‘Transference’ isn’t your typical gaming experience


Image: ubisoft

Transference, the heady virtual reality project that made a splash with its trailer at E3, is more than just your typical gaming experience.

During E3, we had a chance to talk to a couple of folks behind Transference: Elijah Wood, actor and founder of the production company Spectrevision, and Benoit Richer, game director at Ubisoft. Both of whom discussed how their backgrounds in film and games helped develop Transference into something that’s a unique mix of both with a heavy dose of emotional pull.

“Games have always looked to film for inspiration, especially in the last 15 to 20 years,” Wood said. “They’ve become more and more cinematic and inspired by film history in terms of cutscenes and narrative approach.”

Based on what we’ve seen in trailers, Transference seems to fall right in line with that trend, leaning heavily on characters and experiencing a part of their life without falling into tropes.

Transference focuses on three members of a family and as you progress, more context unfolds, Richer said. You learn more and more as you switch perspectives and complete puzzles, building up suspense the entire time.

“The thing that’s in the forefront is the emotional build-up: How do you feel?” Richer said.

It’s clearly not a traditional game. Wood said there’s no cutscenes or edits, and a lot of the suspense and such hinges on sound design. Not only that, players don’t control a character inside the game.  

“You’re not playing a character,” Wood said. “You’re yourself and you’re encountering this family and they’re encountering you.”

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So in Transference, you’re supposed to be aware of yourself while playing the game in VR, which is typically something that games try to avoid.

“That was really the nugget: What if the idea is based on the tech itself?” Wood said. “What if the tech itself is a conduit for us to then explore someone’s consciousness by way of this technology? That was really the jumping off point.”

Spooky. 

In developing Transference, Richer said that the team looked at both movies and games for techniques in building suspense and moving a narrative along. But they also didn’t limit themselves.

“We didn’t say, ‘hey, let’s do it like [a specific] game,'” Richer said. “We take our inspiration from everywhere: books, movies, science. Trying to create something new and see where it goes, that was the whole point of this game.”

We’ll get to see what that looks like when Transference comes out this fall.

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