Immersive out-of-home entertainment industry specialist and writer Kevin Williams, has completed a comprehensive four-part whitepaper, looking at the burgeoning VR escape game business, outlining its key areas and the leading lights defining this new branch of the industry. Looking at the growth of the VR in this sector, and dedicated developers of content and hardware for VR Escape gaming.
Table of Contents
The Rise of Virtual Entertainment
While the consumer application of VR entertainment may seem to have taken longer to take-off. The out-of-home entertainment application has exploded, with major investment being placed in commercial entertainment deployment. One genre that has gained much momentum in this sector is that of the “VR escape game”, directly building on the physical Escape Room business approach that has proven so popular.
An example of how the virtual application of VR is trending in respects to the convention “physical” Escape Room business, we only need to look at Google Trends and see how the impact of virtual reality has assimilated with more familiar physical Escape Room. Players looking for entertainment, but also intrigued by the virtual offering.
Originally, we saw a growth in multi-player VR game experiences, with an initial avalanche of what we are colloquially calling “zombie-blasters”, (groups of players, using weapons to blast hordes of either the undead, robots or aliens). But recently we have seen an emergence of co-operative elements that have migrated into Escape Room game style narrative.
This has seen the emerging VR entertainment platform business for commercial deployment splitting between products that are “dedicated” re-creations of an Escape Room experience, using the immersion of virtual reality – and those VR platforms that incorporate “elements” of the Escape Room experience into wider game narrative.
Where consumer VR games can only accommodate limited multiple players through online networks – the Out-of-home VR entertainment scene embraces multiplayer experiences, like the conventional Escape Room business, looking at a group audience experience – ranging from a minimum of two players to up to ten.
Most recently in Amsterdam was held ‘Up The Game’ – a unique mix of conference, exhibition and demonstrations covering the Escape Room and live event sector. On the exhibition show floor were numerous leading VR Escape Game developers. This growth in development has also been seen across the amusement and attraction industry. We now chart the current projects, and the main themes witnessed.
Dedicated Escape Game Experiences
Swiss-based TrueVRSystems – is one of the early developers of full-body, large-scale, free-roaming VR experiences – using backpack PC’s and physical effects and props within the arena where multi-plater experiences take place – having licensed their game platform to seven venues round the World. The company has supported their zombie-blaster style action with escape game content, releasing ‘Temple of Diamond Skull’.
The game was one of the first to see groups of players navigate an abandoned temple, overcoming various traps and puzzles to reach the inner sanctum and the treasure that awaited. The game offering five players the chance to work as a team to reach their goal using burning torches to illuminate their way. The game cemented the idea of “hyperreality” experiences, leading the charge in supplying this fusion of scare, adventure and co-operation.
Many game developers have now turned their development resources towards the creation of VR game content for the Commercial entertainment landscape based on this genre. Russian start-up The Deep VR has developed a free-roaming (Arena Scale) platform that allows players to done backpack PC’s as well as haptic vests to immerse themselves in virtual experiences. The company has focused on team-based zombie-blasting with their game ‘Safe Night’; but have added an element of team-based action to appeal to the Escape Room scene.
With 18 operations, Virtual Room offers a team-based VR adventure for between two and four players. The VR game experiences build on a cinematic theme but with a strong Escape Room narrative. The French-based operation has created a unique game style that marries the best of the virtual experience with the puzzle solving team-based adventure with three available titles this including the series ‘Time Travel: Chapter 1’ and ‘Time Travel: Chapter 2’ – the two and four player experience using tethered headsets – placing the players in unique locations in time and space, depending on their teamwork to save the day.
The German-based Exit-VR is one of the first developers to offer a “Virtual Live Adventure” – having developed five VR escape games, the operation franchise their core experience across the Globe with some 25 locations in operation. One of their first titles ‘Huxley’ combined backpack VR with a live game-master who can control their experience in real-time changing the parameters to suit the team’s abilities.
Dedicated Escape Game Content
French-based developer BackLight – with an established background in VR based content, the company has developed their virtual adventure ‘ECLIPSE’ – that sees teams of two to four players navigate a giant spacecraft without using teleportation, traversing different areas in teams completing puzzles towards getting the crafts systems back online in able to escape. While at the same time solving the mystery that has befallen the original crew.
