Robert Frost certainly wasn’t writing about the Black Hills Forest when he said “The woods are lovely, dark and deep.” These woods are twisted and terrifying, a veritable labyrinth of trees from which it’s impossible to escape. But a boy has vanished, and you’re the only one who can save him in Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition, released today.
This is Bloober Team’s second VR adaptation, following on from last year’s Layers of Fear VR. And Blair Witch is arguably an even more ambitious project, packing the sprawling Black Hills Forest and its myriad secrets onto the Quest Platform. Incredibly impressive work.
We sat down with Bloober Team Producer Radomir Kucharski to talk about the near-impossible task of bringing Blair Witch to Quest, how VR horror is unique, and whether you can pet the dog. (Spoiler: You can.)
Blair Witch marks Bloober’s first time working with an established license. What was that like? Was it difficult working within such a celebrated universe?
Radomir Kucharski: It's such a perfect match. Bloober Team is all about creating disturbing psychological horror experiences. Blair Witch is famous for the same. Lionsgate owns the Blair Witch IP, and the team there has been an incredibly collaborative partner. They provided us with years and years of Blair Witch lore and gave us the freedom to craft an original story within it—and introduce elements that enhance the game experience as well.
Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition is Bloober’s second VR adaptation, after Layers of Fear VR. What lessons did you learn from developing Layers of Fear that proved useful for Blair Witch? What was it like adapting Blair Witch—a PC and console game—to the Quest’s mobile chipset?
RK: Porting a PC or console game to Quest can be a real challenge. After bringing Layers of Fear to Quest, we knew innovative optimization would be essential—but that knowledge hardly prepared us for the almost impossible task of bringing the visually rich Burkittsville woods to life on Quest.
Layers of Fear takes place in tightly constrained levels that are somewhat suited to Quest, and that was already pretty difficult. Blair Witch takes place in a sprawling open environment. We had to redesign and rebuild levels from scratch, with a focus on keeping them a little more compact. That helped with performance, sure—but also the feel of the game, since a lot of aimless wandering is less fun in VR than it is on traditional platforms.
What else is different about horror games on a flat monitor or television versus in VR? Did you need to change any of Blair Witch’s scenes? Make it less scary?
RK: VR offers way better immersion, which makes horror games a lot more scary, but we didn’t want to scale down the intensity of the experience to compensate. In fact, we did the opposite. We’ve tried to make the combat more intense, adding jumpscares and additional sound effects to increase tension and make the experience even more eerie. I think we nailed it, as I’ve played through Blair Witch dozens of times and fighting monsters still raises the hair on my neck every time.
Where we made changes, it was to keep players comfortable through the experience. VR makes it easier to disorient the player, but you have to be careful not to overdo it. There are certain effects from the original version of Blair Witch that we’ve scaled down in VR to preserve player comfort.
We also added a lot of interactive objects so that the environment feels natural and immersive. And Bullet, your dog in the game, is way more interactive than he used to be on PC and consoles. You can use the Oculus Touch controllers to pet him, grab his paw, and even play fetch with him.
What is the most intense reaction you saw from someone demoing/testing Blair Witch?
RK: There was one team member who started screaming and throwing punches while testing the game. It really depends on how much experience someone has with VR, though! Over time, players get used to it and are more immune to those types of reactions.
Are there any other classic horror movies you wish would get the horror game treatment?
RK: I’d love to see George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead turned into a full blown AAA VR game. It would also be interesting to see adaptations of newer horror hits, such as Jordan Peele’s Get Out.
What’s next for you? Any exciting updates in the works?
RK: We are working on delivering the Blair Witch experience to more VR platforms. Watch for more news about that soon!
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
RK: People love horror movies and games because experiencing fear followed by relief—when the movie ends or you finish playing—can be cleansing and even cathartic. VR horror games like Blair Witch can be very intense though. If you ever feel overwhelmed, please take a break!
If you’re ready to brave the Black Hills Forest, you can pick up Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition today.