The Hills Are Alive: Proteus Beta Release

By Adam Smith on February 27th, 2012 at 9:48 am.

The sun is probably humming merrily as it traverses the sky

Accidental audio creation and island exploration are the tasks at hand in Proteus, although everything in the game is less of a ‘task’ and more of a possibility. Wandering around randomly generated landscapes, which are like storybook dreams from yesteryear, the player discovers visual features that trigger audio effects, from the plinky-plonky strum of rainfall to the jolly synth-speak of peculiar lifeforms. I think they’re lifeforms anyway. They may just be forms because that’s the kind of stroll this is; a perambulation through a world of beautiful, gentle wonder. The beta is now available to preorder customers, who’ll be paying $7.50 and receiving all future updates and an EP.

An old, old video but there’s a new one due soon and by the time that’s out, maybe I’ll have played around with the current release enough to justify more words.

Now, there’s another game bobbing about at the minute that’s about taking a Journey with no fighting, experience point grabbing or conflict, but that one lives in a land called Sony. From what little I’ve played of thatgamecompany’s wanderthon, Proteus actually reminds me more of Flower, with its love of colour, natural worlds and air of relaxed tourism. The places it generates don’t always make me want to dash over the next hill in search of a bewildering vista because it doesn’t have the scale to be truly awesome. Proteus’ worlds are as much places to be for a while as they are places to discover.

It’s a game geared for exploration, because who doesn’t want to find a cabin in the woods filled with the harmonic chants of nature as night sets in and the sky becomes a glittering pincushion? But Proteus is also a game about existing, the action of simply being in a place unusual and new. And now I better play something where I can shoot baddies in the gut with a gun so that I don’t turn into a ray of sunlight, inefectually dancing across my keyboard.

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33 Comments »

  1. Spacecraft says:

    Looks extremely relaxing.

  2. Kefren says:

    More of this please – games for people with imagination.

  3. PitfireX says:

    I have such a hard time playing a game without a goal. When I say this i mean it in the least negative way possible…. if I wanted to explore….i would lol.

    hopefully this can turn into something more goal oriented without losing its unique awesomeness… Will be watching this one!

    • Ed says:

      It’s a fair point! I’ve tried a few times to add goals, but it seems to ruin the pacing (?) somehow.

      Currently my thinking is to keep adding richness to the world – more locations, animals, animal behaviours and interactions, stuff in the sky, strange perceptual states, so that the exploration *is* the reward, if that doesn’t sound too poncey :) …so, maybe you’d find a rare thing and wonder if anyone else had seen it?

      Also as mentioned above/below/somewhere else in this thread, I’m thinking of adding some kind of multiplayer or sharing thing… sort of “living postcards” maybe

    • Dock_M says:

      Maybe add some kind of photography mechanic? Like pokemon snap for n64, that game was also about “exploring” with a strong emphasis on discovering new things.

    • Urthman says:

      I’ve always thought photography is a great mechanic for an exploration game. lt’s basically a variant of “find and collect (secret?) stuff,” but instead of an extrinsic motivation–using gold or ammo or experience points as a lure to get the player to explore the nifty world you’ve crafted–photography is more of an intrinsic reward–the photo op is both the lure to get the player to explore and find the nifty hidden corner of the world as well as a record of the nifty thing she’s seen.

      Ideally, an exploration game is rewarding without any collectables. Finding the beautiful hidden corners of the world is it’s own reward. Adding a photography mechanic can help give players direction and goals that fit organically with that type of game design rather than artificially bolting something else on top of it.

      Anyone played the Endless Ocean 2 on the Wii? That’s about the best pure exploration game I’ve ever played.

    • dragoran says:

      @Dock_M, Urthman

      To echo your sentiments, I found trying to line up the perfect vista for a screenshot to be one of the most compelling aspects of Noctis IV. I would think some kind of photo mechanic (especially if it involved some kind of sharing, though not necessarily coupled directly with the game) could work quite well for this; it needn’t even be an integral goal of the game. That being said, I’ve yet to play the game, so I’m not totally sure. I definitely plan on checking it out, but the duties of grad school are currently devouring my time.

  4. Nova says:

    Finally!

  5. Pemptus says:

    Reminds me a bit of those Mike Oldfield surreal musical exploration things.

  6. Enzo says:

    Wow, this is actually genius.

    RPS don’t let people forget about this game.

  7. Ostymandias says:

    I think John Cage would have liked this.

  8. v21 says:

    It’s like a warm bath.

  9. CelticPixel says:

    What I’d really love to see in an exploration game with no real goal is multiplayer with chat support, so you can socialize and explore with friends while wandering.

