VR has now crossed galaxies as Star Wars becomes the latest franchise to get the virtual reality treatment with its new computer-generated experience called Secrets of the Empire launching just in time for new movie The Last Jedi. Opening up at The Atrium in Westfield London shopping centre, Secrets of the Empire is dubbed as a “hyper-reality experience” by Lucasfilm, ILMxLAB and The VOID. The VR game will see teams of four people travel to the molten planet of Mustafar as Rebel fighters tasked with getting their hands on data that could help the plucky Alliance put an end to the evil Empire.
Star Wars fans will be happy to know that this experience is indeed folded into the intergalactic universe as it takes place between Episodes 3 and 4. Timeline-wise, it lands around Rogue One, which pretty much explains why Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) gives you your mission at the beginning of the experience. As mentioned earlier, the mission requires you and your friends to travel to the molten planet of Mustafar. Disguised as Stormtroopers, you must recover Imperial intelligence vital to the rebellion’s survival. Alongside the pragmatic droid K-2S0 (Alan Tudyk), your team must navigate through an enemy facility walking into danger at every turn. You will then be suited up in a VR helmet and a vest and as soon as that visor goes down, you are transported into the mission. You look and feel like a Stormtrooper and are able to grab everything around the space, solving puzzles and firing blasters at enemies as well as space monsters. It legitimately feels and looks as if you are in a Star Wars movie as you are able to feel the heat from the lava boiling below your feet and the sting of blaster shots as it hits your chest. At one point it’s as if you are flying on a cruiser to a space base.
Talking about this new venture, the Void co-founder and chief creative officer Curtis Hickman said, “The goal of The Void is to make the world you’re visiting as real as possible. What tricks and illusions can be designed to realize that fact? That’s something we put a lot of emphasis into. When the opportunity came for us to collaborate, it was a match made in heaven. We could do something that me, as a fan, could step into Star Wars and not just be there and not just see, but feel like I was there and part of the story.” While talking about taking the technology to next level, The Void CEO Cliff Plumer added, “Some of what’s been happening in the past 10 years is being driven by devices. We don’t think of ourselves as just a VR company. We are creating experiences. It engages all your other senses. It’s just not what you see and hear.”
It’s not to say that Star Wars: Secret of the Empires is flawless by any means but what must be mentioned is that it is an active, full-bodied experience that has largely been the idea of VR, even if it’s rarely been reached. This project feels like the first real step in delivering on the larger vision of using virtual reality, mixed reality, and other platforms as legitimate extensions of any franchise. And we hope that with this, we get to see many more such Holodeck-esque projects coming up soon.