The Exorcist Legion VR is a virtual reality experience inspired by the one of the most popular horror movies of all time. Published by Fun Train, the action takes place across five terrifying episodes.
“It is often said that The Exorcist is the scariest film ever produced. The Exorcist: Legion VR is scarier”, we wrote in our Exorcist Legion VR review. Inspired by this harrowing journey on PS VR, we hooked up Douglas Nabors, CEO of Fun Train, to discover more about the background to the game.
Check out The Exorcist Legion VR interview.
1.The original Exorcist movie was apparently cursed. Did this concern you before deciding to make Exorcist: Legion VR, and have you experienced any spooky goings-on during development?
Thankfully, we didn’t encounter any of the tragedies or strange occurrences they had on the movie set!
2. Give us a quick rundown of what Exorcist: Legion VR is about and what your goal was in terms of the experience that you wanted players to have.
The Exorcist: Legion VR casts players as a detective assigned to solve the mystery behind a series of ritualistic murders that have all the markings of a serial killer; but as the story unravels, they realize it’s much more serious than they could have ever imagined.
We come from film/television backgrounds but a few years ago we “discovered” VR and immediately fell in love. We love VR’s power to allow audiences to completely forget where they are, who they are and get lost in another world. We want everybody to have the ability to experience this, so our goal was to create something as mass market as possible against the backdrop of a franchise that is an immediately recognizable piece of cinematic history. We want to show existing and new users that VR can be a gateway to a new form of narrative entertainment.
3. What was the thinking behind releasing episodic content?
There were two primary reasons for releasing The Exorcist: Legion VR as an episodic series. First, we wanted to make the experience as affordable as possible and give VR fans a variety of choices when purchasing the game. VR hardware and software are still somewhat cost-prohibitive, and we realize that these items still need to be somewhat palatable in order for VR to really grow.
Wolf & Wood, the development team in the UK, has crafted five really compelling “chapters”, and each one can be purchased a la carte. After Chapter 1, users can purchase each subsequent chapter at their own leisure for $6.99 each, even skipping a specific chapter if they don’t want to commit. I don’t recommend that because you might miss some interesting story, but you have the choice We’re VR gamers too, so we want good value for money just like anyone else.
The second reason is that we want our content to be consumed! It’s our goal to deliver something that is expertly produced, affordable in price and able to be enjoyed one episode at a time or in a binge session – just like people experience television/streaming shows and movies.
4. Without spoiling anything, which part in the game sends the most shivers up your spine?
Well, not to give anything away, but there’s a brief moment in Chapter 3 where there is “something” standing in a doorway for a moment. If you blink, you might miss it, but it because of the way the scene is lit and the size of the “thing”, it always gives me a little shudder. Wolf & Wood really nailed the timing and the tone of this beat.
5. Is the detective character in Legion VR supposed to be Kinderman from the Exorcist 3, or is the detective more of a Kinderman-like character? The detective is never named as far as we recall.
Good question! Definitely a Kinderman-like character, but not him. Not to get too academic, but this gets down to the assumption of “identity” in the game. We intentionally did not want to affix a name, face, or specific personality to the player because we want the player to feel like THEY are the lead character – following every lead, collecting every clue, following their curiosity wherever it takes them.
In an ideal world a player would be able to set their own gender, age and ethnicity to the identifying parts of their in-game presence so they can better immerse themselves in the story. We’ll get to that place eventually. One day, I’d love for VR experiences to be able to incorporate elements of your real-world self into the experiences you are playing. Imagine looking in a mirror and seeing a reflection of your real-world self!
6. Obviously, religious imagery is a large part of the overall Exorcist lore. Were there any lines content-wise that you decided not to cross? Were there any proposed bits of content that you decided to scale back on?
Beyond some extreme sexual imagery that was in the first film, there weren’t any lines that we intentionally didn’t want to cross. However, all 5 chapters are filled with references to biblical events, passages, and parables if you know where to look. Wolf & Wood is terrific at deep research and backstory.
