Ambience In Action: Proteus Live

We’ve posted surprisingly little about audio-visual wunderkind Proteus, which I suspect is to do with the fact that, as a primarily sensory experience, it’s far more difficult to describe than it is play. Certainly, Ed Key’s ambient exploration game has at least three staunch fans in Castle Shotgun – myself, Jim and Adam – and it would be remiss of us not to encourage any and everyone who is introspection-inclined to play it.

Of course, to do so involves spending money on the current unfinished version without being entirely sure what you’re in for – no demo as yet, alas – so as an alternative why not watch Ed and the game’s musicman David Kanaga play Proteus live on stage at GameCity last week?

I can’t tell you how down I am that I didn’t get to go to GameCity this year. It sounded like just the right middleground between excitement and quiet, low-key cheer, attended by a small army of genuinely fascinating and non-mercenary people from the gaming world. Instead, I stayed at home in a cold, silent house, furiously playing Hotline Miami by myself. I really should have played Proteus instead – soothing my soul with the simple joy of discovery, rather than inflaming it into a fever-pitch of bloodlust.

More details on Proteus Live, and how it differs from the currently available build, are here. And for a slightly more visible look at the game’s moodscapes, here’s the beta trailer:

You can pre-order Proteus, with immediate access to the current pre-release build, right now. You should do that.

You should also get hold of Kanaga’s 80-minute mix created to get the devs in the mood for demoing Proteus, which is right here.


  1. wodin says:

    Not a game.

    I don’ get these games that aren’t really games, but more like moving pictures..

    • Tiax says:

      Well, even if you don’t consider this to be a game, a nice moving picture can be a good thing nontheless !

    • dE says:

      Ding. Here we go.

    • BlackestTea says:

      I want to officially be allowed to like things, be they games or not and I want RPS to officially be allowed to post anything that involves “play”. Proteus is pretty play. Play is prettiness. I’m probably not logically coherent here, but I actually don’t care – I’m being emotional. That’s what Proteus does to me.

      P.S. More details on Proteus Live, and how it differs from the currently available build, are here. – link missing?

    • AndrewC says:

      Here’s a quote from Carl Sagan:

      ‘In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed”? Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.”‘

      I hope you enjoy it.

    • Alec Meer says:

      I don’t get these people that aren’t really people, but more like talking robots.

      • wodin says:

        No need to get personal.

        One mans meat and is another mans poison.

        Just not for me at all. Rather read a book.

    • JackShandy says:

      Oh pshaw, it has a goal and obstacles and a method of interacting within a system. It’s not any good at those things, of course, so the distinction is entirely arbitrary. “Wandering around in a simulated environment” has just as rich a culture and history as classical games.

    • Pamplemousse says:

      I guess it does falter on some of the key aspects of “being a game”, but it does a little better than some heavily story based games. One of the most important reasons games are separate from literature and music and other forms of media is /interactivity/. Its one of the most joyous things about games; that I can load up the same piece of technology as you or anyone else and have an entirely different experience with it. I hardly need to link to any examples anymore as I’m sure you can all think of some truly fantastic, awe-inspiring moments that came about naturally through play.

      I would consider Proteus to be somewhat missing the point of interactivity (what with you seemingly having little impact on this world you inhabit) but still an interesting look at how compelling exploring is to so many people.

      I personally disliked this when I played it at the little indie section at Eurogamer Expo, but I have a feeling that not having any sound and some god-awful dance game playing gangnam style every twenty seconds may have disrupted the ambience.

    • pottering says:

      I bet you try to “win” at paper&pen RPGs.

    • Feferuco says:

      Despite there being “game” in “video game”, there’s a lot more to the medium than just win/lose conditions, rulesets and whatever. We don’t play games just for the challenge, we play them for the story, for the setting. We enjoy games by exploring a world, by learning its rules, by seeing and hearing it.

      When we listen to every line in a dialogue tree that’s totally useless for any future challenge, are we still playing a game? Interaction with a system is what video games are, we’ve no need to be so narrow.

    • AlwaysRight says:

      I don’t understand why small, beautiful, innoffensive games like this seem to attract so much ire.
      Some people seem so quick to shout ‘not a proper game’ or ‘pretentious’ or ‘hipster’ when stuff like this gets attention.
      If you don’t ‘get’ something why decry it? I wouldn’t go to a death metal website and start commenting “This isn’t music, its just noise. I don’t get it” because I understand that other people are passionate about it and DO get it.

