Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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Reintroducing Remembering: when sound and abstract collide

Reintroducing Remembering: when sound and abstract collide

When we lie down, it’s for a number of reasons. Whether it’s pure rest, being sick, having sex, trying (and failing) to fall asleep, or in the worst cases: having a bad dream. When we lie down, our bodies and minds are trying to attain a specific state of mind: usually surrounding one that’s transcendent, unbridled with the worries that plague our days. In Remembering, the 2013 PC game now-reimagined for virtual reality, you’re urged to lie down once more. But this time, it’s to embark on a familiar journey: birth.

Wherever you gaze activates more sounds.
Wherever you gaze activates more sounds.

Remembering, developed in the Netherlands by Monobanda Play, SonicPicnic, Lizzywanders (also known as Liselore Goedhart), and Rik de Rooij, is a wholly collaborative project. It’s the rare project that everyone worked together on from the start: from conception right down to its final stages. “Sound design and music is a thing that comes in later while building a game, [but] we wanted to have the audio designers [SonicPicnic] at the start,” said Goedhart. “At the concept phase we all came together and thought about what sound can do for people and how [we could] build a narrative based on that.”

Remembering is a mostly passive experience, where your gaze is the sole course of action. Look towards an object, and a sound will emanate from it. The game is essentially “on rails,” though not in the traditional sense you’d expect. Instead of being tugged along literal rails with frenetic action, you’re merely floating peacefully through the neon-hued soundscapes. And the game’s journey through birth isn’t the literal type, but more of the mental variety. The idea of birth as a concept, like waking up to the world. Well, except for when spikes fly towards your face.

“audio designers became game designers for this project”

“We wanted to implement things that don’t feel nice, so you have a scene at the end where these spikes come at you, which portrays the contractions, and these spikes go through you, and you really feel it,” said Goedhart. “Something like that, making you physically feel something, that is really important with this game; the sound and the visuals getting to you a little bit.”

Goedhart and the rest of her team looked to other sound-driven projects for inspirations, from the VR psychedelic SoundSelf to the melodic Panoramical. “Panoramical uses audio mixers that you can play around with, basically building your own sound, which is like [when] you lay down, you don’t have to do a lot yourself,” explained Goedhart. “You let yourself be engulfed by the sounds and things that happen to you.” Remembering embraces the same core ideology—you become enwrapped in its sounds and visuals for its 15 minutes.

Remembering finds its visuals straddling the abstract and familiar.
Remembering finds its visuals straddling the abstract and familiar.

As Art Director for Remembering, Goedhart visualized what the sounds would look like in the abstract space. She looked to everything from organic objects—like nature—to more traditional geometric shapes. In all, she tried to direct visuals that would complement the sounds, but always tried to go against expectations. She strayed from the typical sound waves seen in music visualizers, or as she personally noted, not wanting “it being too much like a sound wave editor.” Goedhart and and her team crafted Remembering as an abstract journey on the surface, but with both the familiar and unfamiliar leading the player along their ride. With sounds that are both too abstract to pinpoint, but also feel like home.

You can stay up to date with the latest news on Remembering through its website, as it nears a hopeful (but not cemented) release in February. It will be exhibited at Screenshake Festival in Antwerp on February 10th to 12th, and is currently being tested for development on the HTC Vive and Gear VR in addition to its current state on the Oculus Rift.

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