Alice’s Evening Walk: Césure

Oh, where do these stairs go?

Isn’t walking great? I adore wandering semi-aimlessly, looking at stuff and thinking about things. Now modern technological advancements mean we can complement our walks with virtual walks from the comfort of our own homes. What times we live in! Shall we walk?

It strikes me that the most famous walking simulators are set in relatively familiar places. They wander countryside, cities, forests, and offices, even if these are sometimes a bit metaphysical or metafictional. For our second walk together, let’s head off in the direction of the weird and alien and unsettling to see something different. Let’s look at Césure, a free game by Orihaus.

Césure is a small game but set around something huge, some terrible glowing monolith, or artefact, or lifeform, or… thing. Winding stairs, gantries, walkways, and devices are wrapped around, pierced by, and warped by this oddity. It is quiet, but not silent. Perfect glossy polyhedrons and spheres float, rotating by themselves. The object is alien. The structure is human. It looks like the object won.

Someone really should put safety rails on these ramps. Maybe a little hazard tape.

I’ve tried not to show the scale or every interesting part so you can enjoy discovering it all yourself.

Descending the stairs, the structure gets more and more broken and overrun. By the time you reach the black waters at the bottom, and perhaps explore the blurry distant banks and islands, it’s clear why no one else is around. Or it isn’t. It isn’t at all. Césure doesn’t say anything about what this scene is or what happened here. You’re plonked in and left to explore, experience, and, only if you fancy, speculate. Like this alien object, Césure is simply there.

I didn't even notice the... containment sphere? from the inside.

As we’ll see over our weeks, months, years, and decades of walking together, a lot of very different game are lumped together under “walking simulator”. They’re puzzle games, platformers, interactive fiction, horror, places to walk and explore, or bits of all these. Sometimes you don’t even walk.

We’re only dipping our toe into The Unusual Pond with Césure. We’ll wander more-abstract places as find our feet together, I’m sure, and maybe even skinny dip in the pond. Orihaus cited the work of Aliceffekt and increpare as influences on Césure, and we’ll see more of them later.

Screenshot wizard Duncan Harris of Dead End Thrills brought us a chat with Orihaus earlier this year, gassing about strange places and his drone warfare game Hunting Anubis. It’s a good read.

26 Comments

  1. Alice O'Connor says:

    I ambitiously called yesterday’s post Alice’s Daily Walk because I honestly didn’t think I was starting a series. Turns out, I really want to do a series. No fixed day or time, not at this point anyway, but let’s say we’ll go for at least one a week. Though I’m on holiday next week so we’ll see. To come: cities, forests, offices, jetpacks, islands, snowy wastes, temples, dreams, geometric hells.

    • Prolar Bear says:

      More of this sort of thing, yay!

      EDIT: nice article, by the way

    • Ex Lion Tamer says:

      Excellent news. I look forward to giving Césure a look.

      Edit: Second ‘look’ should be ‘walk’ clearly.

    • RARARA says:

      You should do another relaxing narration, like the Purgateus video.

    • psepho says:

      I really like this series idea. When Porpentine’s column stopped, I had worried that we would see fewer of the unusual corners of the medium on RPS. It is great to be proved wrong by series like this, Freeware Garden and S.EXE.

      Cesure is also great!

      • Premium User Badge

        keithzg says:

        Speaking of, comments are already disabled on the latest S.EXE? Ughh, internet why you gotta be like that? The trolls are getting far too organized; it’s really fucking depressing (although perhaps RPS could benefit from a more /.-y comments system, where folks built up a reputation and one could browse the comments with a slider that, by default, would exclude non-upvoted anonymous comments? I don’t know, something has to be done because it’s getting infuriatingly difficult to have a reasonable discussion on the internet without a chorus of entitled misanthropes shouting over everyone).

        • LionsPhil says:

          If I can get this through the spam filter…

          I saw no evidence of “troll” comments. RPS is just turning them off pre-emptively. I suggest just scrolling past such articles.

        • Faxmachinen says:

          From what I understand it has as much to do with it being a Friday column. Undesirables want to spend their weekends writing hateful words on the Internet, while comment moderators don’t fancy spending weekends deleting them.

