Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

The Void – a Virtual Reality Theme Park?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 12, 2015

Dream-ParkWhen I was a kid, I read the science fiction novel “Dream Park” by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes. This was after Dungeons & Dragons had become something of a cult hit. The story followed sort of a live-action role-playing experience inside a virtual reality amusement park.

As life imitates art (which imitated life…), people started trying to make their own live-action role-playing (LARP) experiences to imitate the possibilities of the book (amusingly riffed on by Phil Foglio at the time in a What’s New comic in Dragon Magazine – Page 1 and Page 2).  LARPing existed prior to the book, but I think the novel helped the idea catch on. I believe that was, in part, the inspiration for True Dungeon, a popular event at Gen Con.

Amusingly, as the series continued, the technology grew more realistic. In the first book, it was all wild holograms and stuff, more like the Holodeck from Star Trek. By the third book (the last one I read – I only recently learned there’d been a new addition to the series a few years ago), the players were wearing stuff similar to Microsoft’s prototype Hololens which provided them with a kind of “augmented reality.”

And now… well, it looks like it might finally become reality, here in Utah. It’s called The Void.” They use a combination of Virtual Reality gear with real props, sets, and actors to create a fully immersive, interactive experience. When I first heard about it, it was because it was a (temporary?) replacement for the adventure / theme park Evermore. But from what I have heard, the technology works, and so if they can get everything else behaving properly for a commercial audience… well, it may be the closest thing we’ll see to a Star Trek holodeck or Dream Park.

Or it could go the way of the old Battletech Centers and virtual reality centers of the 1990s. I don’t know.

Now, Tracy Hickman’s son is one the developers, so expect some proud fatherly praise here, but in a recent blog post he said:

I reached out and in a perfectly natural motion, grasped the two handles of the gun. It was solid in my hands and I naturally slipped my finger through the trigger guard.

The gun moved in front of me in perfect synchronization with my every move.

“Step through the door,” said the ghostly voice of my son.

To my right a door slid open and I stepped into a room that looked for all the world like I was standing on the ‘Nostromo’ in ‘Alien.’ I sat down on the bench in awe.

And realized that I was actually SITTING on a bench in a virtual room.

I’ve stood before the alien containment tube, felt it break in front of me as the alien escaped. I pulled the trigger on my gun, felt it jump in my hands and watched the bolts fly outward, pocking the glass between me and a HUGE landing bay beyond. I’ve walked down that corridor in the video. More than that, I’ve stood at the top of a cliff, blasting away with that same gun and, despite the urging of my ghostly son behind me, could not bring myself to step to the edge of the platform. Even though I knew this was a virtual reality, my mind would not accept that what I was experiencing was NOT real.

Assuming this really happens and is within at least some reasonable fraction of coolness as it’s being billed… I think this could be a lot of fun. I’m just glad it’ll be only a 15 minute drive away when it (hopefully) opens in about a year. If it really takes off, though, these places may be found all over someday. We’ll see.  And hey, they are using Unity!

For now, though… we can all just watch the video and imagine what it could be like…. someday…

(And hey, guys… if you are looking for some local game developer-types to help test or provide feedback… CALL ME!!!!  🙂 )


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