Created by: Raw Lion
Year of release: 2016
Viewing System: Oculus
Artaal, created by a one-man software and game development studio called Raw Lion Workshop, provides Oculus Rift users with a gentle, yet immersive, ride through an abstract landscape. Artaal illustrates how a simple concept can become magnitudes more powerful when put in the context of VR.
I use the word “ride” quite literally, as the experience is set up as if you are on an amusement park ride. You begin at “the station” where you are placed in a car that mimics a roller coaster, and continue on a journey through the abstract world, all while remaining in the same compartment.
Sound effects, lighting effects, and simple geometric shapes make up the entirety of the landscape. These three very simple elements combine in Artaal to make a very powerful experience. The journey begins with abstract landscapes that are relatively simple and well lit. As an individual with a predisposed interest in abstract art, I enjoyed the first few scenes immensely. However, it is one thing to view abstract art on a canvas and quite another to take a ride through it. The experience is certainly for everyone, even those who may not initially find themselves drawn towards an artistic experience.
About halfway through the experience, the mood of the art pieces begin to shift from light and colorful to dark and odd. Where once there was a ground below you, there is a black, engulfing nothingness. The lack of light and ground immediately changes the tone from one that is neutral to one that induced fear in me. The ominous art devolves slowly until it reaches a climax in a room called “the storm.” Ominous sound effects. flashing lights, darkness, and primarily a lack of ground caused me to take off the headset mid-experience in order to reorient myself, but mostly because I was genuinely freaked out. The experience settles down slightly until the end, rounding out a 20 minute experience in total.
One of the most powerful aspects of this piece I didn’t discover until I was done, when I got the chance to watch other people travel through the experience. Those who tried the experience after me had no discomfort throughout the ride, and actually were excited by “the storm” room. Artaal stays true to a primitive quality of a piece of art; everyone experiences it
differently. Overall, Artaal provides an interesting, perhaps even exciting, example of how simple projects can have significant impacts on its viewers.