Transference is a collaborative effort between the production company Spectrevision, a production company founded by actor Elijah Wood and director Daniel Noah, and video game giant Ubisoft -- who first announced the project in June of last year. Though SpectreVision is known primarily for movies, including genre favorites like The Greasy Strangler and Mandy, they've been exploring working with other media.
"We were interested in the notion of games, but also VR, as a means to express genre and horror," Wood told the crowd, which included SYFY WIRE.
Once Spectrevision began collaborating with Ubisoft, they began to work on what would eventually become Transference. "Our initial plan was to develop something that may have taken seven to 10 minutes, and it turned into a whole story and game."
The first trailer for Transference dropped at E3 earlier this summer, telling the story of Raymond Hayes, a mad scientist who replicates and uploads his family's minds to a digital utopia he's created. However, the space he's created is ridden with glitches and corrupted data -- all of which factor into the gameplay.
In order to make Transference a unique experience, Raymond and his family are all non-playable characters. Instead, gamers will essentially play as themselves.
"One of the things we realized early on is that VR is not analogous to cinema," said Daniel Noah. "By having the ability to look around, right out of the gate it's not like watching a film. Those discussions led us to: You are not playing a character in this game. You are a gamer. You are a consumer who has sort of stumbled into Raymond's experiment. So you're playing as yourself."
Once that had been established, the next challenge was how they can incorporate a cinematic narrative into an open-ended virtual world that's also a playable video game.
"The idea that we latched onto we called environmental storytelling," explained Noah. "An analogy we talked about a lot was, rather than this being a linear experience, it's modeled after an art exhibition. You get your ticket, you walk in, look around, and see all sorts of things to interact with and observe. And you can choose the order in which you interact with, and how much time you spend with each one."
Though Transference really pushes the limits of an open-world concept, there's still a story that will be tailored to how each player decides to approach to the game. This includes how long one might spend in Raymond Hayes' glitch-prone digital prison.
"What was more important for us was for people to have a satisfying experience. However long it takes you, whether it's an hour and a half or four hours, the most important thing was people walk out having understood the story and emotionally connected to something and had a meaningful experience. The length of time is irrelevant."
Transference is available now on all major gaming consoles. Meanwhile, be sure to check out all of SYFY WIRE’s Fantastic Fest coverage all through next week.