Virtual reality can take you anywhere and let you do just about anything when you get there. These experiences come in all forms, but mostly you’re doing things you normally can’t, like hanging out with David Attenborough at London's Natural History Museum or visiting the Titanic. In the case of Where Thoughts Go: Prologue, an immersive social experience from Lucas Rizzotto, your destination and itinerary are far more abstract—you explore the dreams and perceptions of real-life strangers.
Launched in Early Access back in May, and a participant in the Oculus Start program, Where Thoughts Go: Prologue invites you to answer five thought-provoking questions as you explore a dreamlike dimension. How you go about doing this is as unique as everything else in Where Thoughts Go: Prologue — you listen to recorded audio logs from anonymous “players” who arrived before you and then leave your own for others to uncover later. The only discernable goal here is to learn something new about people and how they relate to each other and the world.
Recordings take the shape of cute, glowing spheres—all fast asleep—until you touch one to wake it up. It’s a simple mechanic that encourages you to poke around and explore the hundreds of personal entries scattered throughout each location. It feels like visiting a gorgeous alien world where everyday people have come to stash their favorite diary entries. It's all done anonymously to help you answer questions thoughtfully and without fear.
To hear more about Where Thoughts Go: Prologue, we turned to its creator, indie developer Lucas Rizzotto.
How did you get involved with the Oculus Start program and what was the experience like?
I was lucky enough to have an Oculus Start representative reach out to me in the beginning of the program—I joined pretty much instantly after that. It's an amazing community. As an independent creator, there are many roadblocks you have to overcome to release anything, and Oculus Start has made the process much easier to handle. Everything from launch coordination, equipment, and developer support, it's really a no-brainer for smaller teams that need help getting their dreams out into the world.
How did the Early Access program help you shape the final version of Where Thoughts Go?
Where Thoughts Go: Prologue is doing really unique things, and we honestly didn’t know what would happen once we put it out into the world. Would people like it? Would people be kind; Truthful? It’s a story told through the personal stories of our participants, so we needed a platform to test these ideas before we put it out in full. Releasing in Early Access gave us an opportunity to do exactly that, build a community, get feedback, and make adjustments that make the experience accessible to everyone.
How many stories have been submitted so far? Have any made lasting impressions on the team?
Thousands! Honestly, it’s way more than we can handle and that’s a good thing! It’s consistently uplifting and breaks our hearts. I’m learning so much more about people, their lives, and their struggles by constantly playing. It’s therapeutic, insightful, and educational, all at the same time.
Can you tell us how you settled on the narrative prompts that drive much of Where Thoughts Go?
How can you capture the essence of an individual through five questions? We wanted to ask things that challenged our participants and made them reveal something personal, with each question being more challenging than the last. This led us to theme chapters after periods of life, from childhood to death, letting us explore a number of ideas, personal stories, and emotions in a relatively short span of time.
We also wanted to create variety in the types of stories people shared--sometimes you’ll be asked to share dreams, while in others you may have to tell a story or give advice. This keeps things consistently interesting while also allowing listeners different opportunities to learn something new from the full experience.
Do you think VR helps people share personal anecdotes more freely than other mediums? How so?
Absolutely. VR is an amazing medium for focus; it cuts out all external distractions and directs your attention to a singular set of tasks. I think that quality allows you to get into a headspace that you can’t get into in other mediums (or real life), giving you access to parts of your mind you don’t usually access.
Where Thoughts Go is a visually rich experience—how did you arrive at such a unique aesthetic?
By literally throwing things together until I felt that each environment was both relaxing yet distinct. The aesthetic is also consequence of the creation tools we used--from Google Blocks all the way to Tvori.
Do you plan to evolve Where Thoughts Go with new experiences and ways for people to share?
Absolutely. Expect new announcements as early as this year.
What do you hope people learn or take away from their time in Where Thoughts Go?
We’re all deep, emotionally complex human beings with unique dreams, experiences, struggles, and stories, all of which get trapped inside of our heads with nowhere to go. Where Thoughts Go gives you an opportunity to see that complexity in raw form; to look into the minds of strangers from all over and anonymously share parts of yourself for others to discover. I hope anyone who plays can discover something new about the world by the time the credits roll and maybe even something new about themselves.
Ultimately, it’s about being human. I think VR can get us closer to that humanity.
If you’re ready for a new kind of social experience, one that may just change how you relate to the people around you, then consider stepping into Where Thoughts Go: Prologue today.
— The Oculus Team