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VR is more than a game for 3rd Eye Studios

3rd Eye Studios was founded in June 2016 by veterans of Remedy, Bugbear, Moon Studios, RedLynx and Unity. Arja Johansson is pictured on the far left.3rd Eye Studios

Finland’s 3rd Eye Studios is less than a year old but is already turning heads in the virtual reality gaming industry.

From the Highwaymen to Audioslave, via Cream and Them Crooked Vultures, the concept of a supergroup has been a mainstay of modern music. However, the idea of bringing together a troupe of creative heavyweights is far from a concept confined to the music industry.

Case in point: 3rd Eye Studios represents the meeting point of many of the big hitters in the Finnish games industry. Founded in June 2016 by veterans of Remedy, Bugbear, Moon Studios, RedLynx and Unity, the studio has set out to shake up the world of VR gaming. They aren’t doing this just by releasing games, either. They have much bigger plans, starting out with 3rd Eye Core technology and tools, and the Downward Spiral series.

“We want to make big waves in the VR industry, so concentrating on just one of these things would not be enough,” explains Arja Johansson, co-founder and head of operations. “This company was founded because all of us are super excited about VR. We saw so much untapped potential that there was no other option than quit our safe jobs and found 3rd Eye Studios.”

Floating in a tin can

The public’s first glimpse of their work is Downward Spiral: Prologue, the first installment of its thriller series Downward Spiral, due later this year. Here players find themselves in a tense, zero gravity space environment, accompanied by a soundtrack composed by Ville Valo of Finnish love metal band HIM. As if the atmospheric tunes aren’t enough to put nerves on edge, the player must navigate through a spacecraft which has been deserted… or has it?

“We are inspired by everything from old classics like the 1950s’ Twilight Zone to modern TV series such as Black Mirror,” Johansson continues. “We are creating a first anthology series for VR, so we have a lot of creative freedom regarding theme, setting, characters and plot. Our team background comes from crafting award-winning story-based games, so you can imagine that the bar we are setting for ourselves is very high.”

Downward Spiral: Prologue sees players negotiating their way through a tense space environment in zero gravity, accompanied by a soundtrack composed by Ville Valo. Image: 3rd Eye Studios

Players can make their way through the story independently, with friends, or compete in a death match against others. Having a fun and engaging game is one thing, but 3rd Eye Studios also believes it has solved one of the most prominent problems with zero-g VR games: motion sickness.

This unfortunate side-effect tends to come from a disconnection between what the player’s body is actually doing and what the character is doing in the game. The studio reduces motion sickness with high performance rendering, a restriction of peripheral vision and the character only moving because of the player’s actions.

Tools for developers

And so, along with putting barf bags on ice, games only represent half of 3rd Eye Studios’ plan of attack. They are also working on 3rd Eye Core, a complete studio tool suite to help developers create VR games and mods.

“It enables building games faster, more intuitively and reliably than ever before,” says Johansson. “3rd Eye Core empowers designers to create complete games without the need for programming. It allows shorter and more flexible production times, ensuring studios will ship their games on time and with confidence for stability.”

The VR technology will be launched in 2018, but Johansson hints at even more big news on the horizon.

“We are super excited about opportunities in China and Japan,” she says. “We will have something to announce regarding this later this year!”


By: David J. Cord