The first head-mounted virtual reality screen was patented in the 1950s. Since then, the technology has retained its cutting-edge aura as each iteration becomes more awe-inspiring than the last. The Rogue Initiative’s Crowe: The Drowned Armory is the latest entry in the field, an interactive virtual reality video game in which an impressive new world comes to life in 360 degree focus.
The game’s guide is a fairy named AMI, shorthand for Artificial Maintenance Intelligence, and is voiced by Cristen Barnes. Unlike traditional animation in which actors voice their parts prior to design, Barnes was cast after the fact. This allowed her to experience the world The Rogue Initiative created before recording her role. Though she remembered the design from Crowe while recording, the full interactive experience was wondrous. Barnes says, “It took me a second, I had to start [the game] again—I didn’t realize it was me because I was so in [the world]!”
Crowe’s mesmerizing achievement is exactly as expected from a powerhouse production company backed by director Michael Bay. He partnered with the group specifically to create this type of virtual reality and immersive entertainment content.
Pete Blumel, The Rogue Initiative’s CEO and Creative Director, has a myriad of credits to his name, including the best-selling Call of Duty video game franchise. For a crossover project like Crowe which is part movie and part video game, the design process relies heavily on multiple elements. Blumel says, “at the heart of this, interactive virtual reality is still video game design and software development. The amazing thing about making video games [unlike] a tv series, movie or short film [is] there’s a tremendous amount of engineering, technology and software development that go with it.”
Cathy Twigg, The Rogue Initiative’s Co-Founder and Chief Content and Production Officer, knows how important that connection is when working in virtual reality. “What’s great about a game person is they’ve been giving the camera to the audience for a long time. That’s a little different from television,” says Twigg.
Blending these elements is an intriguing challenge. “With VR you’re constantly pushing boundaries,” Twigg states.
Next up on The Rogue Initiative’s virtual reality slate is Agent Emerson, a short film directed by Ilya Rozhkov.