High-end VR systems like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive offer more interactive experiences that you can move around in, but so far most of the experiences created for this have been like first-generation Nintendo Wii games when you play tennis or shoot aliens, or occasionally get cheap thrills like being thrown off the Wall in Framestore's Game of Thrones VR experience.
I tried Kismet using the HTC Vive, which pairs a VR headset with two controllers for your hands and two trackers that you place on stands around your play area – so you can move around your virtual world and interact with things in it using the controllers.
Slip into this world with the headset, headphones and controllers and you find yourself in a gypsy caravan with Kismet herself, a masked automaton who invites you to try out the experiences. Despite – or perhaps because – it’s an obviously beautifully art-directed CG environment, everything around you seems so solid and real, like you can really reach out and touch it. Kismet is a charming host, and I was quite enamoured with her cat who runs backwards and forward from the windowsill to her shoulder at various parts.
Selecting the individual games transports you to standing in the middle of space surrounded by galaxies as a mechanical solar system moves as you select the date, or to the deserts of Sumeria to play Ur.
The tarot card reading is done in Kismet’s caravan, where you pull cards with your controllers – with cards flying up to reveal animated cartoon scenes with paper-theatre 2.5D depth.
Equal parts Monkey Island, Myst and Zoltar, Kismet really does get you excited about where VR could go next as it blends games and interactive storytelling. Yes, the interactivity is simple point-and-click but, then so was Myst – and look what that’s lead onto. And there’s something about being in a conversational space with a human-sized figure that really helps you become truly immersed in the world.
Imagine a VR version of something like Fallout 4 or Half-Live 2, blending combat play and conversation; adventure games that mix Monkey Island with old ITV favourite Knightmare; or what could be created if the level of imagination that went into the concepts behind games as diverse as This War of Mine or Her Story were applied to VR. And then imagine what experiences the likes of Chris Milk could create for you in interactive VR.
There are clearly exciting things ahead, and it’s going to be quite a ride.
Psyop is one of the first companies from an animation background – rather than games – to get involved in this level of interactive VR. British VFX companies like Framestore and MPC have produced VR films – and no doubt they will be creating experiences in the same vein as Kismet – as gives them a chance to act more like production companies than post-production companies, with more creative control.
The character models were sculpted and textured in ZBrush.
They were rigged in Maya ...
... and animations for them were created there too.
Even the cat Sphinx was fully animated.
The game itself was built in Unity.
Underpinning the 3D world is the Unreal Engine.
"I’ve been obsessed with mechanical fortune telling machines ever since I was a child," says David Chontos, writer and director of Kismet. "Virtual reality has given me a platform to not only create one of those machines entirely from my own imagination, but to step inside of it, and to invite the rest of the world inside with me."
Psyop created 22 tarot cards. This is The Hermit.
This is Justice.
This is Death.
This is The Sun.
Kismet works with both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. You can buy it on SteamVR for £4.99/$6.99.