      • Wulf says:

        Because people love shouting ‘hipster’ and mocking anything they feel is a threat to the status quo. Pick anything that exists outside of the norm, or the mainstream. You’ll see an endless repetition of this. It all comes back to how neurotypicals latch onto a systemic, unified cultural pattern, and are slow to adopt anything that exists outside of that. This is why people hate foreigners, this is why we have homophobia, and this is why some of the most enlightened people I’ve spoken to are anything but neurotypical.

        I think it’s actually physically difficult for a neurotypical person to accept something that exists outside of their sphere of known reality. It all comes down to determinism and what you think free will is, I guess. But if you ask me, the way that you have so many large groups of people who band together to shun that which is new to their particular sphere shows that there’s some truth to the notion that we don’t truly have free will. Or at least free will is massively impaired by our own programming.

        I find that you get more interesting results in the form of opinion when a person’s programming is actually broken. It’s interesting, because recent scientific studies are finding ever more links between what we consider to be ‘creativity,’ and forms of being not neurotypical. This all began with the examination of Einstein’s brain, because even science is creativity, you have to work with imaginary numbers for it to even work. People like Einstein were less wired to what they believed they knew.

        Perhaps it has something to do with degrees of hypoplasticity of areas of the brain? I’ve often wondered how much that comes into play. A lack of plasticity may allow the brain to shape itself differently. Or there could be many other factors involved. I don’t know.

        I often find though that the people whom I enjoy spending most of my time around are those who’re known to be not neurotypical, as that tends to go hand-in-hand with a nontrivial quotient of open-mindedness and raw imagination. I also find that such people are more prone to wonder and discovery, rather than simply going with established systems. Essentially, due to variations on the brain norm, those who aren’t neurotypical tend to exist further outside of standard animal behaviours.

        Of course, I’m sure someone will call bullshit, but there’s more than enough evidence to back notions like these up. And there’s more and more coming in all the time. Honestly? It’s common sense. Evolution is based upon weird hiccups, strange mistakes, and so on. It’s not a perfect process. As such, I’d rather spend my time with broken people than perfect ones. And broken people tend to enjoy things which do exist outside of established systems.

        What is a game?

        Why do you have an established idea of what a game must be?

        Why can’t your opinion of what a game is or can be change?

        Why must your definition of a ‘game’ make something not a game?

        Why is Proteus not a game, why is it just a ‘moving picture?’

        Why are your definitions for what a game is pure, rigid, and unshakable?

        But yeah. If you want to see a fantastic example of what I’m talking about, watch the comments section the next time RPS posts about a Carpe Fulgur game, or just about any game that’s originated in Japan. It turns into a circus of xenophobic hatred. It’s just so foreign. If I enjoyed schadenfreude, I’d almost find it entertaining, like a trainwreck.

        • Brun says:

          Excuse us poor, “neurotypical” philistines. We just can’t help that our tiny brains can’t “think outside the box” like yours can.

          Back on topic, as an “exploration game” this appears to share a lot of attributes (as well as an art aesthetic) with Noctis.

        • Gira says:

          Wulf, that post is the single most hilarious thing I have ever read on a videogames forum.

          You do realise “neurotypical” is a label used in the autistic community to describe people who are neurologically outside of the autism spectrum, right? Not, you know, a catch-all word for “people who can’t, like, think outside the system“,” yeah?

          • N says:

            I guess Wulf is the opposite of a “neurotypical” indeed then.

          • Phasma Felis says:

            To N: “LOL he says silly things so he must be autistic”? Fuck you very much, too.

        • Phasma Felis says:

          Hi! autistic person here. Please stop with the silly “neurotypicals are bad” routine. There are brilliant progressives and closed-minded idiots amongst both NTs and autistics. Manufacturing conflict just makes things worse than they already are.

        • Kaira- says:

          I liked the part where you said there’s a ton of evidence and proceeded to provide none.

          [E] Also

          But yeah. If you want to see a fantastic example of what I’m talking about, watch the comments section the next time RPS posts about a Carpe Fulgur game, or just about any game that’s originated in Japan. It turns into a circus of xenophobic hatred

          You use xenophobia when what actually happens is people say “I don’t like anime aesthetics”. It’s as if *gasp* you don’t know what xenophobia means OR you use it as a catch-all phrase to feel superior to others.

        • wodin says:

          Funny because I’m not “neurotypical”, nor is my daughter or ex missus. We all have Aspergers syndrome, well my ex and daughter are diagnosed, I haven’t been as I don’t see the need for a diagnosis.

