In my experience of working in the arts, it’s not often that you get the opportunity to take an existing project into a second phase or to develop it further. However, this is the case with WALLPAPER, a narrative game originally funded by the Arts Council in 2014 as an interactive installation for a gallery setting at Bank Street Arts, and part of a research project with Sheffield Hallam University (SHU).

WALLPAPER is the story of PJ Sanders, Head of Product Innovation at US based company POPPITECH. Following the death of his mother, PJ returns to the UK to a historic home – Dalton Manor, which has been in his family for generations. Needing to clear the house and prepare for sale, PJ toys with his latest product; an experimental device primed to help him uncover the mysterious history behind a room in the house that has remained locked since his childhood. It’s an immersive experience about family secrets, mysteries and the future of technology.

As Creative Director of One to One Development Trust, WALLPAPER is a collaboration between myself and my colleague/partner, artist/writer Andy Campbell. The research undertaken by Reading Digital Fiction (SHU) was very useful, informing us about the reader/player experience. Audiences really liked this way of storytelling as a ‘new artform’, a mix of text, sound and moving image set inside a landscape where a narrative can be gradually ‘unearthed’ and explored.

We started playing around with how WALLPAPER might work in Virtual Reality (VR) as an experiment to show at an event we ran at the Art House as part of the national Being Human Festival 2016 – the overall theme of which was ‘Hopes and Fears’. For a lot of our audience at this event, it was their first go at using a VR headset. The responses were very positive, particularly at the idea that WALLPAPER might become a full-blown literary story experience incorporating visual texts – maintaining a reading element – and not just the usual shooting or puzzle game that saturates the market.

We made a short film about this event, it is a useful tool in showing wider audiences what WALLPAPER is like and how it is capturing the imaginations of readers/players. We applied to Creative England Games Lab to produce WALLPAPER as a full VR experience and were delighted not only to get the funding, but also be awarded a trip to the biggest games conference in the world: GDC in San Francisco in a delegation representing the region.

Re-purposing WALLPAPER for VR is indeed a challenge. We have rebuilt and repopulated Dalton Manor, designed new ways to interact with the game world without the need for additional hardware, created new lighting effects and transformed the overall mood and colour palette. The project also works without VR equipment using only the mouse. The technical aspects of this recreation are vast. It is a lot of trial and error, experimentation and dedication. To do this type of work you need easy access to the right tech and a highly resilient attitude to problem solving!

Our characters have been with us now for over three years and it has been great fun giving more depth to their personalities and personal histories. Developing for VR has also given us a good reason to re-imagine the soundtrack with Barry Snaith and Erika Bach of M1nk.

Within WALLPAPER there are many items and textures that we have sourced locally and from our own personal collections. Historic wallpaper from the Cow Shed restaurant courtesy of Wakefield Museum adorns the walls of Dalton Manor, as does artwork that was originally created by my mum and Andy’s grandmother: ‘reality’ re-purposed within a Virtual Reality environment.

As we near completion of WALLPAPER VR, we are excited to have some events coming up where we can invite audiences to come and experience the VR work-in-progress and hear about the processes of its creation. We believe the potential for this technology is vast for artists and storytellers, and that the results can be uniquely captivating.


Sat 2nd September at the Festival for Digital and Visual Poetry in Oslo

Fri 9th September at the Nostell Nights: Hidden Spaces event

Sat 30th September: Launch and talk about using sound in VR at Wakefield Literature Festival



The initial release of WALLPAPER – exhibited at Bank Street Arts in Sheffield in 2015 and presented in VR in 2016 as part of the Being Human Festival of the Humanities – took on a very traditional (if somewhat oddly blue-tinged) ‘British ghost story’ style visual aesthetic. The ‘haunted’ house was shrouded in mist, the tone was dark and eerie; some readers/players made comparisons between WALLPAPER and various horror-style video games.

Admittedly this did suit both the overall narrative tone and Barry Snaith’s terrifically atmospheric soundtrack very well indeed, and the first release remains (at least in our opinion!) a well-rounded, stand-alone ‘narrative game’.

