“Transference” looks like a movie wrapped inside a video game, but Elijah Wood, who’s helping to create the title with Ubisoft, tells Variety that’s not the case.
“It’s a game, it’s definitely a game,” he said in a private upstairs room at LA’s Orpheum Theatre following Ubisoft’s E3 press conference last week. “This isn’t just a VR experience, it was conceived as a VR game.”
Wood took to the Ubisoft stage to introduce “Transference,” a game being developed by a small team inside Ubisoft Montreal in collaboration with his film production company SpectreVision. The game mixes live-action with computer-generated creations to deliver a paranoid puzzler that takes place inside a simulation created by one of the game’s main characters.
The concept for the game came about just as Wood and his company were investigating ways to make use of virtual reality for storytelling, he said. SpectreVision primarily creates horror films and VR seemed like the sort of medium that could help them make immersive, uneasy, terrifying experiences, Wood said. A mutual friend, who formerly worked at Ubisoft, put the two companies in touch with one another and things took off from there.
Wood and crew traveled to Montreal to meet with some of the Ubisoft developers and have a brain-storming session. “Out of that came this sense of, ‘there is something here,’” Wood said. “Then we chipped away at a nugget of an idea.”
Wood described the resulting game as a sort of mystery that thrusts the players into a world where they are trying to piece together the mystery of what happened to a family. In the game, the simulation is the by-product of the collective brain data of Raymond, his wife Catherine and their son Benjamin. Somehow, members of the family are now trapped in the simulation. The game is due out this fall, and while it was conceived as a VR game, it’s also going to be available on non-VR platforms. Currently, the game is expected on PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
The hope is that this won’t be the last game SpectreVision creates.
“We’d love to create more games,” Wood said. “We’re all gamers. We all grew up playing video games. The opportunity to work with Ubisoft was something we couldn’t pass up. It was super exciting.”
While Wood is deeply involved with the game’s creation, he won’t be acting in the title. Instead, he said, he’s the creative director.
“We’re all pretty equally involved,” he said. “We all wear multiple hats. I wanted to be a part of the creation of it. It was more fun to get Macon Blair (Green Room) to play the lead character in the game.”
The process of creating a game rather than a movie did involve evolving some new techniques, he added. They don’t have edits and the team doesn’t have the ability to control the camera. Instead of telling where a viewer needs to go or look, they needed to develop other approaches. “We have to string people along and create a sense of wanting to move forward and then instilling that movement with a sense of discovery.”
While gaming seems likely in SpectreVision’s future, it won’t be supplanting the production company’s movie work any time soon. Instead, Wood said that this game is a reflection of just how much Wood and his team love gaming and the emerging tech behind VR.
“It’s not looking at this as a beacon, as this is the future of entertainment,” Wood said. “It’s just fun to play in the sandbox of VR. Also, wanting to express ideas that push things forward in the context of a video game.”