Hello! I’m Balthazar Auxietre, co-founder and creative director of Innerspace VR, the team behind Maskmaker, a spellbinding PS VR adventure game that launches tomorrow.
We are excited to dive into the creation of the game and the adventure that awaits players in the mysterious realm of masks.
From studying cinema to exploring virtual reality
While I was still in school I had taken a more traditional film course, but after I graduated I found that I was not very keen on joining the film world because I felt like there were a lot of stories that had already been told. the way. I remember as a kid I was intrigued by the potential of video games to tell different types of stories, so after making a few short films I switched to using game engines and exploring this potential.
I had heard of this post-graduate art center, where artists were experimenting with new technologies to take storytelling beyond the traditional language of cinema, so it was perfect for me. I was able to do this and started working in VR for the first time. Right away I spent almost all of the grant I had to buy this really primitive headset, which had a resolution of no more than 800 x 600 pixels, and tried to do all kinds of things to make it work. This was how VR was in 2010!
… Quite disappointing. But as I started to dig deeper into the potential of VR storytelling, and it was very clear to me, even with the limitations of technology at the time, that there was so much scope for storytelling. these incredible stories through this medium.
The DNA and philosophies of Innerspace VR
Our studio was founded in 2014 in Korea, at the very beginning of the VR boom. Very early on, we started with a very small team that grew organically, project by project, and eventually came back to Paris.
In recent years, we have worked on all kinds of VR projects, and have been recognized for our sense of innovation and our artistic approach. A Fisherman’s Tale was our first game, but in addition to games we are still working on a lot of other experiences such as virtual reality art installations.
Our DNA is both narrative and artistic, but we’ve always followed closely where VR gaming is heading. Our focus hasn’t changed much over the years – we strive to explore the medium artistically, especially the potential for interactive storytelling, and try to make great VR no matter what. ! One of our mottos is that if VR can’t bring something significantly transformative to everything we create, whether it’s a storytelling or gaming experience, we need to rethink our approach.
Learn from the past
Our first game was A Fisherman’s Tale, which has been a real blessing for us as it is now recognized as one of the best VR narrative games. But of course, as a studio there is always room for improvement and evolution.
With Maskmaker, we wanted to challenge ourselves and expand beyond the little world we created in our previous game, and move away from the linear structure of storytelling. We also wanted to create a longer experience – which was the most critical feedback we heard with A Fisherman’s Tale.
So we started to think about how we could achieve this and create this rich adventure that takes place in a more open world. Maskmaker is definitely our biggest game yet, and it’s certainly no easy task, especially for a VR game.
A fascination with masks
I grew up surrounded by masks because my father is a collector of them. As a young boy, I spent a lot of time in his studio, imagining their purpose, the spirit behind them, and thinking about the types of people around the world who had worn them, their surroundings, their lives – all of it. was sprinkled with the magic of childhood imagination and fantasies.
But it wasn’t until I later discovered virtual reality and its capabilities that I fully realized the potential of masks as a subject for a game project, and wanted to explore what it could look like. . Then quickly came this concept of playing with magic masks as portals to another world. When we first started thinking about Maskmaker, we wanted to explore something darker and more mysterious than what we had done before in our projects. What I really like about the masks is that there is something really whimsical and wonderful about them, but also something a little scary, so the project became this dark fairy tale about the masks and the magic they hold.
We have carefully designed the masks and environments of the game so that each has a distinct identity to give players a strong sense of being immersed in different cultures and almost part of this world.
Become a craftsman in VR
In Maskmaker, the main gameplay is to create the masks that you will then use to travel to the realm of masks. So it was very important for us to create an experience that helps players feel like they are making the masks themselves in the game.
The mask designs start out pretty straightforward at first, but as players progress they’ll really need to get creative and find the right materials and blueprints in order to unlock more areas of the Mask Realm. With the magic of virtual reality, we are able to mimic these real movements – sculpting masks using the chisel, painting with brushes and more – and making them truly precise to create some of the most intricate patterns in each mask to make them feel like they are experienced craftsmen!
Design immersive puzzles
Compared to our previous work, Maskmaker is more of an adventure game than a “puzzle game” in the strict sense. The puzzles are placed player-style through the different levels – the mask realm biomes – and they are more of a way to challenge users to explore so they can reach new crafting components and learn the skill. truth behind the story. of the world and its king, Prospero.
We designed the puzzles based on the type of natural environment and the basic storyline of each biome, so in that sense they’re also more intrinsically linked to the level design than the individual puzzle game pieces.
Players will be challenged by different types of puzzles: there are puzzles that give access to crafting components to craft new masks, allowing players to travel to different parts of the world, there are puzzles that allow to progress through each biome by repairing parts of the Magic Kingdom that was damaged or abandoned by Prospero a long time ago. And there are puzzles related to what we call rituals, which are based on gestures that players must reproduce to complete the stages of their learning.
We really tried to interweave the feeling of being challenged by the puzzles, of being moved by the story, and of being visually surprised by the surroundings.
It was an incredible journey to create this game with the support of Creative Europe, the MEDIA program of the European Union and the Ile-de-France region, as well as the MWM Interactive publishing team. We are delighted that players are embarking on the magical adventure of Maskmaker, and we hope that they fully experience the magical atmosphere of the world and find a sense of freedom and discovery while wearing these masks and traveling through them.