One of the most talked about additions to Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights this year is not a full-on walkthrough haunted house, but a virtual experience that takes your senses (and nerves) to a whole other level. The Repository is a stand-alone haunted experience featuring virtual reality as the main attraction — and it’s looking to give you nightmares for days.
With that said, Orlando Sentinel compiled a list of known facts for the attraction, which will debut Sept. 29 and run through Oct. 31 — yes, almost weeks after Halloween Horror Nights opens for the year.
(the following was written by Dewayne Bevil from Orlando Sentinel)
- Folks will enter in groups of four people, each with a role to play, says TJ Mannarino, senior director of art & design at Universal Orlando. “You have to work together to solve a mystery,” he says. “Each of the four persons has a particular task within that group so you have to depend on each other.”
- The Repository adventure starts in a real (non-VR) place with story characters, then the VR kicks in going to “places you could only dream and think about,” Mannarino says. Later, out of VR, “you have to take what you’ve learned, what you’ve seen, what you’ve experienced in the supernatural world and put it together to solve the mystery.”
- Live performers are involved in the story. Universal “didn’t want to abandon what we do and what our guests love, which is that interaction with live characters,” Mannarino says.
- Folks in the Repository will strap on head-mounted devices (aka HMDs) “that will transport you to the paranormal realm,” says Justin Schwartz, an advanced technology director with Universal Creative.
- Universal had a virtual-reality display that previewed the revamped Incredible Hulk Coaster at Islands of Adventure earlier this summer. If you participated in that, well, the Repository is completely different, down to the headsets and the technology, Universal says.
- In the Repository, you’ll be able to walk around, inspect your surroundings and interact with (and see) your three cohorts. “what they do, how they react becomes part of our show, too, which is also unique and different,” Mannarino says.
- Universal has been monkeying around with tech — including RFID, augmented reality, Beacon and such — for about five years. It started concentrating on VR about 18 months ago. “we evaluated all the latest and greated virtual technologies out there,” Schwartz says. “Tom [Geharty, fellow advanced technology director] and I spent a long time looking at everything.” Last year at HHN, they “did a very limited VR test component. We coupled it with other types of technology,” Mannarino says. There were live performers in the test, and the results were positive, he says.
- The physical experience stretch of Repository will take 25 to 30 minutes, Mannarino says. But Universal suggests blocking off 90 minutes of your Horror Nights night. Folks are asked to arrive 30 minutes before their reservation time, and, at the end there’s a photo op and a place to hang out (a “debrief room”) and discuss what just happened.
- Mannarino sees Repository as a new part of the HHN mix, an interactive theater experience. “Instead of calling it like a 10th house like some people have said, I kind of see it like a new component to this event, where it is something that is really different,” he says. “It has house elements, but it has show elements and now it has these technology elements.”
One of the least appetizing things about The Repository is the price tag. The experience costs an additional $49.99 per person on top of HHN admission — but amazing new experiences cost money, and believe it or not, the folks over in the parks have a budget to work with not unlike any other company. So if it’s amazing, why not give it a shot? To make reservations, call 407-224-7840.
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