But for our GamesLab funded VR version, we’ve decided to pull WALLPAPER slightly away from all of that and go for a brighter, more sun-drenched SF look. And to change what happens. :)

The mood is still dark and rich – yet extremely gentle and quiet. You’re PJ Sanders, hardware engineer/innovator, in the middle of nowhere in the North of the UK, late evening, having flown in from the States following the death of your elderly mother. But this time, the futuristic survellience hardware you’re working on doesn’t just lie dormant in a bright red case – it’s aware. It talks to you. And it will very much help you uncover the history behind the one room in the house that’s remained locked since your childhood.


We’ve come a long way on a number of levels, as artists/developers since WALLPAPER’s initial release – and so has the narrative. Our focus from the beginning now is on how technology attempts (and often struggles) to interpret quietness, space, disconnectedness, less globally recognisable (yet personally historically rich) surroundings, off-map locations, and powerful ‘impossible human’ emotional resonance.

It’s been a fascinating process so far and we’re on track for release in a few months. The work will be primarily a VR experience, but will also work without VR hardware (important!).

We’re really excited to be working with the amazing Mau (Erika Bach & Barry Snaith) on the new soundtrack which we’re sure going by their current work will be nothing short of mindblowing; and to have Sarah Jowett embarking on some fantastic historical research for us.

Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay uptodate.


Experience Wallpaper in Virtual Reality

Earlier this year we were delighted to be awarded funding from Creative England’s GamesLab Leeds initiative to develop our digital fiction project WALLPAPER into a fully-blown Virtual Reality experience.

WALLPAPER is an immersive science fiction ghost story told through game engine technology, originally funded in 2015 by Arts Council England and Sheffield Hallam University. It was designed for exhibition/installation and was featured at Bank Street Arts in 2015 and in the Being Human Festival of the Humanities in 2016 – where we revealed a short VR prototype.

Now, this funding is allowing us to develop WALLPAPER into a fully rounded VR experience, taking advantage of VR hardware such as Oculus Touch, and pushing the story to new levels of interactive immersion.

WALLPAPER’s new lease of life kicked off in style in February with One to One’s Digital Director Andy Campbell being funded by Creative England to attend the Game Developer Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. The 6-night trip offered our organisation invaluable insights and contacts in the games industry, as well as the opportunity to discuss WALLPAPER VR (and our long-standing approach to digital storytelling) with the likes of Intel, Valve and Oculus.

Watch this space for insights into the development process as we step back into PJ Sanders shoes and explore Dalton Manor through his eyes. This time, literally. :)




* virtual box only. but you knew that, right? :)

USA-based computer engineer and innovator PJ Sanders returns to his remote family home in the UK following the death of his elderly mother. His agenda: to close the place down and sell it. But not before he employs an experimental device he’s been working on, primed to help him uncover the history behind one particular room in the house – a room that has remained locked since his childhood.

Recommended spec requirements: 64-bit PC desktop or laptop running a dedicated graphics card, 8GB RAM and speakers or headphones.

WALLPAPER is currently touring as both a large-scale projection piece and a Virtual Reality demo for the Oculus Rift. If you would like a free copy for PC, to show the work at your venue, or to use it in a digital storytelling class or workshop, please contact us on Twitter @dreamingmethods

Dreaming Methods Logo Horizontal







For more information about Dreaming Methods visit www.dreamingmethods.com


“Tremendous experience – love the atmosphere
of the visuals, storytelling and sound.”
– Ian Deon

“Held my breath through most of it…
Beautiful design and incredibly immersive.”
– Jessica Nonedge

“Beautiful and disorientating. Very detailed, loved
the sound and the mystery.”
– Stephen Elliot

“Visually stunning with an evocative soundtrack.” – Chris Joseph

“Intricately beautiful.” – Mez Breeze

“Intuitive and naturally intriguing, great that you aren’t just sat
consuming the story but actually uncovering it.”
– Tony Shephard



We are delighted to announce WALLPAPER’s involvement in the Being Human Festival in association with Sheffield Hallam University. The WALLPAPER launch event was held on Thursday November 17th @ 4.00pm. A talk/workshop: ‘Digital Fiction, WALLPAPER, and Hopes and Fears for Storytelling’ took place on Wednesday 23rd November 5.00pm. Thank you to everyone who attended! Check out our short film from the launch night.

