In the lead-up to IndieCade East, we’re spotlighting the top 20 3D Jam experiences chosen by the jury and community votes. These spotlights will focus on game design, interaction design, and the big ideas driving our community forward.

Recently updated with our official Unreal Engine plugin, Cherry Pie Games’ Hollow is a murky, mystical adaptation of Washington Irving’s classic horror tale. On horseback, you can explore a frighteningly familiar landscape where spectres haunt the edges of your vision. Hollow is available for Windows with optional (and highly recommended) Oculus Rift support.

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What’s your personal connection with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow?

We wanted to create a Halloween-themed game that relied more on classical Gothic American horror than your modern asylum psychos and zombie viruses, so we turned to the very well-known Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving for inspiration. We’re all familiar with the story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, but instead of retelling the story, we created a universe that the legend could have come from.

Did you use any real-life landscapes or pictures as your inspiration for the New England setting?

To build the Hollow universe, we browsed Tumblr for photography of Northeastern American vistas, mountains and deciduous forests for inspiration. We wanted the atmosphere to have that authentic sense of scale, sounds, and colors. We took some detours, but we believe we faithfully recreated that late October rural Maryland atmosphere.

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Image credits: Autumn Mantra by Oer-Wout; unknown photographer; concept art provided by friend Sean Villegas.

The lighting effects in Hollow are a big part of what makes it so compelling. Can you tell me about how you developed those?

Lighting was a big part of Hollow. Unreal Engine 4 gave our artists the ability to fine-tune lighting and to create the moods that felt necessary over the course of the experience. Very similar to the level detail an imagineer working on a Disney dark-ride would need. The lighting came as a result of many hours of playtesting and storyboarding.

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How does music and sound play a role in setting the atmosphere in Hollow?

Sound plays a very important role in Hollow, specifically enhancing the experience by controlling the audience’s sense of security. For example, the atmosphere is built up by comforting and inviting players as Amazing Grace cheerily plays and birds sing. The world then muffles to silence at the left fork in the road before heavy church bells toll from the graveyard and a high-pitched howl wails from the woods.

There really aren’t any birds nor monster cats in Hollow – we did not make them. But the sound would make you believe there are. All of our sound was possible through our very talented sound designer/foley artist. (Justin’s work can be heard on soundcloud.com/justin-gist.)

Navigating the world in VR can be tricky. What inspired you to develop hand controls using reins?

We designed Hollow to reach out to first-time Oculus VR and Leap Motion users. Making the controls feel as natural as possible was a high priority. So logically, our team created rein controls to steer and change the speed of your horse companion, which is the natural method to steering a real horse. By eliminating the need to use any other input than the Leap Motion, we created an easy way for new users to learn how to use the technology.

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What does the ability to see virtual hands add to the VR experience?

Adding hands does a lot more than most would think. Not only does it immerse the user into the world, but for first-time VR experiences it may actually reduce sickening effects many get from being in virtual reality. Our best tip to other developers would be to not rely on very specific hand gestures or positions, but to instead allow for a larger zone of interaction for the user. This gives the user fewer chances to break the game and a better experience at the same time.

What do you enjoy most about Unreal development?

Our favorite aspect of Unreal development is the number of tools available to us as a diverse team of developers. These tools help us in everything from scripting to animating and map design. The freedom to program in C++ is also a plus.

What will horror games look and feel like in five years?

At Cherry Pie Games, we’re thrilled to be involved on the frontier of emerging hardware, and future technology can only heighten the horror game genre. Could you imagine a remastered Hollow with complete body virtual immersion? Or 4D technology giving off the smell of pine needles or a cold chill in the air? The possibilities are infinite and always closer than we imagine.

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What’s the story behind Cherry Pie Games?

Cherry Pie Games consists of six friends from the University of Central Florida who met during their various degrees and said “let’s do this!” Since then, we have been experimenting with new technology and learning every day. Next week, our team will be at GDC to unveil our new game, Emmerholt! It takes place in the Hollow universe, but with completely different gameplay and objectives.

That same week, we will launch our Kickstarter for Emmerholt, as well as releasing Hollow on the Android market for Google Cardboard. Hollow in mobile VR is very cool we might add!

Want to hear more about Emmerholt and Hollow? Cherry Pie livestreams their development process on their Twitch channel: twitch.tv/cherrypiegames. Drop in and chat with the team!

Alex is the head writer and blog editor at Leap Motion, where he stands as the final bulwark against bad grammar. Want to share your Leap Motion project? Email acolgan@leapmotion.com or PM leapmotion_alex on Reddit.

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