ProjectM: Daydream is a VR dating experience from Korean studio EVR Studio. While it’s fairly short and only offers subtitles in a number of major languages to go along with the Korean audio, the experience of sitting across from a very life-like person as she laughs and smiles, talking about her vacation as you jump into immersive interludes, makes me wonder what the future of VR dating sims will look like. From what I can gather from Daydream, they’re going to be a whole new ballgame.
ProjectM: Daydream Details:
Developer: EVR Studio
Available On: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift (Touch not required)
Reviewed On: Oculus Rift
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Note to reader (09/11/17): This is a paid, non-Early Access experience. From a consumer’s perspective, it is a finished, purchasable product. The developers told us initially that ProjectM: Daydream is merely “a preview of one of the digital characters that will appear in [their] main VR adventure game that’s slated for a launch next year.” We don’t review unfinished projects, but considering none of the quoted information is provided to consumers, we are obligated to treat this experience like any other paid, finished product.
Taking over the role of Dong-Woo, a school-age Korean guy just back from summer vacation, you head over to Seung-Ah’s house, your friend and apparent love interest. Inviting you into her home, she prepares a small snack and proceeds to tell you about the details of her summer vacation to Europe. Her most memorable bits: a skydiving trip to Switzerland and a day at the beach in Spain. Excluding a brief bikini scene, this is a ‘safe for work’ experience.
Let’s put this out on the table before I go any further:
- I’m a happily married guy, and don’t have interest in VR dating sims outside of their technical abilities to provide some form of artificial emotional connection, however imperfect and sometimes misogynistic they can be.
- I don’t speak Korean, so my impressions are skewed by the obvious cultural barrier.
Barring that, ProjectM: Daydream features some pretty impressive character animations that really make you feel like the girl in front of you is only a few degrees away from real. Her posture, facial expressions, body language, voice acting, her gaze that follows you—all of it feels convincing enough to click on the part of my brain that says “please don’t fart, for Pete’s sake.”
As she continues to tell you about her experiences in Europe, you quickly drift off into an imaginary trip along with Seung-Ah, taking you for a stint of skydiving over Interlaken, Switzerland and looking out over an ideal sunset on the beach in Nerja, Spain. Of course, these never happened within the context of the game, so you’re returned back to her house, supposedly with stars in your eyes for the beautiful time you could have had together as a proper couple on vacation.
Technically, the experience delivers competently rendered interiors which feel like genuine places. The home is a comfortable, inviting space that feels real enough to keep you on company manners. I can’t say so much for outdoor scenes though, as textures appear too basic and uncared for, clearly not sharing the same polish as Seung-Ah’s Korean suburban home.
Locomotion is either static room-scale, which warps you through different parts of the story or room on cue, or ‘on-rails’ forward motion when within scenes.
Dialogue suffers from two big pain points. The game’s dialogue tree is a wooden and wholly uninspiring way to interact with another person in VR, but seems like a necessary evil in lieu of some future version of AI-driven voice recognition that ought to be next to perfect to maintain the illusion. As for the dialogue itself, I often felt my gaze wandering (not what you think) to rest of the room because of how painfully boring the conversation went. We broached subjects like “Where did you go on vacation?” and “Why […]” and “With whom […]”—all riveting stuff that didn’t personally keep my attention. Of course, if you say the “wrong thing,” she loses interest in you and is less receptive to your jokes and other advances—to what end, we don’t know. The experience ended with her thanking you for a dress you bought her.
Clocking in at 25 minutes, ProjectM: Daydream is decidedly too short to be considered a buy for anyone earnestly looking for a VR dating sim (it only promises to be a preview, for reasons we explain above). Looking past the gameplay length though, Daydream provides a serious peek into the future of the VR dating sim genre and what it might become. The ability to go anywhere and do anything could be valuable in creating “bonding moments,” which users may appreciate as they delve deeper into keeping their virtual companions happy.
Comfort-wise, the experience makes a few missteps with the way it handles artificial locomotion. Skydiving was stomach-turning due to the forced yaw-turn, which spins you to seem more cinematic. It tries to do this slow enough, but it was still off-putting.
If you look past the game’s traditional canned responses, what remains is another person looking at you, and talking to you sweetly and affectionately; sitting on your lap and whispering in your ear. I personally found that last bit pretty off-putting, but again, I’m obviously not the target demographic here. The developers say their most important goal is “to ultimately provide a sense of comfort to the user at the end of the day.” Whether that’s right or wrong for whatever reason isn’t within the scope of this review, so we’ll just leave it at that.
If you want to get a basic look at the studio’s character modeling ability, check out the ProjectM: Dream demo on Steam.