Featured image at the top of the post courtesy The Courtauld Gallery and Woofbert VR.
Reload Studios is the company behind World War Toons, a first-person shooter set in a “whimsical, toon inspired world” that is being built for VR with a non-VR version planned as well. More recently, though, the company has branched out into client work with a new “VR lab division”.
The lab’s first project is partnering with WoofbertVR to create a trip to the Courtauld Gallery’s Wolfson Room in London, which features paintings by Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The app was shown at IFA in Germany and will be released to consumers in the coming months. The experience includes text about each piece with narration by Neil Gaiman.
I sent over some questions to Reload to better understand how this project came together and what this development means for the company as it branches out from internal projects into client work. Here are the answers they sent back, some of which I have edited down:
Q. Can you explain the collaboration between WoofbertVR and Reload a little bit?
A. WoofbertVR’s CEO, Elizabeth L. Reede, has years of curating experience for world-renowned art museums. As a result, WoofbertVR holds the trust and respect of the greatest museums in the world…Building on their partnership with these museums, WoofbertVR collects the data and images directly from the source, and we are facilitating them in bringing these elements into VR. So yes, we do have access to all the 2D & 3D scans, but the important thing to note is that these digital scans are performed under the rigorous and exacting standards of the museums and WoofbertVR. The final hurdle is then translating these highly detailed and dense scans into a nimble VR experience for today’s hardware. This is all part of our current R&D…
Q. How close can you get to the art in the Wolfson Room at the Courtauld Gallery?
A. In an internal test version, you can stand mere inches away from the painting – which could actually feel uncomfortable. So, for the demo shown at IFA, we limited the proximity to something that allows you to appreciate the detail of the painting, yet not so close it creates an uncomfortable VR experience. One of the things that we always keep in mind is the end result. Just because we can scan intricate brush stroke details of paintings and represent them in an interactive environment, doesn’t necessarily mean that we should do that right now. This is a process with our strategic partner, WoofbertVR, and the goal is to establish the perfect balance of comfortable VR with an ideal representation of world-class art that does these masterpieces justice.
Q. Will the people who work on the client division also work on World War Toons?
A. The short answer is “No”. The WWT (World War Toons) team of developers, designers and programmers are fully dedicated to the production of WWT at the moment. However, that team has done a good job so far in establishing some best-practices for working in VR, and that know-how will be transferred to all of our VR Lab projects. This can range from art-direction decisions, interaction mechanics, UI and even code samples.
For the development of the VR Lab projects, each project is evaluated on its own unique needs. We have hand-picked “teams” we are working with that are more than capable of making this happen, and we will likely be growing internally with project leads, etc.
Q. In the long run, do you have any expectations for which side of the company — your own games or client work — that you expect to be the bigger money-maker?
A. Like any business, the goal is profitability. However, the “long run” that you mention is not based on a simple revenue model, but rather on the vision of what we want this lab to be.
On one hand, we know that there is a huge need for VR (and AR for that matter) expertise for many industries, and we are here to fill in that gap. The vision of the company is to be a leader in this field, and we expect that our strategic partners will appreciate the expertise and creativity that our team brings to the table. To answer your question, these are service-based projects that need to support themselves and help grow the company
On the other hand, this VR stuff is a new platform for content, and we have some internal projects that are in the planning stages and will be put into motion soon as well. As you and your readers know, this is an exciting time to be a content creator, and we are as excited as everyone else to see the distribution channels and revenue models develop in the near future.
Q. Which VR hardware are you targeting for World War Toons and for your client work like the Courtauld Gallery’s Wolfson Room? For example, is Cardboard a likelier target for client work?
A. For WWT, Reload maintains their goal of having PC and Console as initial target platforms. As for our client work, it is really up to the needs of our strategic partners. We do provide consultation on the climate of the VR market, hardware specs and demographics to help them come to a reasonable conclusion, but it’s up to them to decide.