WALLPAPER is an interactive and immersive piece of digital fiction presented as a large scale projection and cutting-edge Virtual Reality experience (Oculus Rift and Gear VR). Through a launch event, gallery installation and exciting talk/workshop, readers were invited to explore an atmospheric 3D storyworld set in the remote North Yorkshire moors, uncovering a family history of unfulfilled hopes and hidden fears.


WALLPAPER Environment

WALLPAPER Development Phases

WALLPAPER, a narrative game by Andy Campbell and Judi Alston (One to One Development Trust’s Dreaming Methods) went through a number of experimental visual phases before emerging the way it looks now. We thought it might be interesting to share these phases!

The original colour schemes were warmer and the environment details such as fog and sunlight more emphasized. In one version it was raining and thundering when our main character PJ Sanders arrived at his old family property. We had to change and adapt the environment for performance reasons as well as to keep consistency with the story line, as you can see from the following screenshots. (Press to enlarge imagery).

1   4

wallpaper_b   wallpaper_c

wallpaper5   wallpaper8

bedroom   room

lighting-1   lighting-2

5   7

Dalton Manor was built using ProBuilder, an extension for Unity 5. Before the walls were textured, it looked somewhat like the Holodeck from Star Trek. (Click to enlarge images.)

1   2

3   4

5   6

7   8

Artwork created out of notes/sketches during the development of the project. (Press to enlarge.)

1   1A

Screen shots from WALLPAPER being created in the Unity 5 editor. (Press to enlarge.)

1   10

9   8

7   6

5   4

3   2


WALLPAPER at Bank Street Arts

Inside the installation

Inside the installation

A few days before the launch of WALLPAPER at Bank Street Arts in Sheffield, final preparations were being made. The gallery space was transformed with a site specific installation made out of a wood frame structure, its temporary walls covered in a subtly textured Yorkshire stone imitation wallpaper. The space inside provided a highly focused, cinema-style environment for the games console and projection, alongside a seating area for up to six people. Speakers were installed and hidden; the insides were layered with drapes of blackout fabric; and outside lighting around the installation put in place to echo the colours of the digital work.

Our exhibition of canvases, inspired by and taken from the project itself, were hung, and iPads were installed to collect research around the impact of WALLPAPER on readers and audiences.

WALLPAPER canvases and feedback area

WALLPAPER canvases and feedback area

As opening time approached, there were last minute nerves, final checks and then ready to go. The door opened onto a wet, rainy and very blustery night. Surely no one would venture out on a night like this? Fears subsided as a continuous stream of people filled Bank Street Arts, a mix of ages and interests, but all here to explore our project.

“Tremendous experience – love the atmosphere of the visuals, storytelling and sound.” 

It was humbling to have an audience of around 70 people gather to celebrate the launch of WALLPAPER. Bank Street Arts were amazing hosts and the venue was perfect for the occasion. Dr Alice Bell, our partner on WALLPAPER from Sheffield Hallam University, opened the event and put into context the research project surrounding it.

The projection screen

The projection screen

Andy and I both spoke about different parts of the project and thanked our collaborator sound artist Barry Snaith for his work. The atmosphere was vibrant and exciting. Our audience wanted to explore and understand what WALLPAPER is and how digital narratives can be accessed and enjoyed. The feedback from the launch night was exceptional. We asked people to comment on social media via #WALLPAPERstory which also provided useful content towards our evaluation.

“Very well done. Lovely atmosphere, brilliant attention to detail.”

Andy Campbell, Barry Snaith, Judi Alston

Andy Campbell, Barry Snaith, Judi Alston

The following week we returned to  Sheffield to do an ‘artists talk’. It was a small gathering of about 12 people who were all incredibly interested in the subject, ranging from how we used technology, through to the story line and the many ways we’d used different digital media. We gave a potted history of our work in this field and organisation, gave a glimpse of some of our other current projects and offered an insight into how WALLPAPER was created, especially the writing and development process and how the two became intricately fused. It was a good session and a very positive place to nurture potential links for future collaboration.

“Held my breath through most of it… Beautiful design and incredibly immersive.”

