Horror fans looking to scare themselves silly are getting a chance to explore the UFO-plagued horse ranch from Jordan Peele’s brand new thriller, Nope, in Meta’s Horizon Worlds platform. Using a Meta Quest 2 headset, they can snoop around for Easter Eggs from the movies.
LBB delves into the guts of the project with the builders from Meta to find out about the creepy craft that turned the metaverse into the chillerverse.
LBB> What was the starting point for building this experience?
We started this project with a lot of brainstorming of things we thought visitors would like to see in the space. Different Easter eggs and activities that would encourage people to engage with one another.
LBB> Did you have any input or guidance from Jordan Peele himself or the movie's design team – if so what advice or insight did they share?
The development of the worlds benefited from input from both Universal Pictures and Monkeypaw Productions. They did a great job giving feedback that guided us through the project.
LBB> Meta and Monkeypaw worked with a range of creators to bring NOPE World to life – why did you want to work with such a diverse range of creators? And what skills did each of them bring?
Monkeypaw Productions understands the importance of diversity and how representation matters. One of the important "skills" a diverse team brings to a project like this is perspective. We all contribute the experiences and knowledge that are unique to us as individuals.
LBB> What did the pipeline on this project look like?
We as builders work in-world together but are limited to four people at a time. So we had various reviews and daily check in's to make sure everyone was on the same page with development. We had the best time when we were able to bring people in headset, because by far that is the best way to truly experience the space.
LBB> What were the big craft challenges in terms of recreating the ranch and conjuring that spooky atmosphere?
The biggest challenge for us was balancing out detail and interaction. We work with a limited number of objects for use while building things and a limited amount of interactions we can have in a single world. Making sure things look good and are also fun to interact with is a complicated dance we had fun manoeuvring through.
LBB> How important was sound design/ and getting creative with the 3D sound?
Working with sounds from the film was a lot of fun. It was a great way to connect the two pieces. VR allows for immersion and sound definitely played a big part in creating that immersion. We used some atmospheric sounds to give context clues when we didn't have visuals and also to act as a warning to put people on their guard.
LBB> NOPE World takes place in a twilight atmosphere. I'm really interested in the lighting design – what's the key to making the most of lighting design to create an atmospheric metaverse experience?
Working in a darker space allows you to play more with shadows and visibility. Those two things helped us add to the eerie and off kilter feeling one needs for an experience like this. Dynamic lighting is a new feature we got to play with a little bit too, which brought more movement and life to the space.
LBB> The creators didn't see the rest of the film, in order to make sure the experience and mini games are truly spoiler free – how did they work around that to make an experience that would enhance the film?
We used a lot of what was available to the public to make the space feel more genuine and still connected to the film. We know parts of the film takes place on the Haywood Ranch and are able to guess what type of activities are commonplace in such an environment. When we ran out of spoiler free information we relied on common knowledge to fill in the blanks.
LBB> What was your approach to the horror element? Jordan Peele's films are always deliciously unnerving, but when you're immersed in a virtual world, I imagine people will have different levels of tolerance for spooky or scary experiences – so I'm curious what sort of discussions you had around that?
For NOPE world we leaned heavily on the fact that not much is known about the "danger" element of the film. The cloud is a somewhat known element but the rest is based on a visitors’ fear of what to expect. The interactions are designed to be fun, encourage exploration and some give you unexpected surprises. We landed on making the space one to meet up and hang out with fellow fans so you could talk fan theories or share your favourite scene once you've seen the film. Not so much a space that will send you running and screaming into the night.
LBB> Were there any interesting innovations or technical solutions that you had to devise in order to bring this experience to life?
Every build definitely comes with its speed bumps that we were able to easily manoeuvre thanks to our expertise with the tools. We were also lucky enough that this project aligned with the release of new features in Horizon Worlds. This meant we got to do a lot of experimenting and ended up using a new feature for two of our most popular interactions: the cloud and the motorcycle.
LBB> We already know that fans love immersing themselves in the worlds of films and series – look at the success of IRL events like Secret Cinema and, of course, movies have had video game tie-ins for years – so what's your vision for the future of movies and pop culture franchises in the metaverse?
We see a lot of potential for continuing the stories that are started by films. A lot of users love to roleplay and I could see that being a big thing in the metaverse. Aside from the play aspect, there is greater opportunity for creators of films to have a closer connection to their audience communities. If we can't physically make it to the studio lot to see what it's like to stand on set, we can always jump in a headset and feel like we're there.