David R.S. Palumbo
Wolves in the Walls
Role: Interactive Design Lead
Available on the Oculus Store
Winner of the 2019 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Media
What makes the noises we can’t explain? Eight year old Lucy is convinced it’s wolves. Her family is not so sure.
But something has been stealing Mom’s jam, glitching Brother’s games, and howling over Dad’s music. Lucy desperately wants to warn them all, and she needs your help. Will you believe her? Because when the wolves do, in fact, come out of the walls, it’s all over.
Wolves is a truly special project, and something I am humbled and honored to have been a part of. On Wolves, I joined the team just after Chapter 1 had premiered at Sundance in 2018. There was an amazing script for Chapters 2 and 3, and a really passionate team, but there were many crucial beats in the story that had never been designed, much less prototyped and tested.
Part of my job, then, was to take the ideas that were in the script, in director Pete Billington's head, and in the salvaged hard drive from Oculus Story Studio and create interactive moments that served the emotional goals of each scene and the story at large.
There's a lot in the project that I'm proud of, but some of the things I designed that top the list are:
The Attention System - We created a system that gives Lucy a means of modeling the guest's attention. By considering where you are looking and how your hands are moving (toward or away from objects of interest), Lucy knows to wait for you when you're taking in your surroundings and to move into action when you're ready to participate.
The "Into Walls" moment - We knew that the moment when you enter the Walls had to be one of the most memorable moments in the whole show. I wanted to create a type of magic that feels alive and acknowledges your presence. The fleur-de-lis pattern lifts from the wallpaper and flutters away from your touch, inviting you to step forward into the Walls as their layers separate out to swallow you.
The "Don't Bug Dad" scene transitions - Inspired by one of the writers' stories of approaching her dad in his basement workspace, the scene is meant to make you feel like you're quietly sneaking up to Dad. With set and lighting design along with Lucy's choreography, I wanted to guide you into using your body to smoothly follow Lucy and create the magic of the approach. Set pieces appear in the eyeline between you and the scene, and as you duck around to clear your view, the set seamlessly changes and brings the scene closer. In closing the physical distance, it closes the emotional distance between Lucy and Dad, and you feel it, too.
A lot like the show itself, the process of creating this piece was ever-changing and an incredible amount of fun, if, at times, a little scary. We made prototypes in Unity and Unreal and on paper. We play acted scenes on the street. We consulted immersive theater actors on the motion capture stage. We playtested over and over and over again until it was the piece of art we knew it could be. I really hope you'll experience it for yourself.
For some more information on our design process, here is one of the talks I've given on the subject (this one was given to the young folks at BAYCAT):