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New Northern Ireland VR experience ‘RETNE’ launches on Steam

Date Posted: August 7, 2017

NEON, which creates commercial products in virtual, augmented and mixed reality software applications has recently launched a new immersive virtual reality (VR) experience called RETNE on Steam, the digital distribution platform. RETNE was created in partnership with Kainos, David Baxter, Enter Yes and Digital Catapult. The project also received development funding from Northern Ireland Screen, with support from Invest NI. RETNE has showcased at SxSW17 in Austin Texas.

The aim of RETNE is to take users on a unique, original and compelling VR experience with the assistance of a tour guide called ‘Lil Mo’. Users assume the role of a tourist traveling through VR Land to visit magical attractions and complete quests to unlock hidden secrets. Local actor Michael Smiley acts as the voice of ‘Lil Mo’, epitomising the Northern Irish humour of RETNE.

The concept for RETNE was created by award-winning artist and NEON founder, Deepa Mann-Kler. Deepa said: “Lil Mo is the character that’s in the RETNE story, and he’s absolutely vital, in terms of drawing you in and creating a bond with you, an empathetic bond, who you can trust in terms of going on the journey. I approached Michael Smiley, an award-winning Northern Irish actor. He said yes very quickly because he wanted to be a part of it. Lil Mo is Northern Irish and I really like that.

RETNE is an all age animated immersive virtual reality experience built for HTC Vive that crosses the genres of gaming, education and entertainment. It challenges traditional VR gaming content that currently dominates the market. RETNE uses powerful story telling with fully developed graphics and rendering that are executed with finesse and specially commissioned spatial audio.”

Much of the RETNE narrative is a metaphor for the concept of VR: the mirroring of the real world to create new and exciting environments and possibilities, the journeys you can go on and the tasks you must complete to further that journey. Most appropriately, at the heart of RETNE is a quote from the philosopher, Aristotle – and this is the key lesson of RETNE, creativity and technical capability must work hand in hand – they rely on each other completely – neither can work on its own and when they do work together it results in “the whole being greater than the sum of all its parts.”

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