All right, it's possible that Nuren isn't technically the first VR rock opera. But it's highly likely. The (eventually) seven-part "feature-length virtual reality music experience" is composed by Jake Kaufman, who's also behind the chiptunes Shovel Knight soundtrack, and it looks like a weird combination of THX-1138 dystopia, adorable neon-haired robots, and 360-degree virtual reality video, which is currently experiencing a bit of a boom. The plot, according to the creators:
CSP Industries has unveiled the latest in androids tasked with assuring that mankind's minds remain untroubled and unstimulated. QGK and RIX have the added feature of genuine thought and empathy. This causes them to malfunction, and begin to show signs of an unintended human trait: self-awareness. In a world where provocations such as music have been banned for a century, this glitch has enabled them to sing. For this, they are forced to become fugitives.
So far, there's a single-song demo available, which looks like a minimalist version of the promised (much more ambitious) final project. If there's a mood, it's something like psychedelic Dance Central, a high-gloss music video with towering blue-and-black cityscapes and a loose narrative thread. The Kickstarter funds will go towards turning the project into a full-length VR film, including more songs and voice acting. It's playable on a normal PC monitor, but clearly made for the Oculus Rift.
Live concerts are an easy win for virtual reality; they're relatively simple to record, they're already incredibly kinetic, and they can give viewers the illusion of having front-row seats or even being on the stage with the band. Nuren is something different. If finished, it'll be longer than just about any existing made-for-VR video, and although it doesn't have to deal with some of the problems that live-action films would (like camera placement), it'll still require a lot of thought to make something where the immersion is actually a benefit. Convincing someone to devote themselves totally to a VR experience, for a long period of time, is hard to do.
On the upside, there's a pleasing touch of sensory deprivation to it. The music is the story here, the art a trance-like escape from distraction. Either way, it's the kind of weird, risky project that a fledgling medium like VR deserves.