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Interview with Alex Moretti, CEO of Fallen Planet Studios

Experience Horror in Virtual Reality

vr news

If you’ve ever been to a VR arcade, you’ve probably already run into Fallen Planet Studios’ work. Their hair-raising games and VR experiences have terrified fans the world over - and now they’re back with a new DLC. Read on, if you dare…

VR News

If you’ve ever been to a VR arcade, you’ve probably already run into Fallen Planet Studios’ work. Their hair-raising games and VR experiences have terrified fans the world over - and now they’re back with a new DLC. Read on, if you dare…

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News post by: Chris
Posted: Aug 11, 2020
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Founded in 2013, Fallen Planet Studios was one of the world’s first VR game developers and have made numerous strides in growing the virtual reality market. We caught up with co-founder Alex Morretti to discuss the studio’s history, the development of their flagship horror VR experience AFFECTED: The Manor and its new DLC, The Gauntlet.

Describing what makes AFFECTED: The Manor so powerful, Alex says it uses the “Universal language of horror mixed with the immersion that you can only get with virtual reality”. Born from the real-life experience of visiting their local haunted house, The Manor draws on the potential of “spooky environments to let people’s imaginations run away with them.”

AFFECTED: The Manor and its new DLC, The Gauntlet

The Manor was deliberately built as less of a game and more of a virtual reality experience. There are only minimal game mechanics, with no checkpoints or incessant jumpscares - and crucially, players can’t die. “We found that too much interaction pulled people out of the immersion, and that if the user died in the experience, as they replayed they got more and more desensitized to the horror.”

Instead, they decided to “make something that could be experienced in one go, but that still had a beginning, middle and end...Lighting and audio really help to cement the player in the experience. It’s about maintaining that tension throughout; we tweak it and pluck it using audio stings and slammed doors...We found that when people came out of The Manor - they weren’t talking about their high score or how crazy the baddies were: they were talking about how it made them feel. And for us, that was very important.”

Fallen Planet has always been very aware of its position within the market and its unique capabilities to introduce people to VR. “The Manor is a powerful introduction to virtual reality: it’s simple to use, but well-polished. Those deliberate decisions we took about not having complicated controls or difficult mechanics means that it’s very easy for users to play...We understood early on, especially in conversations with Oculus, that that ability to introduce people to VR is important to them, in the same way it is to PSVR and to HTC Vive. As a small studio, we can help to grow that market and give users a good experience in virtual reality.”

Initial concept Art: No Ordinary Place

Noting that they have been conscious to not outpace the market, Alex states that “Licensing away from consumer headsets has been a key focus for us; that’s helped us to build partners in different verticals and to get a firm understanding of which way we want to take Fallen Planet Studios moving forward...In 2016, we started working with VR arcades. Since gaming began in arcades, many years ago, there was no reason to not assume that those traditional models could be applied to virtual reality.” For one Las Vegas arcade, they developed AFFECTED: Scary Hotel, a real-world elevator experience. Beyond this, they’ve developed “bespoke versions for theme parks, like AFFECTED: Ghost Rider, a motion simulator platform in a South Korean theme park. We’ve expanded the AFFECTED IP as well. One of those is AFFECTED: The Visit, done in conjunction with UltraLeap, a mid-air haptics company.

Indeed, when asked what sets Fallen Planet apart, Alex says “Insight has to be a big one: We’ve been involved since [Oculus] DK1 days, so we’ve seen a lot of studios come and go, and lots of different industries develop around VR...We have a good understanding not just of the VR industry, but of individual business and revenue models: some of which we helped to forge early on, when we started, for example, the licensing side in 2016. People didn’t understand what you could charge for a VR experience, or how it would be delivered: those are all conversations and dialogues we’ve had a key voice in. And from a gaming point of view, we see a lot of successes and some failures...There have been enough errors in locomotion and comfort settings that studios moving forward should be well-informed enough to allow users to have an enjoyable and comfortable time in virtual reality.”

Concept Art: No Ordinary Place

Alex credits their success to this understanding of the market. “Letting it develop, rather than contemporaneously worrying about it growing quickly enough for us and by staying in touch and attending global events when we could, we stayed very well-informed about which direction the VR market was going in. What we’ve always tried to focus on as a studio is to understand what we’re good at and to build on that for our own audience.”

Given their focus on developing VR experiences, the Gauntlet DLC marks a major departure - or as Alex puts it, “it’s everything The Manor wasn’t.” This DLC sees players attempting speed runs of the Manor, contending with randomised events and even getting their fear rated. “The idea for The Gauntlet, even though it’s in the same environment and has a similar feel to The Manor, was to create something more dynamic, punchy and immediate. And it has a replay value to it: we see users trying to beat their own scores and competing on the global leaderboard; it’s really great to see the community welcoming it.”

Concept Art: Surreal Manor

And for the first time, it includes hand avatars. But Alex notes that these were used thoughtfully. “We wanted to take advantage of the abilities the Oculus Quest had to offer, but we didn’t want to crowbar anything in.” So, while interactions are kept to a minimum, players can now hold their torch and open doors themselves.

Concept Art: Disturbing School

In addition, The Gauntlet sees the introduction of an environmental menu and several new localizations, including German, French, Spanish, Japanese and Korean. Upcoming localizations will include Portuguese, Italian, Russian and Chinese.

When asked about upcoming projects, Alex teased an October and Christmas update - so plenty to keep their fans entertained.

You can find AFFECTED: The Manor available on Steam, and keep up with future releases on their website.

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Interview with Alex Moretti, CEO of Fallen Planet Studios