A little talk with Aaron Lemke, the creator of Lunadroid 237 – Second Part

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After the first part, you can read here the second part of the little talk with Aaron Lemke, a composer and also the game designer of Lunadroid 237 and Eden River.

What is the challenge of creating a narrative experience without classic game tools, such as cutscenes? 

The challenge is that you have to tell the story around the player. The Half-Life games all did this very well. There are no cut scenes, but the bulk of the narrative action is happening right around you or off in front of you where you can still clearly see it. In Lunadroid the story is told mainly through the environment and large set pieces. I also really like the idea of telling a story non-verbally, meaning without words or language. It’s a fun challenge but it also makes your game more universal. Machinarium is one of my all time favorite games and manages to lead you through the whole game and tell a compelling story with very few actual words. Non-verbal, visual storytelling has always been a big part of animation as well. For instance a beautiful movie called The Triplets of Bellville does it very well. Also a lot of the Pixar shorts tell stories non-verbally.

Do you think that experiences, like your works, are able to become popular just like traditional games in the future? 

Well I certainly hope so! Haha. But its hard to say. Feedback has been really good so far. There is definitely a niche audience that will buy these types of games. As to how large that audience is, we’ll have to wait and see. I think there will always be hardcore players who want a long, intense, traditionally structured game like God of War or Diablo or COD. Some of the most exciting applications for VR experiences though are outside the game industry. Things like virtual field trips for schools or virtual museums or virtual classrooms! Also VR experiences as a tool for therapy is super interesting to me. There is a guy in Australia who has been experimenting with using Eden River to calm down kids in his special needs class who may be particularly agitated that day. Also phobias. I saw a project a few months ago that was a public speaking simulator so you can virtually practice giving speeches. I could probably use some practice in there!

Which mood and emotions would you like to explore in a future Rift game? 

I’d love to make a game that captures the feeling of paintings by Surrealist artists like Salvador Dali or Max Ernst. I also like the idea of using some of the techniques that these Rift horror games use to get a player into a vulnerable place; maybe feeling like something will jump out at them. Then show them something beautiful and make them feel safe. Maybe oscillate between these two things. Also Ive been thinking a lot about Disney’s Fantasia. There are all kinds of different moods in that film, but specifically the feeling of visual music happening around you is really exciting to me, and might actually end up being my next game. Stay tuned!

Which future do you see for virtual reality? Do you think is something that can change the way people live? If yes, how?

I have no doubt that VR will change the way people live. There’s two extreme scenarios I can see right now and well probably end up landing somewhere in between them. The first would be totally self indulgent VR. Things like vr porn and really addictive vr video games. Just think if they made Candy Crush VR, people would forget to eat! But also things like World of Warcraft. People have already died playing too much WoW on a monitor, imagine what this could be like in VR. There’s a really interesting theory for why humans haven’t encountered extra terrestrial intelligence despite the huge number of stars and potentially inhabitable planets in our galaxy. So basically wouldn’t it suck if VR got so good and humans became so insular that we forgot about the cosmos and about exploring space. I hope this never happens. On the other side of the spectrum I can see a more utopian future. If we really get our act together I think within a few decades we could be educating ourselves in a much more efficient and effective way. Efficient because all you will need to access a great education is a VR rig, which are getting cheaper all the time, and access to the Internet, which is always spreading to new parts of the world. Effective because we know the best way to learn something is to be immersed in it, NOT to read it out of a book. Cell biology can be very boring when read out of a book. But imagine a game that lets you see a working cell up close, churning away, giant and towering over you. You look at certain parts of it and your virtual teacher comes by to explain what’s happening. Show me a 4th grader that wouldn’t think that’s awesome.

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