Enjoying the evening

Enjoying the evening

Our academic partners Dr Alice Bell (SHU) and Professor Astrid Ennslin from Bangor University headed up ‘Reader Group’ sessions around the WALLAPER exhibition. WALLPAPER remained at Bank Street Arts for just under a month and was open to the public most days. There was a steady flow of visitors and we have accumulated some really interesting and informative feedback.

“Intuitive and naturally intriguing, great that you aren’t just sat consuming the story but actually uncovering it.”

Our thanks go out to Bank Street Arts and their team for great support, and to all the visitors who took time to come in and explore the work, often leaving really well thought-through positive feedback.

Next stop with WALLPAPER in 2016 is the Ponteo Centre at Bangor University where we’ll be adapting the work to suit this (very different) space. Bring it on… :)


White Box

“Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Bangor.”

It’s a long time since 1979 when British folk band, Fiddlers Dram wrote ‘Day trip to Bangor’ and I’m sure they would be particularly impressed with the changes there, most noticeably the new home of arts and innovation, The Pontio.

View from the Centre

View from the Centre

We are excited to be working with Professor of Digital Culture and Communication, Astrid Ensslin on WALLPAPER and this week made the train journey over to Bangor University to have a preview look at the soon to be opened Pontio Centre. Unlike Fiddlers Dram whose journey to Bangor was made complete with a £1 bottle of cider, we were more than delighted to get on the only train out of four that had a plug socket. (Thank you Virgin Trains.) :)

Long journeys with both of us travelling together working on the same project, gave good uninterrupted opportunity to think and talk about WALLPAPER, to refine the story-lines, modify the Dalton Manor architecture and plot out other ideas.

Developing WALLPAPER is software intensive and media rich and we’ve found ourselves using almost all our licensed tools at some point or another during the process. Our portable work-office, with its terabyte drives, countless folders of text, 3D assets, photography, moving image and sound, was getting curious looks when working on the train. You could see fellow travelers peering at the screen wondering what this weird 3D house and rotating text is all about.

Judi taking a photo

Judi taking a photo

After 5 hours we arrived. A walk over the Menai Straits footbridge taking photos in the sunset was a good antidote to the long fragmented journey.

WALLPAPER is being researched as part of an AHRC funded research project entitled ‘Reading Digital Fiction’. The Principle Investigator Dr Alice Bell from Sheffield Hallam University is working closely with Professor Astrid Ensslin from Bangor University, and this trip was to see how we could bring WALLPAPER to Bangor.

Light inside the Pontio Centre

Light inside the Pontio Centre

Design Engineer John Story kindly gave us a tour of the Pontio Centre, as it is here that we will be exhibiting our installation of WALLPAPER in 2016. The building itself will house a 450-plus seat theatre, a ’white box’ exhibition space, a rehearsal studio, teaching rooms, a cinema and an outdoor amphitheatre. Exciting social areas for the centre include new Student Union facilities as well as bars, cafes and restaurants. Pontio will include an ‘Innovation Hub’ that will support collaborative design approaches between the university and local businesses.

Walking round Pontio was impressive, the use of light was stunning from how it cast shadows on the white walls, the wonderful expanses of bare wall ripe for projection, huge sky lights, through to the fantastic views of Bangor, Anglesey and the Menai Straits.



It was nice to meet some of the workmen. John, a painter and decorator was one of the hundreds of contractors to have worked on Pontio. He was hopeful they wouldn’t run out of paint until the White Box had been completed and it was fun speculating with him how much white paint had been used in the decoration of this building.

The White Box - with Astrid, Andy and John

The White Box – with Astrid, Andy and John

Pontio in Welsh means ‘to bridge’ and for us WALLPAPER bridges the disciplines of writing, games design, moving image and soundscape – merging all these media together to create a digitally born work.

WALLPAPER will be shown as an installation next Spring for two weeks in the White Box, a large blank canvas of space just waiting for some interesting digital projection (and a few coats of white paint).

Our trip to Bangor was not only a lovely day, but also full of creative possibilities.

WALLPAPER Environment

Light and dark

Standing around in WALLPAPER doing nothing for 15 minutes. It gets dark. :)

Standing around in WALLPAPER doing nothing. It gets dark. :)

One technique we’ve developed specifically for WALLPAPER is the slow deterioration of light.

In the story, our main character PJ arrives in the early evening as the light is fading. The electricity provider long since disconnected the power, so a large portion of the work involves PJ exploring his family home under torch light.

