For the past year students, workers and faculty in the USC Cinematic Arts World Building Media Lab have been working with Intel Labs to build a new world in and around a giant flying whale. Based on the young adult novel Leviathan we have created a new eco-system, a virtual lab for collaborative authorship. Leviathan has become a self-contained story-driven world that you can tangibly explore, and engage with virtual environments and fantastical characters in complex multi-platform storytelling. We have moved beyond the console and the home theater into full immersion, where people and technology play together.
Our Leviathan experience is inspired by the rich steampunk world of Scott Westerfeld’s novels. It tells the tale of a group of scientists enlisted in the British Air Service at the turn of the century, piloting a genetically engineered flying machine. Within this narrative world all the fabricated creatures on the Leviathan from the bees to the messenger lizards are engineered to contribute to the ecosystem of the world. Flying a whale ship is a giant collaboration between hundreds of species, including its human inhabitants, and entering the world as an author or user is an unique opportunity to interact with multiple, braided threads of story.
Leviathan is the first of many new immersive, experiential storyworlds. It embodies the evolution of storytelling—robustly imagined and built worlds, available to explore and experience through personal interactions and new ways to play. We’re play-testing a future where the design of a world precedes the telling of a story, and that rich world becomes a container for countless narratives. These experiments are already changing the way that stories are made, and remaking the way we will tell stories to our children.