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VR leaders ponder creative challenges

Epic-sponsored GDC session compares virtual reality to film's early days

Game Developer Conference 2016 is in the grip of a virtual reality frenzy. Lines for speaking sessions this week snaked around the Moscone Center, with some talks relocated to much larger rooms.

You can see a few of the games being demonstrated in Polygon's round-up. But what does this burst of developer enthusiasm mean for the fledgling form?

In "The Future of Virtual Reality: Luminary Panel Discussion" yesterday, hosted by Epic; execs from Lucasfilm, WEVR, Oculus and Baobab discussed some of the likely creative consequences of a technology that is only beginning to be understood.

"The beachhead of VR will be games," said Max Planck, technical founder of Oculus Story and a one-time Pixar technical director. "Gamers are willing to go through early adoption." He added that game-related design would have a profound effect on all kinds of VR-related entertainment experiences.

"It's very quickly expanding to non-gaming experiences and audiences," added Neville Spiteri, CEO of WEVR. "We're seeing game folks, video people and web people collaborating as well as musicians and writers. The response from the creative community has been amazing."

Rob Bredow, chief technical officer at LucasFilm said that he is looking to tell stories "that are best told, or can only be told, in this medium." He said that "we are still at a place where we can make things 50 times better. Ways of doing things better will be discovered even this year," he offered, adding that all creative people would benefit from those discoveries.

Eric Darnell, chief creative officer at Baobab as well as he director and screenwriter on the Madagascar movies, compared VR to the very early days of film, when film-makers often innovated by understanding and manipulating a new technology. "Artists got a hold of this new technology and found new ways to tell stories. In VR, we will see the same kind of progression."

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