  2. J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    Speaking of, is Ether One a walking simulator? It’s on sale at GOG and looks might tempting.

    • lordfrikk says:

      It most certainly is.

    • David Shute says:

      Actually Ether One contains a whole bunch of quite difficult, somewhat obscure inventory-based puzzles, but they’re very nearly all optional. Doing all the puzzles rewards you with a deeper insight into the story and a different ending, but if you’re not interested you can ignore them and just play it as a walking simulator.

      • Jalan says:

        As an added bonus, it has an awesome score provided by NJ Apostol.

  3. DanMan says:

    Those screenshots are almost wallpaper material.

    Almost.

  4. Alice O'Connor says:

    I didn’t want to be contentious in the post but perhaps should’ve said: Césure’s setting is the sort of weird thing so many big-budget sci-fi and fantasy games wish they could do.

    The supposed vast monoliths and huge alien spaces that their characters find so impressive or terrifying usually look small and unexciting to players (with exceptions, of course). They’re constrained by pathfinding, the demands of combat spaces, fear of clipping errors, performance concerns, worry that players won’t understand where to go, and other things that don’t apply to a free game where you walk and jump and look around on your own.

    Walking simulators can do THIS.

    • Premium User Badge

      keithzg says:

      Yeah, that’s a particularly large problem with the Halo series. The practical objectives of the level designers often completely undercut the awe and grandeur that’s supposed to be conveyed.

      That being said, it’s not like it needs to be a walking sim to give itself over to such passive scenery-watching, more that walking sims like this aim directly for such a thing, and designers of big-budget action games could learn a thing or two about how such games are designed for when they do want to convey some larger moment or feeling. The mainstream devs just need to have faith in their own creative vision . . . which, considering the pressures of meeting quarterly results and the abstraction layer that is corporate management, I’ll grant is a luxury rarely afforded to the devs. Perhaps that’s why Dishonored actually managed it at times, because as run-and-shoot-y as it was, the devs weren’t (at the time) beholden to any corporate interest worrying about smoothing out the experience into the most digestible and categorizable form.

  5. RedViv says:

    This was so brilliantly alien to go through. Wander through. Wonder through. Thank you!

  6. Premium User Badge

    heretic says:

    great! thank you

  7. mr.black says:

    Very interesting proposition and I’m in!
    My sneakers are ready!

  8. Shadowcat says:

    Césure sounds nifty.

    Alice, make sure you play Trespasser as part of this now-a-series. The game has its (well-documented) issues, but in terms of providing an amazing environment to explore on foot, it’s one heck of a game which still sits pretty darn high up the ladder in this respect. It would be a great fit for the series theme.

    In fact I remember an interview in which one of the developers said that if they weren’t careful there was a risk of them creating Microsoft Hiking Simulator (or words very much to that effect).

  9. tr76 says:

    I made an account to say thank you, Alice, for starting this series, and informing us of this game – it’s so pretty!

  10. Premium User Badge

    keithzg says:

    Has anyone found where the bell is tolling from? Not that I actually want specifics, I’m just wondering if it is a “somewhere” rather than just an ambient sound effect.

  11. Faxmachinen says:

    My favourite walking simulator so far is NaissanceE. I do wish you could skip the timed platforming bits though.

  12. Crusoe says:

    Césure: how do I invert the mouse?

    • Premium User Badge

      keithzg says:

      You don’t, you heathen!

      …I mean, there’s probably some way using .ini files, since I’d *assume* that’d be some basic thing built into the Unity engine. A quick Google search brought up nothing, however, and to this day I cannot fathom why someone would want to invert their mouse for a first-person game (the mouse movement maps directly to movement on the X and Y axis! it’s needlessly confusing to invert one of those axis!) so my desire to investigate that petered out pretty quickly, heh. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s possible in some generic any-Unity-engine-game way.

  13. Flit says:

    This game is terrible because it’s so good and there isn’t enough of it! I was excited seeing this on the front page of RPS again, thinking there was some kind of new release. I’d love various levels/seasons of this à la Proteus.