg?

You hear the whistle of gently blowing wind and the tweet of birds chirping, leaking in from outside the egg. It dawns on you that you are a hatchling, about to break free from its egg and be born into the world.

Yes, these eggs are on the ground, but they help picture the scene

You wave your arms frantically, swing your head forcibly forward, and press the trigger buttons over and over. The entire top of the shell breaks off with a loud crack. It falls away and you are blinded for a moment by the light of day. There’s suddenly lots of loud chirping and cheeping going on right next to your head. And as you look to where the sound is coming from you see three other fledglings next to you in the nest. They’re staring up at the sky and calling out.

You look beyond the fledglings and see the branches of a tree, and thousands of bright green leaves gently swaying in the breeze. Beyond that, covering your complete view around the nest, an entire world. A bright, colourful landscape of grass and hills, and thousands of trees, with a group of birds soaring and swooping around the sky in the distance. And everything is framed by that beautiful blue sky that’s adorned with a gloriously bright sun.

Image from The Witness. It’s just for a bit of visual reference.
The Witness again. It looks very similar to how I picture my game world. 🙂

But then the sun is suddenly blocked by a large shadow the shape of a bird, which is moving closer to you. The silhouette of its wings flapping powerfully as it approaches the nest, growing larger and larger. You hear the whooshing of the air as it beats its wings, coming in to land, and then a loud screeching call.

Your brothers and sister chirp louder, calling out for attention. You look to them and see their heads raised up and beaks open wide. They are pecking furiously at the sky, and chirping just as loudly. They want food.

A large golden eagle, your mother, lands on the edge of the nest and starts feeding the loudest and most active of the eaglets. One of the other eaglets pecks at the small female of the group and nudges her out of the way. He gets fed next. You try tapping the touch pad on the controller and a soft cheep echoes out. You tap it again, swiping your finger up at the same time, and the cheep is now much louder. But it’s too late. Mother flies off, leaving you and the female eaglet unfed, which is not good. Next time you’re going to have to make more noise and fight harder if you want to eat. You’re going to have to make sure mom comes to your first, or else you’ll be ignored and starve to death while your brothers and sister grow stronger with each meal.

And then you realise that maybe you’d better start thinking bigger than just your next meal. . . .

You wave your arm again and notice that one of your wings flaps with a gentle swish. You wave the other arm and the other wing flaps. You tentatively step forward and move to the edge of the nest. It’s a long way down. If you jump you’ll surely die. But you’re a bird; all you have to do is figure out how to fly—right.

Finally, it dawns on you: You are living the life of a golden eagle, starting from the very beginning moments of birth. You’ve made the first tentative steps in this brave new world. Broken free of the black void that was the safety of your egg. You’ve then found yourself in a nest, in competition with your own siblings for your very survival, vying for any scraps of food and the basic right to live. And beyond that you’ll have to learn how to fly, and then fight, hunt, build a nest, mate, and hopefully survive to a ripe old age.

There’s a grand adventure laid out before you. A place that’s familiar yet unknown at the same time. How amazing that adventure is, and how far, deep, and wide it goes, is entirely up to you. Every move you make controls your destiny, bringing more and more meaning to your new found life. And the adventure continues when you make your next move. . . .

And again, The Witness. Such a gorgeous game.

So what’s it going to be?

All you have to go on is your Animal Instinct.

Note: I decided to write this after reading about a competition on the following article, even though I’m not actually eligible for the prize:



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