Stranger Things was one of last year’s best new shows on Netflix or otherwise. It captured a unique sense of nostalgia for the 80s as well as channeling a unique and fresh take on sci-fi, thriller, and suspense genres, all with an ensemble cast of standout child actors.
At San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) this week we got the chance to stop by the Netflix interactive loft at the Hilton Gaslamp and see elaborate displays for Marvel’s Defenders, the upcoming Netflix-only film Bright, and of course Stranger Things. With Season 2 of Stranger Things poised to release this October, excitement is understandably high. In fact, the experience we saw was nominated for an Emmy this year in the Outstanding Creative Achievement In Interactive Media Within A Scripted Program category.
In the video above you can see a passive 360 version of the VR experience. The quality is lower, you can’t move around or interact with anything, and it’s a noticeably inferior tier of content. But at SDCC we got the chance to try out the fully roomscale Vive version of it and came away very impressed.
After talking with CBS Digital, the creators of the Stranger Things VR experience, it was clear that they designed different versions on purpose. This 360 video was the most accessible and the Vive version was a step above that. In fact, SDCC this week is the first time the Vive edition of it has been available to the general public.
Things start out in Joyce Byers’ (Winona Ryder) living room as the lights around her are illuminating like they do in Season 1 of the show. All I had to do was follow their path with the flashlight and the experience automatically teleported me from the living room, to the kitchen, and eventually to the hallway. I noticed a tall, dark monster — just like the ones in the show — creeping along outside the house.
Eventually, in the hallway, the phone rings. I physically walk down the hall using the Vive’s roomscale tracking, pick up the phone, and hear a child’s voice on the other end. I’m assuming it was Will (Noah Schnapp) since that’s Joyce’s son in the show who is missing. He tells me to turn around.
I slowly look behind me and see the monster creeping towards me ever so slowly in the darkness. All the lights go out and then BOOM — it appears right in my face and screeches at me. The end.
It wasn’t very long but it was effective. While the content of the 360 version at the top of this article is similar, the Vive version was tremendously better. In the video embedded right above here you can even watch the cast of the show reacting to a more advanced version as well.
Going a step beyond even the Vive experience that we tried they have an even larger warehouse-scale version of it running at the CBS Digital offices that uses a wireless setup via backpack computers and OptiTrack sensors. Then even beyond that version they’ve created a high-scale edition that uses a live actor wearing a mo-cap suit that walks around the environment and becomes the monster in real-time, creating a terrifying, futuristic version of hide and seek.
Hopefully the Vive version gets released on Steam so that everyone with roomscale VR can try it at home.