This has been achieved through the slow interpolation of variables attached to lighting effects in the WALLPAPER world – from a primary directional light which acts as “the sun” to volumetric lighting that can be seen gently pooling through the windows on the west side of the house.

Within a real time period, and often without the reader/player consciously noticing, the story world descends into darkness. PJ’s torch light becomes more emphasized and the outside environment more sketchy and disorientating.

Luckily PJ’s prototype device runs on battery power, giving him a limited (and thankfully fairly bright) window to probe his way into the secrets inside his mother’s locked room.


Papering over the cracks

There is something really interesting about the history of wallpaper – its place in our lives and culture. Decorative paper that smooths over the cracks, bringing colour into another wise bland space. In WALLPAPER, we peel through the layers of paper to unearth the stories of times gone by at Dalton Manor, uncovered by the main protagonist, PJ Sanders.

Throughout the history of decorative arts, wallpaper has been a poor relation, a consumer item, fragile but not fragile enough to be exceptional. As it is easy to replace, it has often disappeared from archives and historical records. This absence of archival history seemed to resonate with stories lost in walls of Dalton Manor.



Wallpaper is often thought of as ‘background’ rather than foreground – like those incidental stories that are attached to everyday items that pepper our lives.  Nevertheless, its role in the overall decorative scheme is a vital one, and the choice of wallpaper affects the mood and style of a room, and may influence the choice of other furnishings. The wallpaper itself may be indicative of the function of a room, and will often reflect the age, status or gender of its inhabitants or habitual occupants. Often wallpaper is designed to look like something else – tapestry, velvet, chintz, silk drapery, linen, wood, masonry, a mural. This decorative deception can be reflected in the mementos of family life, children’s drawings, family photos and certificates of achievement standing proud on a sideboard conveying a families social norm, while under the veneer are chinks and flaws.

Prior to the 18th century heavy fabric tapestries would adorn the walls of the wealthy, at first, decorated paper was only for the rich and upper classes, but with changes in manufacturing and printing wallpaper became an affordable substitute for more costly materials and suffered for being seen as a cheap imitation.

Madame de Genlis (in 1760) bemoaned the frivolous fashion for English wallpapers which had driven the Gobelin tapestries out of style. Wallpaper itself comes to stand for a decline in values, both moral and social:

‘In the old days, when people built, they built for two or three hundred years; the house was furnished with tapestries made to last as long as the building; the trees they planted were their children’s heritage; they were sacred woodlands. Today forests are felled, and children are left with debts, paper on their walls, and new houses that fall to pieces!’

Wallpaper becomes a metaphor for dishonesty as opposed to the secure and lasting, and for the valuing of appearance over substance. We paper over the cracks.

The generations of the Sanders family who lived in Dalton Manor spanned the social classes from upper class respected gentry through to illegitimate children from the servants. The house homed them all, and alongside the walls were decorated accordingly. In the early 19th century Dalton Manor enjoyed wallpaper as a luxurious and elegant commodity just in the parlour, but towards the end of the century, in line with machine printing and repeal of excise duty, wallpaper became more modest and affordable for every room, and in easy reach of the Dalton Manor family that had dropped down the social classes.

The Cowshed

The Cowshed

We were delighted to find out that Wakefield Museum had recently been gifted a collection of wallpaper that had been stripped from a 16th century timber frame building in the city. The Cowshed is the stunning Grade 2 listed building around which Joanne Harris created the book Chocolat, adapted into the famous film. It is now a restaurant and during its refurbishment pieces of the wallpaper had been carefully removed and photographed. The curator at the Museum kindly gave us permission to use the images to create tiles in which we could decorate Dalton Manor.

In devising the WALLPAPER story we liked the links often associated wallpaper as a statement on cleanliness and comfort, home and domesticity. In her story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, Charlotte Perkins-Gilman used wallpaper to symbolise the claustrophobia and repressive control that a woman experiences within the confines of her home and family.

In our WALLPAPER story we wanted to create a home that had a history, that had layers that could be peeled back, with stories revealed – we wanted to tell PJ’s story in a multi-layered way through texture, colour and the illusion of a house whose memories and secrets are covered but not far from the surface.

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