The Senua Trailer in VR

10 May The Senua Trailer in VR

To start off, an important note: To be clear the release of the Senua Trailer in VR doesn’t mean that Hellblade will be a VR experience. We’re testing things out in VR and it makes sense for us to use the assets that we had available to us while experimenting.

At GDC this year, at the Epic keynote, we released a real-time video of a scene from Hellblade which you can see here:

 

In a cool twist, we drew back the curtain mid-trailer, to reveal that it was being performed live by Melina on stage.  She was being performance captured live on stage and rendered in real-time in Unreal Engine 4.  In case you missed it, here is how we did it:

 

We worked in partnership with Epic Games, Cubic Motion, 3Lateral & iKinema to make this happen and it really was a serendipitous coming together of minds wanting to do something cool led by Kim Libreri, CTO of Epic.

While performance capture has been done before in films like Avatar and our very own Heavenly Sword, it has never been done live on a character of this kind of fidelity before.  At the end of the demo I suggested that this would be especially pertinent to VR.

So while the Hellblade team is small, there are 100 people at Ninja Theory.  A handful of these have been experimenting with VR.  After GDC, we now had a great looking scene and we wanted to get it up and running in VR.   Today, we are in a position to share it with you as a stereoscopic 360° video form:

 

Getting it working in VR required quite a bit of work.  The main challenge was optimising it to run at 90fps without losing too much in the way of visual fidelity.  It’s now mostly hitting 90fps with some exceptions so we’re not quite ready to release the PC build of the scene to the wild.

In the original scene, the cameras were captured on set and tweaked in Maya but, as you would expect, in VR it felt quite nauseating to quite a few people.  So the cameras were re-authored in matinee from scratch.

It is possible to eliminate nausea by having static cameras but we felt that you also eliminate part of the drama by doing so.  So what we have is a camera path that tries to preserve the intent of the original camera while avoiding some of the main pitfalls of VR-based camera motion, namely accelerations in movement or rotation. Anyway judge for yourself and let us know how you feel about it on twitter @NinjaTheory.

What was really remarkable is the feeling of Senua’s presence in VR.  When you can lean in and see individual eye lashes up close, it is stunning.  But when she looks into your eyes, most people experience an eerie feeling of self-consciousness which is a clear sign that your brain believes that she is real.  However that illusion is shattered when you move your head away from her and she looks into blank space.

To get around this, we added head and eye tracking to Senua so that she follows you when she is talking to camera.  Her head moves independently from her eyes, just as it would in a real person, and her eyes flit between your own eyes and mouth procedurally, giving the impression that she is looking at your face.

We have been creating rich worlds with strong characters in real-time for many years now and VR is a great medium to expand on our heritage into the future, especially in areas where performance capture, procedural animation and interactivity intersect.

We are pretty excited about bringing that future closer!

9 Comments
  • André Vila Franca
    Posted at 23:18h, 10 May Reply

    Cool! Now please show us more about the mechanics, i want to see how the combat will be inovative. I hope it’s realistic in terms of movement, weight, damage. Diverse and dynamic, make it cool but believable. Also, her body looks too thin for a celtic warrior, what happened to want her to be a realistic female warrior?? I hope everything works out for the best.
    Keep up the gret work!

  • Pietro Camin
    Posted at 22:29h, 11 May Reply

    Hi guys,
    I’m writing here hoping that Ninja Theory team will read this post.
    I’ve seen some videos that actually are pretty interesting and that make me hope good in this project.
    But there is one thing that looks “easily” improvable to me. I’ll explain myself better: the work done to characterize the protagonist, Senua, is really great but one little thing really disturb me. Even if the face is perfectly reproduced, with all the assumable expressions, the arms don’t move. Staying along the body like if it’s dead and this feels really strange to me when I look at the scene.
    Now I think that my suggestion is clear: try to make them move if you think that’s possible to do.
    And I’m not writing all this only because i’m italian. 😀

  • Karine Redfield
    Posted at 09:04h, 26 May Reply

    I can’t wait for the release of the game, I’m so so excited. Thanks for showing us the development of the game and for keeping up informed. Keep up the dope work <3

  • Nelson kawakami
    Posted at 13:26h, 04 June Reply

    Really awesome. Cant wait to play hellblade 🙂

  • Aimee
    Posted at 15:16h, 06 June Reply

    Something I have high hopes for in this game is the care you’ve put into binaural audio effects – too many games do not translate well to headphones because they use L/R speakers exclusively for sound effects at your periphery, which is great when the speakers are around you (because you near naturalistically) but sounds deeply wrong in headphones because your left ear is not supposed to be deaf to something happening on your right (unless, perhaps, the sound is happening inside your head.)

    Would it be possible to support sound settings permitting both headphone and surround-speaker play? I bought a PS4 with this game very much in mind and was ecstatic about the potential in the headphone jack – would love to be able to play with that level of contextual detail to really get into her head.

    We’d also love any other wallpapers or audio downloads anyone can share while waiting!

  • TigerPrincess
    Posted at 16:46h, 25 June Reply

    l love these videos, Day one buy if l can! <3

  • William Mauritzen
    Posted at 18:30h, 10 August Reply

    Publish the participating world space media solution in 4.13!

  • Imran
    Posted at 22:09h, 13 October Reply

    The first game that attracted me since PS3 so badly, I really Want to play this game and hopefully, it’s going to support 4k resolution. we really need more games like this one.

  • Massacher
    Posted at 16:43h, 18 November Reply

    How do you view the VR in 3D? Do I need 3D shutter glasses and a 3D capable screen?

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