It is notoriously difficult to convey what a virtual reality video game looks and feels like to people who aren’t wearing virtual reality goggles. This trailer for Vive launch game Fantastic Contraption, however, nearly nails it.
The mixed-reality video from indie trailer maker Kert Gartner inserts live-action footage of a person playing the gizmo-building VR game with the graphics they see while playing the game. Because this is a Vive game, the player really does move around in a rectangular space and uses two wand controllers to build objects out of virtual wheels and bars. And, speaking from my own time with the game, it really is as incredible as it looks here.
This trailer is, of course, not exactly what the game looks like. The trailer is a little more Who Framed Roger Rabbit than what players or observers would see. You don’t see your body when you play, since you’re wearing a headset that blocks out your view of the real world. And anyone who is in the same room watching you doesn’t see the VR graphics, though they can follow along and see what you see on your computer’s monitor. Nevertheless, the gameplay looks exactly like what you see to the eyes of the person using the Vive.
Fantastic Contraption was developed by Radial Games and Northway Games, the latter of whom I’ve previously written about in order to highlight other very unusual and cool things they’ve done in gaming.
Co-developer Colin Northway explained to me that they made the trailer by creating a version of their game that outputs two views, one that shows what is in front of the headset and one that shows what is behind it. “Then we film the player in front of a green screen so we can separate them from the real-world background (for the trailer we rented a big green screen studio in Winnipeg). Kert then composites the three images together so you can see the player in the world of the game they’re playing.” The filming is done using a camera connected to a third Vive controller.
You can find a more detailed description of shooting the game in this “mixed reality” style at the Northway website, where they explain how they do the shots that show people’s living rooms and how anyone playing the game can do a version of all of this, too.
You may notice there’s a Kotaku blurb in the trailer. That did not affect my assessment of this trailer, though if we were scoring the trailer we might have docked it a half point just to be sure.