There’s a particular painting in the Tomb in Chapter 5 which is a depiction of the “Exorcism of the Gerasene demon” which completely ties in to our story arc and we posit that Pazuzu was, in fact, this demon- he’s been around, in some form, a long time. We focused on demons that have real world history. For example, Abyzou in Chapter 3 actually has many names throughout history with the Hebrew version of “Lilith” being the most familiar.
7. Legion VR has a lot of “echoes” of the Exorcist 3 (We’re thinking of the baby on the ceiling, for example). How carefully did you study the content of the film for ideas?
The baby is definitely an homage to The Exorcist III! We liked the procedural component of Exorcist III in that the protagonist was an “everyman” tasked with understanding the unknowable, and it served as a good gateway for the player to take on that role for themselves. We studied the third film quite a bit and really keyed into the idea of Pazuzu and his legion working thru certain types of people- either people who had lost their faith, or were dabbling in things that they should have left alone.
Wolf & Wood also had this great idea of including the Gemni Copycat as a sub-narrative of the chapters, and it’s really effective. There’s even references to him in Father Bell’s hidden tapes in Chapter 1 if you listen closely. In fact, there’s a lot foreshadowing that is planted in Chapter 1. We don’t expect people to find all of these story Easter eggs, like in the newspaper on your desk for example, but if one looks hard enough there’s a plethora of details to uncover. There’s even a hidden can of Pea Soup that 99% of users have yet to find.
8. How much freedom did you have to construct new stories in the Exorcist universe? Were there any areas that were off limits?
Since the Exorcist III was the title that we licensed, we wanted to stay within the confines of that property, but we were given creative freedom and chose to develop an original storyline that expanded upon the ideas and tone of the franchise.
9. One of our favorite things about The Exorcist: Legion VR is the way the team captures the tone of the films, the quiet moments between the scares. How intentional was the pacing of the game?
That pacing was 100% intentional and I think VR has reached a tipping point where players are fatigued by jump scares just for the sake of scares. When Fun Train acquired the license from Morgan Creek, we set out to identify specific development teams who were focused on tone, and who were tactical about how they handled fear. After Wolf & Wood’s CHAIR IN A ROOM, we knew they were the right team for this. I spoke with Ryan Bousfield at Wolf & Wood at length about other games we enjoyed that fit the tone of what we were looking for, and we often talked about Firewatch or Soma. A slow, steady rumble of dread that eventually builds to a roar. That was at the top of our game plan.
10. At any point, did anyone propose a Fabio cameo?
Hilarious! There are so many crazy cameos in The Exorcist III. Fabio, Patrick Ewing, Kevin Corrigan and even Samuel Jackson. Fabio if you’re reading this, let’s talk about the next one!
11. How do you think virtual reality gaming will and can evolve as we head towards a new generation of consoles?
I love this question and we crystal-ball gaze quite a bit on it. Here’s my top-3 list:
Inside-out tracking I see as a must, which will omit the need for cameras to track your position in real space.
Wireless headsets! Cutting the wires will allow players to have full immersion and forget their wearing a headset.
I’m also very hopeful about eye tracking and foviated rendering which will allow development teams to overcome some of the framerate bottlenecks inherent with current gen VR.
Trailer introducing Chapter 1
12. What do you think are the biggest challenges in the VR market right now?
I feel the biggest challenge to VR is education of the consumer market. VR is something that really must be experienced to be understood. Once people try it they’re hooked, but getting them into that first experience is key. There are several obstacles in the way including price, availability and the common perception that it’s only for “hardcore gamers”. This is why Fun Train attends every expo possible to introduce as many people as possible to VR. In fact, this coming weekend we’ll be doing an exposition at EGLX in Toronto where we expect to see close to 50k gamers. This will be our 2nd EGLX- it’s a terrific show.
13. What’s next for Fun Train?
We’re currently negotiating our next license and talking to development teams about the title. It’s actually more well-known and larger in scope than The Exorcist franchise and we’re really excited about its potential in VR. I’ll definitely have more to say about it as the details solidify but I can promise you that it will continue to push the boundaries of what a compelling VR experience should be.
The Exorcist Legion VR is now available to download on PS4 for PlayStation VR. It’s also available on other platforms. To find out more about the game, and to watch trailers of all the chapters, visit PlayStation.com.