Weta Digital Partners With Epic Games, Oculus for New Virtual Reality Experience

Above: Smaug, from Weta Digital's "Thief in the Shadows" VR demonstration. (PHOTO CREDIT: Epic Games)
Above: Smaug, from Weta Digital’s “Thief in the Shadows” VR demonstration. (PHOTO CREDIT: Epic Games)

Epic Games announced a partnership with Academy Award-winning visual studio Weta Digital during a 2015 Game Developers Conference (GDC) press event this morning. The two companies have come together for a new virtual-reality experience called Thief in the Shadows, which uses CG assets from the film The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Epic announced that Thief in the Shadows is available on the GDC expo floor today, running on the Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype hardware. This had attendees swarming the company’s booth within minutes. I managed to squeeze my way in to try the demo for myself.

The VR experience is set in the Lord of the Rings universe, with viewers taking on the role of a hobbit thief. It began in a massive treasure chamber, one so large that I had to crane my neck fully to see it all. Dimly lit piles of coins shimmered under my feet. I could see even dimmer caves in the distance, set off by massive statues on either side. I had to physically turn around to take it all in.

Some of the coin piles began to move, with gold sliding down toward my virtual feet. Smaug, an enormous dragon, pushed his face out of a large pile and began to swim around the coins, Scrooge McDuck style. He began to speak in a thunderous voice, claiming that he could smell a thief among his treasures. Smaug circled me, forcing me to turn around in circles to keep track of his motion. His movements and voice became increasingly aggressive — so much so that I caught myself stepping back as he moved nearby.

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SOURCE: Venture Beat, Dale North