Virtual reality (VR) experiences created purely with the intention of being used as a marketing tool are nothing new. From travel agents to movie studios to hotels, it seems that every industry is finding a way to get their foot in the door. But videogames? A videogame developed as a tool for a videogame? That’s new.
It’s Washington’s own Uber Entertainment that take the honour of being the innovator in this space. While many studios and publishers have taken existing assets or even redrawn characters from established videogame franchises entirely, these have mostly been labelled experiments or prototypes. Planetary Annihilation: Titans VR Experience is exactly what it claims to be: a VR experience built to aid the promotion of Planetary Annihilation: Titans. And there’s nothing bad about that.
Available to play at Uber Entertainment’s PAX Prime booth (along with their full VR exclusive title, Wayward Sky on Project Morpheus), Planetary Annihilation: Titans VR Experience has been built to make full use of the HTC Vive hardware. The player stands atop a metal platform a few feet off the ground and can move about freely on surface, with the device’s chaperone system kicking in when you near the edges. In your left hand is a robotic grip, capable of picking up and tossing small spider mines that sit on the floor around you. Your right hand is a creation tool, which is integral to progress.
The experience begins with the player atop the platform with stationary units lined up beside and ahead. The player is given a moment to adjust the environment and play with the spider mines, before behind them appears the white outlines of a number of buildings. Using the creation tool in their right hand to ‘paint’ these buildings will eventually lead to a manufacturing plant releasing a series of tanks, which then march on headfirst into the trouble brewing ahead.
In the distance you see it. Uber Entertainment are keen to express that Planetary Annihilation: Titans VR Experience was designed with the intention of interpreting scale of those titular titans, and it does so very well indeed. A shadowy figure nestled between mountains soon becomes the dominant machine in sight. It continues towards you, dwarfing all else in your vision as it passes over.
The interaction in this short, simple experience is limited, but in that respect it works in 2 ways: Planetary Annihilation: Titans VR Experience is a wonderful VR taster for Planetary Annihilation fans yet to sample the technology, and a great explorative piece for VR fans not enamoured with Planetary Annihilation. Where Uber Entertainment decide to take Planetary Annihilation: Titans VR Experience next is not yet decided, but in the opinion of VRFocus offering this experience as-is alongside the launch of consumer VR hardware would certainly lead to some interesting discussion in online communities as well as aiding the profile of Uber Entertainment as a VR pioneer. Planetary Annihilation: Titans VR Experience was an attempt at creating something new without draining resources, and though simple it may be, it has achieved that goal.