Elizabeth Ann Clark, aka VIRGO, has had a love of music production for her entire life. Pursuing her passion for electronic music, VIRGO is quickly becoming an in-demand musician. Her work has already been noticed by Red Bull, which invited her to the Red Bull Music Academy. As the visuals for her live performances developed, VIRGO realized that she should expand scenes of alien watery landscapes into full-fledged interactive experiences. As part of her project called VIRGO, VIRGO turned these scenes into the VR gaming experience called Water Planet. Wanting to learn more about her career and her videogame, VIRGO allowed me to interview her for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, when did you realize that you wanted to create music for a living? On this note, were there any musicians that you think inspired you the most to pursue this path?
VIRGO: Music was always a part of my life, but was not a focus until the VIRGO project. While studying piano as a kid, I looked up to Chopin, Sati and Tchaikovsky. Later in my youth electronic music changed everything. I listened to a lot of early trance and rave music, and that rewired my brain.
Yanes: As someone from Miami, I am well aware of how musically diverse the area is. How has the city influence your approach to music?
VIRGO: The visuals that accompany the music draw from the hues of the ocean and aquatic themes feed into the music as well. Being in Miami definitely influences this, but my mind tends to wander further, beyond Earth, to the atmosphere of Neptune or parallel Earths.
Yanes: Before we discuss Water Planet, what are some games you enjoy playing? Are there any classics that you’ve enjoyed playing since you were a kid?
VIRGO: It all began with War Craft II, into Might and Magic, and then Morrowind. Playing as an elvhen sorcerer in Dragon Age: Inquisition more recently and The Elder Scrolls Online just got a huge update that so far is everything I’ve ever wanted in a game.
Yanes: For people who have never heard of Water Planet, how would you describe it to them?
VIRGO: Water Planet is an interstellar adventure where you hunt down crystal shards and meet a cybernetic jellyfish friend while exploring alien waterscapes. It’s a peaceful game with atmospheric music.
Yanes: How did the idea for Water Planet originate? Specifically, did you think it as a music experience or as a video game first?
VIRGO: Water Planet began as visuals to accompany my live shows. I made levels for each of the songs off the EP, and captured cinematic videos while flying around in the Unreal Engine. Initially when we previewed the game with Red Bull in 2016, it was a walking simulator, and then after a successful Greenlight campaign through Stream, we began developing the narrative, gameplay and implementing virtual reality.
Yanes: While developing Water Planet, how did the narrative for the gameplay develop?
VIRGO: At first I imagined a world with future technology set within elven alien ruins. Initially the narrative was built on the science and feasibility of this alien world. I needed to know how things worked, what the atmosphere was composed of, and how the civilization advanced technologically. Imagine steam rising off dry ice mountains, hydroelectric power, crystals that can hold electricity, and silicon life forms. Once I could suspend disbelief in logic of this world, the story unfolded from there.
Yanes: Were there any specific obstacles you encountered making Water Planet? If so, how did you overcome them?
VIRGO: This is my first time developing a videogame, but after I learned the basics of Unreal Engine, I found I could spend hours designing levels and sculpting landscapes. All thanks to Epic Games for creating this tool and making it available to everyone.
Yanes: As a creator, how did it feel to expand beyond just sound to producing visually interactive products?
VIRGO: It’s remarkable how technology evolves, and I look forward to seeing how virtual reality will define the next wave of advancement in all mediums, from education and science to everyday applications. As a creative, it’s a sci-fi lovers dream to be able to create a virtual universe for my music to live in, and to then share that with the world.
Yanes: When people finish playing Water Planet, what feeling do you hope they take away from it?
VIRGO: Peacefully exploring an alien planet, will hopefully invite a feeling of wonder, and hopefully people will connect with the music at the same time.
Yanes: Finally, what are some projects you are currently working that people can look forward to?
VIRGO: I just launched a Twitch channel where I will share Water Planet in the final stages of development and more before the release. I’m also considering Twitch as a platform for future live performances. With my friends at The Revera Corporation, we’re working to reimagine the way music is experienced.
Remember, to learn more about VIRGO and Water Planet, you can check out the game’s homepage, enjoy her streaming on twitch, experience her visuals on instagram, and follow her on twitter at @futurevirgo.