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The Story of Project Holodeck


The Film Noir Zombie Apocalypse

While showcasing at the Science Gallery in Dublin we kept getting feedback that a Zombie game would be jaw-dropping in VR.  So we decided to make that too. As Wild Skies was well underway, we started a 2nd project called Zombies on the Holodeck so we could try out a new genre with new game mechanics and spatial arrangements.

Zombies on the Holodeck!

This time we didn’t have a flying ship, so we had to have a reason for containing the players in a small play area.  I thought a ‘Hold Out’ scenario might work, where players could pile boxes and debris in order to block Zombies from entering the play area and eating them alive.  This was a tough balance and we never quite got that to work.  Turns out players don’t like bending over and picking things up in VR – its too much effort.  So instead we decided to focus on weapons.  Alex began implementing two-handed weaponry with our custom Hydra framework, and I built out a complete level with a unique grayscale film noir style.  I was joined in late January by Adrian Swanberg, who crafted unique game mechanics such as clip reloading, dynamic Zombie spawning, player damage system, and so much more.

Zombies Concept Art

It was fascinating playing with all these mechanics in VR – and there’s still so much more room to innovate.  Audio for one thing always turns out to be more important than you think at first, especially in VR.  I spent a lot of time crafting a robust audio experience with old school horror film scores, wind, thunder, rain, radios, televisions, and the like.  Our audio director Jeremy Tisser composed his own music to complement the setting. 

Quality audio made the experience so much more immersive.  During development I would often find myself sitting in a room with a Rift and headphones on for hours on end – complete sensory isolation – and start to feel cold and wet from the virtual thunderstorms.  I would pour myself a warm mug of coffee and get comfortable, only to be surprised to step outside and be hit in the face by 80 degree weather.