Out of the many tech demos and prototypes present at GDC, one of the most interesting was a collaboration between Weta Digital, Epic Games, Oculus Rift and NVIDIA whose result was Thief in the Shadows, a virtual reality experience inspired by The Hobbit.
Built on the Epic’s Unreal Engine 4 engine, those curious of how facing the monstrously massive gold-obsessed dragon would actually feel may have gotten an idea after experiencing the tech demo.
After strapping on an Oculus Rift VR headset, users were thrown directly into the scene that first revealed the dragon Smaug towards the end of the trilogy’s second movie. What followed is reported as a heated conversation with the dragon on top of his massive gold hoard.
However, most reviewers report the experience as not being quite as menacing as it sounds – it seems to lack interactivity, and wrong color palettes and low-res troubles made falter in comparison to the IMAX 3D experience the movie was delivered for.
The demo has reportedly very low chances of being commercially released, and this is probably due to the off-setting limitations that VR tech still has in its current status.
Moreover, after the release of all parts of the trilogy, fans and critics alike probably agree that however impressive the 3D experience and special effects are, the movies are nowhere near the Academy-Award hit original LotR trilogy in terms in cinematography.
So maybe the non-commercialization part is understandable, but the tech demo is still useful in showing off what you can potentially expect from VR tech in the future.
“The same pioneering feeling is back again. … This is a new revolution for entertainment [requiring] very high-end visual storytelling,” stated Epic Games Chief Technology Officer Kim Libreri in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter.
And he may as well be right, as VR seems to be the modern day El-Dorado in terms of entertainment-based technology races, with companies like Facebook, Samsung, HTC and even Sony entering the fray with own versions of what virtual reality should mean.
Until the technology stabilizes its direction, you shouldn’t really expect more at the moment than a shoddy low-res confrontation with Smaug, but don’t rule out trembling with fear after narrowly being avoided by a catapult projectile when virtually defending Minas Tirith just yet.
Image Source: Forbes