Northern Ireland video game company Italic Pig have been selected as one of five UK companies to be mentored by Industrial Light and Magic xLAB, a division of LucasFilm dedicated to the future of immersive storytelling.
StoryFutures Academy: The National Centre for Immersive Storytelling, jointly run by the National Film and Television School (NFTS) and Royal Holloway, University of London, recently announced a collaboration with the world-leading ILMxLAB to run a Creative Mentoring Scheme to advance the talents of a select group of UK companies working in Virtual and Augmented Reality.
Five projects have been selected to participate:
● The Infinite Hotel, by Italic Pig (Northern Ireland)
● Garden, by Biome Collective (Scotland)
● Gothica Episode 1, by Figment Productions (England)
● An unannounced project by Hyper Luminal Games (Scotland)
● An unannounced project by Severn Screen (Wales)
The five selected UK projects will benefit from a dedicated group of creative experts from the ILMxLAB leadership team to help develop best practices in immersive storytelling, promote knowledge sharing and provide access to an exclusive series of masterclasses.
ILMxLAB are the creators of some of the world’s most successful immersive entertainment experiences, including the award-winning Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire , Vader Immortal and Avengers: Damage Control .
“It’s extremely exciting to be working with some of the greatest storytellers in the world,” says Kevin Beimers, CEO and founder of Italic Pig. “We had our first call last night with ILM and the other selected teams around the country, and I was pleased that The Infinite Hotel received the high praise of ‘your idea is so perfectly simple that it’s frustrating’ from the ILMxLAB team.”
The “frustrating simplicity” refers to The infinite Hotel’s technical premise. Italic Pig determined early on that one of the major pitfalls of VR is the limitation of real-world space; putting on a headset and suddenly being in a vast field or high mountains is visually incredible, but three steps in any direction will put the player into a real-world wall. Instead, The Infinite Hotel but built from Day One as a “tall” adventure – the player is confined to an elevator, in a hotel with an infinite number of floors. The room stays the same size, but the characters, environments and tasks just outside the door keep changing, allowing for “A Grand Scale Adventure in a Room Scale Space”.
With a key focus on narrative and storytelling from the beginning, Italic Pig is well positioned to make the most of the opportunity. Over the past seven years, Italic Pig has twice been awarded the Creative Europe Media Sub-Programme funding for narrative-led video game development, and Italic Pig’s founder & CEO Kevin Beimers has been nominated three times for Best Game Script by the Writers’ Guilds of Great Britain and Ireland on two separate titles.
“Virtual Reality is a new medium, so we have to find ways to tell stories that take advantage of the best features of that medium,” adds Kevin. “If all you’re doing is repurposing the same old tricks from console and PC gaming, you’ll just find that most of your time is spent fighting against the worst features of the medium.”
The opportunity to work with ILMxLAB has come directly from Italic Pig’s collaboration with Future Screens NI, a Northern Ireland R&D initiative to push the boundaries of entertainment in film, animation and games.