Virtual reality game publisher Wevr announced it will launch its long-awaited Gnomes & Goblins virtual reality game on September 23. The VR game was created by filmmaker Jon Favreau, creator of Iron Man and The Mandalorian, in collaboration with VR director Jake Rowell.
Produced in partnership with Madison Wells Media and Favreau’s Golem Creations, Gnomes & Goblins will be released for PC VR on Steam, Oculus, and Viveport.
The project started in 2015 and generated a lot of hype with a preview released in 2016. But the road to market proved long and winding, and the team had to restart in 2017, Rowell said in an interview with GamesBeat. Today, Wevr is showing a 20-minute preview at the Venice International Film Festival, where filmmaker Favreau once debuted his film Swingers.
“This version of Gnomes & Goblins is really our experiment with all the learnings we’ve had to date about VR,” said Rowell.
The game is a multi-hour fantasy adventure simulation that includes an open world in the VR setting, with hundreds of collectibles to find. Players embark on a dreamlike journey and explore an enchanted forest world, where interactions with the realm’s denizens shape the story. The title combines the agency of being able to make your own choices with directed story elements, Rowell said.
Favreau has written, directed, and appeared in many films, including Elf, The Lion King, and The Jungle Book. He was drawn to VR after seeing Wevr’s work on TheBlu. Favreau worked on Gnomes & Goblins in the earliest days of rough sketches and abstract concepts, and he witnessed how it moved from his original vision to a theme park world in VR, Rowell said.
Gnomes & Goblins has a full cast of characters, interaction with magic artifacts, mini-stories, and mini-games interweaving adventure and exploration. Wevr CEO Neville Spiteri said in an interview with GamesBeat that Favreau wanted a “hero’s journey” woven into the narrative of the experience.
“We’ve been working on it for four years,” Spiteri said. “You’re cooking a good meal, you do the best you can, you keep preparing the ingredients, you let things simmer for as long as possible. And then there’s a point in time when it’s time to get it out and serve the food.”
Wevr’s other VR hits include TheBlu, which transported people under the sea to experience sea turtles and whales up close. But the Favreau project is a big bet on the future of virtual reality. The experience lasts maybe three or four hours, which isn’t much at all for a conventional 2D game. But for VR experiences, it’s kind of an opus.
Around 50 people at Wevr worked on various stages of the product, along with teams at MWM and Golem Creations.
“We had people from both games and films working on this together,” Rowell said. “That was very helpful to us.”
Spiteri noted that the project spanned much of the modern history of VR, from the time before the big launches of the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive in 2016. It survived those days of hype and then the trough of disappointment that followed. Rowell said the team soldiered on by thinking about the game as the beginning of a new franchise.
“This is one of those interesting projects that outlasted other ones,” Spiteri said. “The journey of VR for us continues to be a labor of love and passion. We firmly believe in this space. We firmly believe in the visual storytelling space, as well as the immersive space. And we’ve learned a lot about making VR through TheBlu, location-based entertainment, and now this larger product. VR has continued to evolve. The hardware has been progressing every year. We’re seeing a much broader range of titles. We are big believers in it, and I think we have to just keep riding the waves, one after another.”
Spiteri said he is looking forward to new industry developments at the upcoming Facebook Connect event on September 16.
“We are expecting some fun announcements coming out of that, as there is every year,” Spiteri said.