ABE VR: Love in VR Wasn’t Meant to be Like This
ABE is a robot who only wants to love. But he's certainly not going about it the right way...
Humans are complex creatures, capable of dealing with a wide range of emotions within seconds of one another. Grief, joy, anticipation, disgust, hate, love, envy, shame: the list is almost endless and that’s even before you begin to take into account the diversity and subtlety of each degree of these emotions. Furthermore, we are taught how to deal with the reverse of these; instinctively acting when such an emotion is put upon by another. But what if these life-lessons hadn’t been learnt? What if the training stopped with our own feelings?
ABE is a complex character; though not quite as complex as the humans he loves. ABE VR is a story of unrequited love, wherein the antagonist is a victim of society. ABE loves and was loved, but no more is his world a state of peaceful knowing serenity. He finds himself without love, desperate to recover it yet completely unaware of what caused the change, or how to fix it.
A short VR film based upon a short film of its own – soon to be adapted to a feature film – Hammerhead VR has taken great lengths to ensure that you understand the confusing position that ABE finds himself in, even if you can never empathise. Hammerhead VR has dabbled with virtual reality (VR) experiences before, mostly with client-based marketing works or conceptual pieces, but ABE VR is about to make them a recognised name in the VR community. Not because it’s scary (despite being a horror experience) and not because of its high quality (a small and refined area built using Unreal Engine 4), but because of the same reasons it’s been optioned to be made into a feature film: ABE is a character that you want to know more about.
The scenario isn’t particularly original. A self-aware robot curses his creators for making him such, but isn’t prepared to suffer despite acknowledgement of both his and his loved one’s flaws. Instead, it’s you as the viewer who is going to suffer. The atmosphere created is one not too dissimilar to Capcom’s woeful Kitchen technical demonstration – minutes of intimidation and then a final strike that simply lacks any kind of punch – but it’s the characterisation that sets it apart.
ABE does not have a moveable mouth. He does not have expressions. He does not acknowledge your perception of him. However, he is wholly convincing in the role he plays. You believe that he has been hurt, and that he believes making you his victim is for the good of all mankind.
Coming to Oculus Rift and HTC Vive in May, ABE VR is suggested to be ‘just a taster’ of what Hammerhead VR has in store. Whether or not they can build upon the unique character delivery witnessed here without falling into yet more horror cliché remains to be seen, but VRFocus will certainly be following this intriguing prospect all the way.