Harmonix developing a virtual reality (VR) videogame for Gear VR is something of a landmark. There are many studios developing new experiences for VR, and many with higher budgets than the independent developers that have been championing the technology thus far. However, Harmonix are widely considered the leader of their field, equal parts innovators as they are respectful of their audience. Hopes are high that they can bring this influence to VR in these very early days.
The studio’s first VR project, HMX Music VR, is nothing short of inspiring. It has its flaws, sure, but it’s such an early showcase that small issues such as polygon clipping and sudden jumps in distant objects are likely to be overcome by release. Ignore these problems however, and HMX Music VR offers one of the most compelling and unique experiences seen on the Gear VR thus far, if not the entire VR scene.
The easiest way to describe HMX Music VR is to suggest that it’s an interactive Daft Punk video set on a beach, without Daft Punk. Presented in the preview build VRFocus experienced was just one of potentially dozens of backdrops, and yet the image you now have in your head is probably pretty close to the initial view. Pastel shaded hills, trees and sand play host to a horizon that moves to the ebb-and-flow of the EQ, and interactive light shows that animate the audio in a way that no generic media player could ever hope to do so.
The player is in control of the experience in that they can choose what objects to interact with and when. Lanterns will fly past and the player can simply ignore them, but focussing on them will invite them over for a short light show. The background fades into darkness and your entire world becomes the music and the dancing light. Looking away at any point will return the lantern to its original state, as is the case for the many interactive objects in this virtual world.
There’s much more to HMX Music VR than VRFocus was able to experience in our short time with the preview build. Many more interactive objects, light shows and even the ability to move location, thus enabling the player to see new and different items and interact in different ways. The sun rises and sets as the song continues, but the player is able to adjust this by looking directly at the sun. These are just a few of the touches of finesse that HMX Music VR offers in it’s relatively simple experience, and VRFocus can’t wait to spend more time with the software and discover what other possibilities lie in wait.