Horizon Dev Talks Inspirations, Oculus Rift & the Future

The Oculus VR Share platform is a good place to get started with virtual reality (VR) experience for the Oculus Rift VR headset. The site hosts a range of free videogames, demos, pre-release titles and more for users to sample. Many are simple pieces that serve as a good introduction to the device. That said, some titles lack explanations and properly developed software, making your chances of finding a worthwhile experience somewhat mixed. Fortunately, Horizon from Elijah Flanders is one of the one’s that’s worth seeking out

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Developed in Flanders’ final year of university, Horizon is a relaxing music-based VR experience that takes inspiration from the likes of Flower, Rez and Child of Eden. VRFocus recently spoke to Flanders about developing the title, working with the Oculus Rift and what the future might hold for this developer. VRFocus will continue to cover all videogames featuring VR support, bringing you the latest on them.

VRFocus: Where did you get the idea for Horizon?

Elijah Flanders: The idea came to me a few weeks into the final year of university. I wanted to develop a digital product that attempts to influence its viewers to feel happy, tranquil and amazed. The concepts of coloured-hearing based synaesthesia were implemented, as it was a way of taking the viewer out of reality. Uplifting trance was chosen as the music genre as it uses rhythm and repetition to tap into the subconscious of its listeners.

VRFocus: How was the music for the project created?

Elijah Flanders: I composed the music myself using a musical keyboard attached to Mixcraft. The keyboard was only picked up recently and I’m still learning! The primary melody actually started off as a hum. It was then made brought into the software to be expanded on. The work of uplifting trance artists such like Suncatcher, Ferrin & Morris influenced the track. In addition to this, I also wanted mix the conventions of trance with those heard in music from cinematic music producers such as Audiomachine. There were 21 renditions of the tracks made before finalising the project.

VRFocus: You noted Flower, Rez and Child of Eden as inspirations. What draws you to these titles?

Elijah Flanders: The way in which Jenova Chen and Tetsuya Mizuguchi combine stunning visuals with relaxing and catchy sounds to engage players is the main reason why I like them so much. When playing these games you tend to get ‘lost’ and forget about the world around you until the stage/level is finished. I believe this is what makes them stand out from games we usually see.

VRFocus: The project features some impressive visuals. How long did it take to create?

Elijah Flanders: The entire project was in development for about four months. In terms of visual assets, the basic design and structure was completed around two weeks. I then went on to add develop on the aesthetics with the multiple features available in unity over the following four weeks. Due to the low number of 3D geometry, I was able to use a lot of visual effects without having a negative effect on the performance of the application.

VRFocus: Why did you decide to work with the Oculus Rift? What does it add to the experience?

Elijah Flanders: The idea of using the Oculus Rift with the project wasn’t brought up until about two months into development and I would like to thank my supportive university tutors for recommending it. When presenting the project in its then-current state, the only form of output was through a standard screen. Using the Oculus Rift makes the viewer feel as though they are actually in the world of Horizon. Furthermore, using headphones increases the sense of emersion due to the stereo sound.

VRFocus: Are you considering continuing work on the project? Perhaps for a full release or DK2 support?

Elijah Flanders: At the moment, Horizon stands as an experimental project but I’ve had ideas on how it could become more. One of which is to have various worlds each accompanied by different tracks and visuals.

VRFocus: Would you like to work on Horizon for other platforms, perhaps PlayStation 4 and Project Morpheus?

Elijah Flanders: I’ve actually discussed this with a good friend of mine recently. It would be very interesting to see what could be done with Horizon on other virtual reality platforms. I have only seen a few tech demos of Project Morpheus but ideas of what can be done with it will come to me once I experience it first hand.

VRFocus: What about past Horizon? Will you continue to make experiences, perhaps with VR?

Elijah Flanders: I would love to develop more uplifting experiences for both a standard screen and VR. However, I will need to get my own dev kit to continue development for VR. The whole development process was really enjoyable so it would be great to work on something like that again in the future.

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