Is tinyBuild's Stage Presence the Alien Isolation of singing?
'Like Dark Souls but with bottles of wee instead of arrows'
Stage Presence is tinyBuild's latest, a VR game about singing your little heart out in front of a crowd. I love VR, but i've never been much of a singer if you discount multiple slurred karaoke sessions, so I reached out to producer Mike Rose and developer Jon Dadley to find out more about it.
Firstly, unlike karaoke I won't be able to hide behind the backing track. It's the shy singer's worst nightmare - the VR transports you on stage to a concert with the band playing, incredible music and then… the electricity blows. The music dies. Panic sets in.
All you have left is your microphone and that, hopefully incredible, set of lungs. If it sounds less Singstar and more Alien Isolation, you might be onto something, as the trailer shows.
But why VR? Mike Rose, producer on Stage Presence (and PG alumni) had this to say: "tinyBuild has been exploring VR for a while now -- we've actually been building tons of small VR prototypes at our in-house development studio, and we've been experimenting tons with what works and what doesn't. We always like to be at the forefront of new and exciting tech and opportunities in video games, and obviously VR is the big talking point right now, so it made sense for us to explore VR options."
He cited some of the biggest problems that they found with VR was dealing with movement, an immersion breaking problem that didn't sit well with them. The other big issue was input. Putting a controller into someone's hands while they're running around in VR can be an exercise in how to make people sick.
"When I saw Stage Presence," Mike explained "I knew this was the game that would be tinyBuild's first foray into VR publishing. You're put on the spot, in a situation of virtual stage fright, and everything is controlled via head tracking and a microphone. The game solves all the problems I have with VR, and simultaneously matches the ridiculousness of the games you've come to expect from tinyBuild."
There's a hint of favouritism from the mancunian though "And Jon is from Manchester! So it was a no brainer really."
This sounds scarier than the time I cried playing multiplayer Slender, but I'm also keen on living my dream of being a rockstar. I asked Jon Dadley to fill us in, "One of the best things about video games is the wish fulfillment power fantasy and what fantasy is more powerful than being a rock god worshiped by an adoring crowd? But what if your biggest fantasy turned into your worst nightmare? What if everything went wrong and you weren't sure how to save the day."
"Stage Presence is part power fantasy, part horror - like those nightmares where you didn't revise for an exam. If you can just claw back the audience they'll worship you but everything is on a knife edge. Stage Presence makes you work for the fantasy and punishes you with the nightmare. The best victories are the hardest earned ones. Like Dark Souls but with bottles of wee instead of arrows."
We're all on the same page here. It's a horror, but why VR? "Traditional horror games are exploiting that in VR but it can be way too overwhelming." Jon said "with Stage Presence we put you in a tense situation but give you the possibility of dominating the situation and soften the hardest edges with comedy."
If it seems terrifying at least, think about Stage Presence's multiplayer mode. The multiplayer mode allows real life strangers to invade your game as angry members of the crowd which will up the panic-factor significantly.
Basically, I don't think I want to play this game ever, but for those of you big on singing, this could be the game for you. I'll be er, hiding in my wardrobe. We'll have more information on the game as it thunders towards launch.