  10. NothingFunny says:

    Or you could call It a generated world technology demo void of gameplay.

    • Jeroen D Stout says:

      Not everybody likes the thing you call gameplay.

    • Ed says:

      I should say that I do like gameplay. This game(in quotes?) isn’t a manifesto, we just made what we felt like making. There’s a fair bit more to it than a world generator, but whatever :)

  11. staberas says:

    well, i though this would look like that Love mmo …

  12. Runs With Foxes says:

    Not really a game is it.

    • brog says:

      Does it matter?

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      It’s as much of a game as Koyaanisqatsi is a movie. :)

    • hypercrisis says:

      “It’s as much of a game as Koyaanisqatsi is a movie.”

      I don’t really get what comparison you’re trying to make here. Koya was never anything but a movie, it is moving images, its slightly abstract documentary making if you want to pidgeonhole it as something unique, but guided narrative is not a requirement of a ‘movie’ (Koya does have a narrative by the way, subtle but it is there).

      Titles like this Proteus defy the traditional definition of a ‘game,’ being as there is no objective, instead meandering into the territory of new media.

      Anyway, interesting project, my one concern is that you’re forced to walk and thats it. There’s a quote from Miyamoto I believe who claims that players get bored walking, which is why they include functions like Zeldas rolling button. It served no real purpose beyond giving the player something to occupy themselves with instead of just walking around. If your game is about exploration and wandering, you have to make that in itself actually enjoyable, no matter how beautiful your game world may be. Flower had you fly around as a breeze, something like that would fit a project like this better, in my opinion anyway.

  13. JonasKyratzes says:

    Proteus is a fantastic experience. Screenshots and words can’t convey the beauty of exploring its world.

  14. GallonOfAlan says:

    Well, I’m in for €5.70 or whatever it is … I like it (based on 5 mins wandering) because it reminds me of Skyrim and Teletubbies at the same time.

  15. LCinn says:

    Wow. This is lovely. I just wandered around for a bit, and it was great. Found a bunch of awesome things, my favorites being a pantheon of gods on top of the mountains, a bouncing bird with a long tail, and a circle of stars that let me control time.

    I love this so much. All I could perhaps ask for besides more of this is an `interaction’ button (unless it’s already there and I missed it), allowing you to interact with things by clicking on them (like catching frogs, or shaking trees, etc.). Because right now the world reacts to your presence, but you can’t really react to the world (if that makes sense). Not exactly trivial to add (you’d need reactions of everything you would be able to interact with), but it would be cool.

  16. Urthman says:

    This looks alot like what I was hoping for in a sequel to Noctis IV (back when I still had hope there would ever be a Noctis V).

    • Swabbleflange says:

      This is exactly what I came here to say. Give me an open-world game and I’ll spend the vast majority of time just wandering about, exploring. I played 30 hours of Skyrim while barely progressing the actual game part of it, and most of my time spent in WoW was just me walking about looking at stuff. My hopes for a new Noctis are pretty much dashed at this point, and maybe Proteus will fill some of that gap.

      I mean, I liked the Mako bits in Mass Effect. I got genuinely excited when I went wandering about and found a pyramid on a barren planet, even though there was nothing else there.

      With regard to goals in the game: I’m just hoping there will be plenty to discover, even if I don’t have much direct interaction with it. Imagine cresting over a hill in this and coming upon some giant ruin, or chasing after a newly-discovered lifeform. Maybe some kind of recording feature and shared catalog would be a good idea.

      Anyway, Archive Edition pre-ordered. Looking forward to whatever it brings.

  17. Overwind says:

    I love the look of this, but I have a feeling I’d end up chasing those mushroom-thingies for hours… :)

  18. Beefsurgeon says:

    I played this for a while last night. The atmosphere really is quite nice. Unfortunately, I feel somewhat unbalanced after playing it. I simply cannot exist in an imaginary 3D world without feeling a very strong urge to shoot things.

  19. RSeldon says:

    All right, this is absolutely lovely. And very relaxing and happy — I think it may be my new game to play before going to bed at night.

  20. somedude says:

    Even the alpha version of this a while back was fairly impressive, and I can only imagine what the complete version will be like. I’ve been looking forward to a game like this for quite some time, something that’s just about ambient exploration – exploring a world and seeing what interesting things there are to find. (In fact, ever since the original Myst and all of its successors, I kept wishing for a game that did away with all of the puzzle nonsense and would just give me free rein to explore the beautiful environments). Needless to say, this was an instant preorder, and I hope this game gets the support it needs to fully realize its premise.

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