Originally designed for the early Oculus developer kits, AFFECTED by Fallen Planet Studios was a hit with early VR enthusiasts. The first segment of the original trilogy, AFFECTED: The Manor debuted on Gear VR in June and made it to the No. 1 spot for mobile apps on the Oculus Store at one point. Now, a remastered, expanded version of this incredibly popular experience is available for Rift.
Look for the second installment of the trilogy, AFFECTED: The Asylum, to hit Rift in May, followed by The Carnival in time for Halloween. Fallen Planet is also working on AFFECTED: The Cabin, a much longer, narrative-driven experience coming to Oculus at the end of the year.
In the meantime, we took a deep dive on the original VR horror experience with Creative Director Mark Paul.
What sort of response did you see after bringing AFFECTED: The Manor from YouTube to Gear VR? Do you expect a similar reaction with the Rift launch?
Mark Paul: The AFFECTED experience has always been very popular on YouTube, right from the early DK1. There are over 200M views combined now—people just like watching other people get scared! It was great to finally make AFFECTED: The Manor more widely available through our Gear VR release, and the reception we received was amazing. The Rift version is much higher quality, with additional rooms and routes that increase both the length and replayability, so we hope it’s as well received by the Rift community as the Gear VR version was.
What did you draw upon for inspiration?
MP:AFFECTED isn’t a game. It’s all about the emotions and sensations we provoke. Filmmakers like John Carpenter and David Lynch are of interest to us because they’re able to create their own worlds for people to get lost in. There’s probably some typical horror genre influences in there as well, but it’s important to note that we didn’t set out to make the scariest VR experience available—not by any means. First and foremost, we wanted to make something entertaining. We use horror as a vehicle for these VR experiences, but we try to make sure they’re never gory or gratuitous. That can be off-putting to a lot of people, especially when it’s in VR! Essentially, we recreate the live haunted house walk-throughs that are already so popular around the world. When you add VR into that equation, it makes for a very powerful experience.
How did you use sound to maximize the scares?
MP: Audio plays a huge role in what we create, and we spend a lot of time crafting the soundscape upon which The Manor sits. The ability to use spatialized audio within a 3D environment is an amazing new tool that wasn’t available with 2D game design, so it’s often an area that gets overlooked. We continually use this function throughout The Manor and the rest of the trilogy as well.
For the Rift release, you’ve added Touch compatibility. How does the experience change when moving from gamepad to motion-tracked controllers?
MP: With Touch, we find it really increases immersion. On the face of it, AFFECTED is simple, but that’s where its strength comes from; the addition of Touch simplifies the experience even further, which for us as developers is great. In-game, the controller appears as a flashlight, creating an even deeper level of immersion. We love using Touch with other VR titles, so it’s been great to add that functionality to the AFFECTED experience.
Lots of people were able to try AFFECTED: The Manor on the DK2. Why the long wait before bringing it to Rift?
MP: Because we’ve been really busy! The mobile release of AFFECTED: The Manor went well for us and drew a lot of attention to our studio. We’ve built up some great relationships off the back of that, which let us explore some other routes aside from consumer releases. Last year, we worked with Coca Cola to use AFFECTED in conjunction with a YouTube channel they launched. We also worked with a large theme park in Germany to deliver a bespoke AFFECTED installation. That proved very popular with their audience, so we’re working on something for them this year as well. We have more customized experiences that we created for locations in Las Vegas and Vienna and created an ODT version of AFFECTED that’s been used by Cyberith since last year, and we’re also looking forward to our new partnership with Virtuix Omni as we roll out an ODT experience for their platform next month. In addition to that, we’ve been working with Samsung in China, Hong Kong, and the US to demonstrate their products using our VR app as well as building relationships with VR arcades such as Ctrl-V in Canada that aim to deliver high-quality VR to the general public.
The mobile version of AFFECTED: The Manor has been praised as a great way to demo VR for family and friends. Do you think the Rift release will hold similar appeal as a gateway experience?
MP: We learned about the value of AFFECTED as a shared experience back in the DK1 days and we’ve seen that continue through our Gear VR release. There are lots of videos on YouTube of people reacting to the experiences we’ve created, but it’s not just the people with the VR headset on that’re reacting. I really like to watch the other people in the room that are in hysterics because they’re seeing their friend or parent trying VR for the first time. With lots of people still new to VR, it’s important to curate the VR content that they’re exposed to. AFFECTED works so well because it’s very easy to understand and you don’t have to learn anything new to enjoy it—there are no tricky controls or complicated game mechanics. These are important qualities that enable a deep level of immersion but also make it a great first experience for people who are new to VR.
Thanks to Mark for the insights. Check out AFFECTED: The Manor on Rift today—and brace yourself for the jump scares.
— The Oculus Team