The experience supports either backpack PC, or the latest wireless VR hardware, to offer free roaming experiences that are not as dependent on space. The VR escape game is available to VR arcade venues under a licensing agreement. The company has recently launched a complete turn-key wireless VR four-player enclosure system – called ‘OZ’ that offers access to their games that can be installed simply in any kind of venue.
French-based developer Incarna Studio has created ‘INCARNA: Chapter One’, a backpack PC VR experience for three or four players, which has them exploring the wonders of the “dream universe”, working as a team to experience a mix between adventure, explorations and puzzles in this dreamlike state. The company having licensed their content currently to some six locations in France.
One such VR facility that has licensed Ubisoft, Blacklight and Incarna VR escape games, is ILLUCITY – what has been described as “the 1st Virtual Reality Adventure Park”, the Paris-based flagship location offers a multitude of VR attractions under one roof.
Game developer Escape VR – who have created some five escape game experiences that are operated under franchise by many venues. Both with tethered and backpack PC VR supported games that depend on a heavy co-operation and puzzle solving element. Experiences such as their first VR escape game ‘Geist Manor: Playtime’, and with their latest title ‘Goblin’s Quest: The Uprising’; placing the team in a fantasy-based narrative pitting their wits against their captive, the goblin king, locked in a dungeon. The company having licensed their games to operators of both VR arcades and conventional Escape Rooms adding VR to their mix.
vrCAVE – a Canadian VR developer that has primarily focused on escape games that stretch the immersive experience. The company has over 35 locations globally running their licensed experiences – representing one of the largest circulated VR escape room game providers. The company has released three escape experiences including ‘Space Station Tiberia’, ‘Depths of Osiris’ and ‘Dragon Tower’. Offering social VR experiences using backpack PC hardware and team-based adventure. The company has also developed co-operative VR experiences with a haunted house element, (such as with their title ‘Hospital of Horror’), as well as a child-friendly, co-operative puzzle game title ‘Laserbots‘.
The Czech-based VR developer – DIVR has already established their name, with their successful VR visitor attraction ‘Golem VR’ – offering a backpack PC free-roaming attraction based around the creature of local mythology. Building on this attraction-based approach the company has developed ‘Arachnoid VR’ that adds a horror element to the Arena-Scale attraction with teams moving through abandoned mineshafts.
The experience using their virtual flashlight to navigate the dark tunnels, collect the clues to progress to the surface while attempting to avoid the monstrous arachnoid’s bent on their destruction. The escape game married to a haunted house approach, with a high level of teamwork. An example of how the new phase of development for LBE VR offers a more thematic attraction approach.
Malaysian developer Dutajaya Media (DJM) have created their own Arena-Scale VR backpack PC multi-player platform called ‘Project EXA’ that has been deployed across Asia – the company has developed a new horror Escape Game for the system called ‘Dimension 13’, building off their experience with the original zombie-blaster games.
The new game offering groups of between two and four to work as a team on escaping the trap of the evil entity, as they traverse the floors of a deserted building using a rickety elevator. The company has recently signed a partnership agreement with SynthesisVR to have their games distributed on the VR content management and licensing platform.
Click here to read part 2 of Escape Room VR – A New Reality!
References & Further Reading
- EscapeFront’s VR Directory Listings
- The Out-of-home Immersive Frontier
- Attractions Pro
- The Stinger Report
Kevin Williams – a leading specialist in the digital Out-of-Home entertainment industry, through his consultancy KWP Limited, specializing in interactive entertainment. Coming from a long career in the theme park, amusement and entertainment software industries, being an ex-Walt Disney Imagineer. Well known for his news service, The Stinger Report that has become a-must-read for those working or investing in the international market. Along with this, he is also a prolific writer with regular columns for the main trade publications in this market, along with presenting numerous conference sessions on the sector and its global impact. He is also the co-author of the only book on this aspect of the market, “The Out-of-Home Immersive Entertainment Frontier” – currently working on the next edition, schedule for publication soon. Kevin can be reached at [email protected].