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The first episode of Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR series — Lucasfilm’s first longform virtual reality narrative, which is set between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope — launches today for the Oculus Quest headset. It lists for $9.99 and will also be coming to the Oculus Rift headsets later this spring.
Funded by Oculus and created through the Lucasfilm Story Group, the interactive narrative lets audiences step into the role of a smuggler operating near Mustafar, the volcanic world that Darth Vader calls home. At the start, the viewer’s ship is pulled out of hyperspace and the viewer comes face to face with Vader. The viewer breaks free but must now overcome many obstacles in order to return to the ship and escape. It has an estimated running time of 45 to 60 minutes, plus a “Lightsaber Dojo” activity in which the viewer may practice use of a virtual Lightsaber with the Quest’s hand controllers.
ILM’s four-time Oscar nominated visual effects supervisor Ben Snow (Attack of the Clones), who now works with Lucasfilm’s immersive entertainment arm ILMxLAB, directed the project from a script by David Goyer; the latter exec produced with ILMxLAB’s Mark Miller. ILM artists handled the VFX imagery while Skywalker Sound pros (including multi-Oscar winner Gary Rydstrom) created the sound.
Even ILM’s eight-time VFX Oscar-winning supervisor Dennis Muren (Star Wars) gave the project a test drive.
“It’s an original story that takes advantage of VR. It will introduce new characters and new storylines,” said Snow. “We are hoping this leads people to try VR for the first time.”
Oculus shut its VR Story Studio in 2017 but continues to fund select VR projects such as this one. The company declined to reveal the production budget. “We are trying to figure out the business model, which is still developing,” said Colum Slevin, head of media for Oculus’ AR/VR group. “There are people making money in VR, but the market is still very small. Our goal is to help our developers turn this into a business.”
ILMxLAB has been experimenting in the VR/AR realm with its Star Wars IP. Previously released titles include the VR experience Star Wars: Trials of Tatooine and the Magic Leap experiment Star Wars: Project Porgs, as well as The Void’s location-based Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire.
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