In the beginning there was the doll house.
When Bay Area-based virtual reality (VR) startup Nomadic began to work on adapting the VR zombie shooter “Arizona Sunshine” for location-based entertainment, it first built a doll house-scale model of the stage that players would eventually be able to enter.
On a wooden peg board, the Nomadic team arranged small wooden doors, walls and physical props — all the things that make location-based VR so realistic, tricking the brain into believing that you really walk across a plank from one roof to another. “We used cans of Red Bull to represent players,” said Nomadic CEO Doug Griffin.
Pushing the cans through the doll house, Nomadic creative director Anthony Shafer would track times with a stopwatch, trying to figure out the best flow of the story for optimal throughput. He’d spend hours circling the doll house, tweaking details and mumbling to himself, he recently recalled. “It was the hardest set that I have worked on,” Shafer said.
But it also turned out to be the most rewarding one, he added. “I got to keep it and play with it.”
The results of Shafer’s work can now be seen at the Pointe Orlando mall in Florida, where Nomadic recently opened its first VR center. Groups of up to four paying customers get to strap on a computer backpack and put on an Oculus Rift VR headset, and then enter the world of “Arizona Sunshine,” where they are tasked with finding a cure for the zombie outbreak — a task that naturally involves shooting a lot of zombies.