There’s one dream that everyone that plays videogames has had. It’s a fantasy that, no matter how far the industry has come in recent years, has never been realised to its full potential. We speak, of course, of the lightsaber. Since 1977 children and adults alike have lost hours daydreaming about what it would be like to wield the ultimate sci-fi weapon from the Star Wars franchise. The movie’s tightly-choreographed, lethal ballets of colourful sword battles seem destined to one day make the perfect transition into videogames. Many had hoped that the Nintendo Wii would finally allow us to become a real Jedi but both that Wii remote and the Xbox’s Kinect Motion Sensor have come up lacking in recent years.
Perhaps, then, it’s time for virtual reality (VR) to give it a shot. In fact, we’ve already seen a slim section of the Star Wars universe translated into VR; the climatic trench run sequence from the end of the original movie is one of the more popular fan-made experiences to try out with an Oculus Rift headset. But that’s just the fragment of an enormous, sprawling universe, filled with creative characters and stunning locations that we’re dying to experience in VR. What with the series’ movie and videogame revival springing up around the same time as the resurrection of VR, the two seem practically made for each other.
Seemingly every aspect of the Star Wars universe is ripe for adaption with VR. And, yes, that includes the lightsabers. We’re yet to see truly standout sword combat titles to support the technology, but with controllers like the Sixense STEM on the horizon it’s hard to imagine that they’re too far off. Controllers such as this deliver haptic feedback, meaning not only will you be able to accurately swing the iconic weapon around, but we should be able to feel connections with objects too. This means that multiplayer battles and such won’t simply consist of two players aimlessly swing controllers around but instead receiving feedback from their attacks, bringing them much closer to a sense of immersion. We could finally get the chance to stand in the carbonite chamber with the brilliant flashes of red and blue lighting the area around us. Of course, lightsaber combat isn’t all we’d like to try in VR.
When EA announced a new Star Wars: Battlefront title developed by DICE at last year’s E3, it did so in style. A brief trailer showed a first-person perspective of a character that trudged through the snow of an icy planet, presumably Hoth from Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. It didn’t take long before the character was dodging laser fire and wreckage before come face-to-leg with an AT-ST assault vehicle. It’s a beautifully released piece that merely hints at what VR could do for the franchise. Standing on that battlefield, with your feet buried in the snow and the hulking machine bearing down on you would bring George Lucas’ world to life like never before.
Being able to drive those vehicles would be another highlight. EVE: Valkyrie has shown us that sitting in the cockpit of a spaceship is one of the best ways to experience VR. Now think of that only in the seat of an X-Wing or Millennium Falcon. Again, we’ve already seen this element teased, but to see it expanded upon, perhaps into another Star Wars: Rogue Squadron title if not something else, would be reaching a milestone that fans have dreamed of for years.
Yes, there’s a new set of movies coming up for the franchise, but potential VR titles shouldn’t tie directly into those blockbusters. This is a universe that supports a limitless amount of stories. VR would probably best be served in the Star Wars story by going its own route, with its own plot and set of characters, free from the restrained path and set pieces that a movie tie-in would dictate. It would do well to follow in BioWare’s footsteps with the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic franchise and build something that’s catered towards the experience it wants to achieve. Once you’re given the keys to this universe there’s an endless amount of things you can do with it.
We want to travel to Dagobah and stand waist-deep in swamps, explore a 500-year rotation through a Sarlacc pit and climb to the top of the temple on Yavin IV. We want to live and breathe the Star Wars universe like never before. Let’s hope EA lets us do just that in a few year’s time.
‘Make it a (virtual) Reality’ is VRFocus’ weekly feature that takes the videogames we already know and love and looks at how virtual reality (VR) could enhance them. From retro classics to modern blockbusters, we examine the pros and cons of bringing a franchise to VR headsets.