Thief in the Shadows, a VR experience based on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013), has been nominated for a Visual Effects Society award for ‘Outstanding Visual Effects in a Real-Time Project’.

Nominated for the 14th Annual VES Awards alongside triple-A titles Halo 5 (2015), Destiny (2014), The Order: 1886 (2015), and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate (2015), the Epic Games and Weta Digital collaboration, Thief in the Shadows, stands as the only virtual reality experience in the Real-Time Project category.

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Common wisdom would say that virtual reality experiences are destined to lag behind traditional real-time media in the visual department because of the increased rendering demands (higher resolution & framerate, and 3D rendering), but the nomination of Thief in the Shadows shows that a well optimized VR experience can stand among triple-A graphics.

The experience recreates a scene from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug where players take on the perspective of Bilbo Baggins in the treasure halls of Erebor as the terrifying dragon Smaug encircles him. A small team from Epic Games and Weta Digital adapted assets from the film to run in real time in Epic’s Unreal Engine 4, matched to dialog from the film.

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Thief in the Shadows, sadly, has not been released to the public, but we were fortunate enough to step inside of it at GDC 2015Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson has seen the experienced and reportedly enjoyed it.

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Goosebumps VR Adventure has also been nominated for this year’s VES awards in the category of ‘Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project’.

The 14th Annual VES Awards ceremony will be hosted Tuesday, February 2 in Beverly Hills, CA.