Analysis on The Void: Secrets of the Empire, tried in London 2 weeks ago.
PRETTY LONG WALL OF TEXT, CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN RISK.Experience was awesome, well made, almost perfectly executed on all standpoints (prelude, equipment wearing, experience, monetizing and branding).
I’ve tried to observe it from a “technological” view, as I went there for “study”.
Following a recap of what I understood and what I “reconstructed”. Recap will contain full spoiler of the experience, so continue to read at your own risk.Majestic appearance, first step you encounter is the wardrobe, leaving your luggage, coats, sweaters. As in the experience you will move and duck, entering with just a T-shirt is advised
Second step is a set of standing tablets, where you sign for something like “If I fall, hurt myself or stuff like that, I’m dumb and the only responsible”. Also, leave your email here.
Third step, you get in a “prelude” room, with a maxi screen with an introduction video, which introduces the story background, and your mission / objective. Basically, infiltrate in an enemy base as a stormtrooper and get a super secret cargo back.
An assistant tells us that the experience has to be played by groups of 2 or 4. As we are in six, we split in a group of 4 and 2. I’m in the group of 4.
Fourth step, time for equipment. You get an all-in-one haptic suit with backpack PC and headset. Haptic suit is only torso (no arms, legs). The headset setup is quite big, and also the headphones. You can regulate the tighness as the audio strap deluxe of the HTC Vive, but on two points (back of your head, top of your head). In the end, heavyer but pretty confortable.
You can wear it and lift only the screen part (as the recent microsoft headsets). Attached in front of the headset a leapmotion.
A well prepared assistant leads us to the entrance. There are two play areas (red and blue, highlighted in first photo). Looks like 10m x 10m, I see on the top various cameras for tracking, but I can’t recognize them.
You can see the “path” of the experience” in the second image, if you want to “follow” there. The path is definitely WRONG as I’ve tried to remember how I moved from room to room in VR, but gives the rough idea of the path and the room set up.
First room is for setup. Assistant ensures that all 4 are connected (we are not, only 3). After a while, we’re all connected. The assistant leave us and we’re left alone in VR.
We are stormtroopers, (everyone has his forearm with different color, so we can recognize each others).
We’re inside small rooms of a cargo ship, and the walls are really there. So, we can touch walls, lean to them confidently. The “matching” between virtual and real walls is well done.
A npc briefs us again about the mission. (basically a cutscene of 2 minutes here)
We move in this room where we can sit, with a windowed door in front of us. Again, a cutscene of 2 minutes here with dialogues. We see the ship landing on a platform in Mustafar (lava planet). while landing, the floor is vibrating.
We land, the door in front of us opens
We board this floating platform. When all of us are there, the ship leave, and the platform starts to move (virtually), bringing us to the base. We can feel the heat of the lava too
The platform arrives at the base. We enter in the base, then immediately in another room with a corridor.
At the end of the corridor, we find 4 laser rifles. We catch them (they’re actually tracked). An alarm rings. We actually do not understand clearly what happened, or why. This room is a dead end. People start to see if they have to activate something or there’s a secret passage.
Not very intuitive here (game design perspective), but I start to go back on the corridor. The corridor has the ceiling open, and enemy stormtroopers appear and shoot to us.
We shoot and kill them “infinitely” (you kill few, and after a while in the same spot, another comes). After a while, a passage opens (melted metal) in the corridor. We get in.
We move in this room, and then we end on a terrace. In front of us, some bridges and a lake of lava. We’re left completely in the open (no covers). Stormtroopers start to come on the bridges, we kill them again, infinitely. We get hit, we feel the vibrations of the suit, but nothing more. So, no ammos, no HP.
A lava beast appears, destroys everything, the comes towards us (shooting fire balls, which we can intercept, but as you do not have HP, you can get hit, get a good massage and that’s it. At some point a random event (spaceship coming) kills the monster. The lava of the monster opens a way behind you.
Walking a bit, we end in a double room with desks. A damaged pipe is blocking mechanisms (it emits steam, you can feel it too), and we have to do something on two desks (one in each room) and buttons. Here the design of the experience completely fails: voice chat between us works terribly.
No body has understood what they have to do. I see some buttons blinking on the desk. The desk is actually reproduced phisically, but it is 10 cm off, and so are the buttons.
I kind of understand that I should press buttons in sequence, a sequence that, I guess, the others in the other room should tell me. Unfortunately, besides my friend who’s playing, the other two are pretty “dumb gamers”, and they shoot only at stuff, waiting for things to happen.
I randomly put sequences, and when I’m wrong, stormtroopers come from corridors.
At some point, randomly, we pass this point (correct sequence? time’s up? They did something good? Who knows).
As I’m the farthest from the door, the three guys cross the door, stop there, and start to shoot to something that should be a “final boss” robot. As I know the game is pretty much scripted, and no real HP or something, I quitely wait. I can feel at some point an assistant pushing me through the door, and pushing the other people aside to let me pass. (THEY’VE BEEN WATCHING US )
We kill the robot. We see the cargo, our objective, there. The NPC who gave us the mission comes in, and takes it.
But at this point TADAN! Darh Vader comes in. We shoot at him, he reflects back all the hits. He walks slowly towards us. We literally can’t do anything (I try to find spots to shoot that might block his patch, but nothing.). At some point he destroy with force our rifles. As we watch helplessly our demise, our transport spaceships comes in, hits Vader, and tells us to come aboard.
On the ship.
We’re left there with an R2-D2 (that we can pat on the head), laugh together, getting the congratulations on our mission. Here it finishes, and when we remove our headsets we’re in the starting room.
Photo, cruel marketing.
We’re told initially that we cannot take photos. We’ll get the chance to get one at the end. Actually, they’ve a green screen setup, they take our photo. Great. We get back to the dressing room and leave the equipment
We walk to a desk with lot of merchandise, and here it is. 15£ for our 2 photos, or 10£ for one.
Well played, The Void. Well played.
I expected, honestly, to see some proprietary next-gen technology, or redirected walking rooms. This set-up was actually a very well executed mix of technologies (leap motion, optical cameras, haptic suit, thermal lamps, rumbling platforms). The quality/resolution of the headsets was slightly less of a standard Oculus Rift / HTC Vive, at least, perceived.
On the “bad” side, voice chat between us was terrible, the “game” experience is much more an interactive cutscene where you’re allowed to shoot, and the only attempt to have something more (the puzzle game) fails completely on random people. Also, pity that the buttons weren’t aligned, but didn’t really impact much the experience.
On the good side, everyhing else
The setup was super comfortable, tracking was perfect, walls and rooms perfectly aligned. The setup is very intelligent, as it allows multiple groups to play at the same time (one at the beginning, one is few steps ahead, one could be few steps before the end). The “randomly shoot and kill” works very well for the masses, they feel accomplished, intuitive enough. Graphic is top notch. The whole setup (wardrobe, introduction video) is well made, the staff well-prepared.
Absolutely the best “public entertainment VR” saw so far. Now, I’m expecting to see TheVoid proprietary headsets, tracked gloves instead of LeapMotion and redirected walking applied.