Authors: Here Be Dragons, Oculus Studios
Year of production: 2017
Platform: Oculus Rift
The first piece I chose to analyze was “Ghost in the Shell”, a 2017 VR experience by Here Be Dragons. For context, this VR piece was based off a 2017 movie, as well as a 1990s manga, both with the same name.
The first scene involved the viewer passing through a gigantic fish, then transitioning into a scene on top of a skyscraper. On top of the skyscraper, the viewer passes through an unnamed female figure, who is the main character of this piece. Then, the female figure jumps off the skyscraper, and the piece transitions into a scene where the figure shoots off many other characters, who I assume are enemies. A wide hole in the wall then opens, which the female figure passes through, and then the piece transitions into its final scene, involving the viewer moving forward through a tank full of jellyfish towards what I assume is the exit of the tank, marked by white light and a faint border of the female figure.
After I finished watching, I went and read some online reviews. I was surprised as to how short it was - in total, it was fewer than five minutes, and I was expecting more when it ended. Others were also wondering why it was this short. Given that there was so much background material - both a movie and a full manga series - a VR piece that only captures a few scenes doesn’t do the original work much justice. In addition, given that there were so few scenes, the transitions between each didn’t feel very natural. For instance, the transition between the shooting scene and the jellyfish tank felt unjustified - a viewer without the necessary context would not understand what the transition is all about.
In addition, there were several aspects of movement that I felt were a little overused. For instance, during the skyscraper, shooting, and jellyfish scenes, the viewer was always moving forward in the scene. According to one review, this has a large potential to induce nausea in viewers who are not used to VR, hence the “moderate” Oculus comfort rating. In addition, even though passing through objects (and having objects fly or move very close to the viewer) felt very satisfying and realistic, I felt like this happened a little too much. Especially during the shooting scene, I was a little confused as to why the female figure appeared in and out of reality, and why I was getting so close to her so many times without actually passing through her.
That said, I was very impressed by the graphics and the overall quality of the experience. Whenever I “passed through” objects, both living and nonliving, it felt very realistic - this was helped by a female voice at the beginning that mentioned “looking into” oneself. In addition, the jellyfish in the tank scene were excellently rendered both far away and close-up - I could really see the details of the heads and tentacles when the jellyfish were close to me, but could still clearly see their movement patterns far away. Also, I felt that the sound and audio effects were very fitting towards each scene, especially the tank scene.