One of The Park Playground’s newest experiences, Don’t Scream!, is a competitive multiplayer VR haunted escape room.
Designed to test players’ ability to keep their cool in terrifying scenarios, this 30-minute VR escape room experience sees players’ audio output tracked by a microphone mounted to the HTC VIVE Focus 3 free-roam wireless headset. As they react to the unexpected and terrifying elements they meet along the way, the volume of their voices are carefully monitored. When the sound crosses a set threshold, it’s classed as a scream. And the kicker with this experience? If you scream, you lose points!
The incredibly high standard of the VR visuals in Don’t Scream! on their own would be enough to completely immerse players into this thrilling haunted house experience. But the audio tracking adds an element of innovative gamification that takes it to the next level. You need to try and make less noise than your fellow players because at the end of the experience, you see how much (or how little) you screamed compared to your teammates.
Throughout the experience, players are plummeted into different scenarios and set challenges to overcome in order to move onto the next. In each they collect items which they need to finish the overall game. The need to continually adapt to new environments is part of what makes Don’t Scream! such a thrilling experience.
Scenarios featured include a haunted mansion setting where players must crawl through abandoned corridors and move freely around the house as they try to catch ghosts in order to move onto the next scenario. Another scene includes an underground tank slowly filling with water while players try to complete an electrical circuit to open the door.
While it was developing Don’t Scream!, The Park Playground worked closely with game development studio Triangle Factory to really push the boundaries of what’s possible from a high-end graphics point of view on a mobile VR device. The teams built a custom pipeline for the project to better develop the look and feel of all the environments and characters. All of this is really apparent to the experience’s players who can see complex high-resolution textures, from reflections and lighting to individual hairs and veins on their character’s hands. This attention to visual detail results in the greatest possible sense of immersion into the virtual world.
One of the most terrifying setpieces sees players trapped in an abandoned hospital where you have to protect yourself from zombies in order to escape. While deciding on how to build out these scenarios, the level of horror elements and pacing of the experience had to be carefully made to make sure that it’s enjoyable for any age, from 12 to 62.
During development, it was clear that ‘phobia’ type scares wouldn’t be as effective in coaxing screams from participants because some people just wouldn’t react to things like blood or spiders. So The Park Playground and Triangle Factory filled Don’t Scream! with jump scares that would get the reaction needed to lose points.
If it becomes too much, players can take a break from the experience by raising their hands in front of their face. This dampens both sounds and visuals, giving participants a certain amount of control over making sure the horror elements aren’t so intense that they can’t finish the experience.
Regardless of how much you actually scream, it’s not possible for players to have a passive role in Don’t Scream!, like it is in other VR experiences available in the market. The actions of each player – as well as their ability to not scream – are intrinsically linked to the outcome of the experience in a really innovative way. By measuring and tracking audio output, Don’t Scream! adds a whole new layer of excitement and immersion to the players’ experience.