Freeform Labs from ElemenTerra VR

We at Freeform Labs strive to develop the most compelling natively-designed content for Virtual Reality and other immersive mediums. We aim to make meaningful work that demonstrates comfortable user interaction, flexible cross-platform application, high standards of polish, and the beauty of imperative modality (the content serving the medium rather than the medium merely enhancing the content).

A few months ago, our understanding of who we are wasn’t quite so strong.

Last year, we were exposed to the surge of VR hardware in development, as well as the lack of strong content for those devices. In the spring of 2014, our plan to develop a wholly unconventional but polished experience for VR was approved by USC’s Interactive Media Department. Since then, we’ve amassed a team of 35 students and professionals from around the world to bring ElemenTerra to fruition as a multi-platform, world-building creative experience.

We began the CRUNCH program with ElemenTerra in the works, so we were primarily focused on transitioning into a broader start-up. We had no idea how to turn our project into more than a project, and we hoped to get the answers from Annenberg. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been able to reflect on our year of prior production and identify what it is that, as creators, make us passionate about what we’re doing. CRUNCH provided a framework for feedback on our direction, advice about the industry, and insight into business practices. Individual conferences with advisors were probably the most effective components of the class. Often, these smaller meetings pushed us to examine the tougher, necessary questions about who we were, where we were going, and how we’d get there. When showing our work to peers, the response was generally along the lines of, “that’s really cool!” We needed to be asked the hard questions in order to actually advance. We were encouraged to discover our identity, and our business plans.

Of course, “discovering our identity” didn’t just consist of a magical epiphony (although that would have been nice). We ordered pizza and sat down with our team members to talk about future plans, old intents, and how they meshed together. We created an identity document on our internal wiki with sections like “We enjoy…”, “We care about…”, “Our aesthetic is…” and even “We don’t want to create…” to turn these conversations into something more concrete. The idea was to objectively reflect on personal identities, map them to examples from our development process, and find the cross sections to create a company identity.

ElemenTerra is a representation of what we, as driven creators, have done so far: Complete transparency and positive redirection in management, and a commitment to nailing that imperative modality, even when it means reworking or throwing out prototypes and designs. With ElemenTerra as our flagship, we want to make FreeForm Labs a vehicle for that process.

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