Californium Is Inspired By The Works Of Philip K. Dick

Prolific American author Philip K. Dick is perhaps best remembered for his contribution to science-fiction. If you can’t place the name, I’m sure you’ll have heard of films made off the back of his Orwell/Huxley-esque interpretations of state control and altered consciousness, including Blade Runner, Total Recall (the good one, obviously), and A Scanner Darkly. Inspired more broadly by Dick’s writing and ideas, the upcoming Californium [official site] is a strange and wonderful first-person game about a writer who seems to be slipping between realities as his life falls apart. It looks great:

This collaboration between production companies Darjeeling and Nova Productions is reminiscent of Dick’s 1978 novel VALIS, which explores the idea that somehow the illusory visions the protagonist suffers from have scope to reveal secrets about reality. It’s not an adaptation of VALIS, mind, but plays with Dick’s ideas and themes as a much simpler video game variation – a proof-of-concept, almost – that’s been brought to life by French illustrator Oliver Bonhomme. The above trailer shows a world where nothing is as it seems and everything is subject to change as if by the hand of some external force. It looks beautifully surreal and captivating whilst at the same time positively terrifying.

Speaking to Ars Technica UK recently, Darjeeling digital producer Noam Roubah said:

“When you read Philip K. Dick, you realise the dystopia is not in the aesthetic, but its portrayal of human beings. His books were very fun and we wanted to keep this aesthetic. The idea for Californium itself came about in 2011 when the creators were pondering what to create for the 30th anniversary of Philip K. Dick’s death. It’s really interesting to work on this man, this writer. Everything he wrote in the ‘50s and the ‘60s is now part of our modern world. The dehumanisation of human behaviour, the internet—these were all in his books.”

Californium is due for release in early 2016.


  1. Zyx says:

    I always seem feel extreme nausea when i watch these kinds of videos. Same thing happened with Thirty Flights of Loving. I don’t know what it is about them. To a mild degree this happens with Source engine games as well. What’s going on? Is it the fov? How do i counter this? I’ve no idea. I should google that.

    Oh, and the game looks great, by the way.

    • JackMultiple says:

      Me too. I’ve always assumed it’s because you’ll be trying to focus on something in the video, and the player will “whisk” the focus to something else. I hate videos where players very quickly pan the viewpoint LARGE DISTANCES, perhaps trying to decide what to do next, while making it totally disorienting for the viewer. I don’t seem to have trouble playing the games… just watching somebody else play it on a video.

      • Unclepauly says:

        I don’t even do that when I’m playing a game unless there’s a threat outside my periphery. Considering this video was exploration my only explanation is that he wanted to create a paranoia like feeling like when scared people dart their eyes. Idk but I have a slight headache now.

  2. Turkey says:

    It looks nice. The weirdness seems pretty contained, though. I hope it’s more like you turn a corner and you’re not even sure what you’re looking at.

  3. LionsPhil says:

    Pixel hunting. Just what walking simulators needed.

  4. Geebs says:

    I expected more middle-aged men dealing with their issues by punching somebody smaller than them, and less Bioshock Infinite.

  5. shagen454 says:

    Fuck yeah, more psychedelic games inspired by Phillip K. Dick please. Or, make sure more game developers smoke DMT a couple of times in their life before going at it.

    • Unclepauly says:

      DMT should be a requirement for every person involved in the making of fantasy/science fiction type things.

      • Moth Bones says:

        Seriously? Isn’t it enough to have taken acid a decent amount of times in one’s youth?

  6. racccoon says:

    Its interesting.. but watching the guy using the game was crazy and bad.. its is though as simple as the flash torch light created animation, which is as you pass over with a torch light you then reveal another difference its so easy to do.
    My problem with all these game developers is they develop all this content, but none of it is usable it should be they create basic model and its a block, a solid, a total annoying brain fuck for the player.
    Please for gods sake devs start making these objects as they are in life usable, crush-able and pliable. Just stop frustrating the crap out of us about your compulsive attitude to creating life objects as a solid. :(!@#$!!!

  7. cloudnein says:

    ARTE’s awesome, looking forward to this! (Hopefully for Mac as well as PC and Linux.)

  8. bonuswavepilot says:

    As well as the three mentioned above, Dick’s work was also adapted for Minority Report, Screamers, Bladerunner and the upcoming Man in the High Castle TV series.

    If you’ve not read him he is definitely worth a look. His characters are sometimes a bit unbelievable I find (especially the women), but nobody develops a weird idea quite like Phil. I would recommend the curious start with his short stories.

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      …and of course, Bladerunner was actually already mentioned above. Come back edit button, all is forgiven!

    • Wowbagger says:

      They should of stuck with Second Variety for screamers, but I guess screamers is a better B movie name.

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    Don Reba says:

    I like the premise, but not a fan of the sloppy art and Unity’y look.

  10. ben_reck says:

    I thought Piers Anthony (Split Infinity, Bio of a Space Tyrant, Xanth, a million others) wrote Total Recall.

    • Geebs says:

      The original Dick story was called “we can remember it for you wholesale”

  11. alms says:

    Prolific American author Philip K. Dick is perhaps best remembered for his contribution to science-fiction. If you can’t place the name,

    …then you need to start reading, like, stat.

    • Moth Bones says:

      I still feel guilty about introducing his work to a friend who later went off the deep end. Joe Chip remains the character in fiction I most identify with.

  12. Cederic says:

    “the dystopia is not in the aesthetic, but its portrayal of human beings. His books were very fun”

    No. The dystopia is in the author, and his books were at best interesting and on average were fucking unapproachable.

    A lot of tremendous ideas but my thanks to the multiple screenwriters that turned those terrible books into excellent films.

    I likes me a bit of hardcore sci-fi but I also want some coherent writing. Sorry.

    • alms says:

      Granted, Dick wasn’t the best writer, but “excellent films” would imply Total Recall was one as well which would instantly discredit anything you said :P

      Blade Runner is an iconic piece of film and I love it to bits, but it isn’t without flaws in large part thanks to its travailed development process and production. And while I haven’t had much trouble reading A Scanner Darkly, I eventually gave up on Linklater with Waking Life.

      The best PKD movie that wasn’t a PKD movie I watched was Southland Tales BTW.

      • Moth Bones says:

        Blade Runner is a good film on its own terms but a piss poor adaptation of a beautiful novel. I’m not a ‘film should follow the book’ person at all, but Blade Runner manages to leave out much of what makes Androids so great – Mercerism and the fake pet industry are both essential to its plea for empathy and humanity.