      • wodin says:

        Funny enough I’ve been accused of being a “Hipster” on this very site.

        I’m not slagging it off, I just don’t understand the want to play it.

        Though I also don’t understand his whole conflict in games is killing sprites etc etc. Like they are real entities.

    • frightlever says:

      Yeah. You do stuff and there is a conclusion. Seems like a game to me. Not a good game. I’m with you on that. I played it a couple of times through to see if I’d done something wrong or it changed much on a new play-through. Dear Esther had the exact same effect on me – ie none.

      I do find the exhortations to buy this and buy that, unconditionally, to be irksome.

      Games like this, and the last few dozen indie darlings, are probably best experienced on Youtube BY ABSOLUTELY EVERYBODY. What? Suddenly unconditional statements are a bad thing? Fickle.

  2. Taidan says:

    So, is this like, the videogame version of Lord of the Rings?

    – Randal Graves

  3. Citrus says:

    Thank the atheist god that technology has come this far for art “games” to finally become a reality and a huge success at the same time.

    Call of Art: Modern Artfare

  4. ZephaniahGrey says:

    I don’t get the point of Proteus. No, I’m not trying to get into the “games as art” argument, because they are, as are spoons, kitchen counters, Monopoly boards, and toothbrushes. No I really don’t get what Proteus is -for-. It’s very pretty to look at, but so is a poster or a song, and I can enjoy them without having to give it my undivided attention.

    I have been moved to tears by works of art, music, literature. I’ve felt the tingle run down my spine, and the light headed awe that comes from a true work of beauty. I played earlier builds of Proteus, and I never felt anything like that. It’s very pretty. As it progresses, it might even become a true work of beauty. And it might make a gorgeous interactive 3D windows background or screensaver or something, but as a game or “interactive experience” that rests behind an icon on my desktop, I can’t see it ever getting much use.

    I guess my point is, there are a lot of icons on said desktop (or actually my Steam library) that hold all kinds on entertainment, but when I want to wander around and relax, I go to the park. Proteus is very pretty, but it’s got nothing on the sun setting behind autumn trees, or wildflowers swaying in the noon-time sun. Go outside people! It’s pretty magical out there too.

    • Wulf says:

      It’s a proof of concept, in a way. It stands to establish with those open to the idea that there can be worth in discovery alone, without any objectives or goals in place. An island loaded with little surprises and visual delights, which comes alive with your presence. I think that Windosill did a similar sort of thing, to be honest. Though that was more of a game than Proteus, or more of a toy, at least.

      I think the purpose, really, is just a thing you can go and walk around in when you need to unwind. Where you can discover, and enjoy, without danger or tension. It’s your own little island, and a place of serene wonder. I quite like it.

    • NathanH says:

      Yeah, I agree, I think there are plenty of better options in the world if your goal is to explore and look at things. A video game or whatever you want to call it needs something more to pull me in than that, it needs to provide something that just going outside or looking at pictures doesn’t give me.

      To be honest I’m pretty jealous of people who can enjoying playing around with this.

    • Ed says:

      I agree with the “Go outside!” sentiment, but without arguing taste and whether it “works”, the idea is certainly not to be a replacement for real rocks and trees etc. I’m always a little mystified by this. It’s like some kind of nightmare dystopian future! Does anyone look at a landscape painting and think “What is the point?! I could be looking at a real landscape!” (they might prefer to look at a portrait or an abstract, of course…)

      If you have link to installed in your local park, please let me know so I can visit!

      Incidentally, the design purpose of Proteus wasn’t really as a place to unwind, it was just to make what we felt like making (it was originally a spare-time project so didn’t need any other purpose). It’s nice that it’s come out that way though.

  5. Tiax says:

    The only reason I’m not buying this yet is that I feel like this is the kind of game (yes, GAME) I’ll only play once, which means I’m waiting for Proteus to be as complete as possible in order to experiment as much as possible of it.

    Amiright ?

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      It is randomised (the geography of the island), each time your start, so there is some differences, but if you’re like me, you’ll check out all of the areas during each season, so no, there’s not that much replayability. I’ve ended up playing* the first version all the way through and loving it, and about half a go through the next version. I’ll probably wait for the full version before I play it again.

      tl:dr u rite

      * if playing is the right word

  6. Qwallath says:

    Yo. Never mind the bollocks, and check out that awesome mix.

  7. Wurstwaffel says:

    I can’t help thinking this would look better without the pixely edges