Occlusion: Video Game Camera Placement Matters

The more I play and study games, design, and ludology, the more I notice the little things and enjoy going overly in-depth on little details like ambient audio, set-dressing, and camera positioning. Your choice of camera style changes the nature of play rather radically alters how you play, your involvement and your experience of the game. Can you imagine playing Mario from first person? Or Halo as an Isometric hack and slash?

Although they both sound pretty cool…

Here’s a short run down of camera types in games: Continue reading “Occlusion: Video Game Camera Placement Matters”

Grounded In Reality

It’s difficult, almost impossible to come up with an original idea any more. Invention comes mostly from developing or recreating old ideas, or fusing two or more old ideas until the new one becomes suitably distinct; true invention, that can spawn an entirely original creation is a rare and precious gift that often leaves the bearer mental and in a corner spinning buscuits and gluing stuff to stuff. Continue reading “Grounded In Reality”

Proteus – Art in video games

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Steam, Humble Store, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
Price (As of March 2014): £6.99 (Steam), Official website ($9.99).

I would recommend this game, Proteus; If you love art and love to explore.

If you think a game cannot be art, then Proteus will prove you wrong because you know what? This is a game that is pure art. Simple as that.

However… This is a review about the “video game” side of Proteus. As well as this, I’ve made a few points I hope people will understand.

Dreamy
Dreamy

Story

This game has no story. I’m not being mean, this game has no story. It’s an adventure game about exploration. That’s not too big a deal; I mean Tetris doesn’t have a story! What really matters is the game play, so what about the game play of Proteus?

Game Play

The game play in Proteus is limited. You are limited to walk forward, walk backward, walk left and right (WASD keys on a computer) and look around (Mouse). You cannot seem to jump, you cannot interact with anything. You simply walk and look around.

Speaking of looking around, I found I was having some trouble with this, too. How can this be? If I turn my mouse, I expect to be able to go 360 degrees. For one, the player character should be able to understand how to turn around, at least I thought. You can do about 180 degrees and I have found it is possible to turn the full way around, but it doesn’t always seem possible. I must be missing something with this, so please: Answers below on what I’m doing wrong, dear readers!

Graphics

Crisp and Retro inspired, Proteus aims to please it’s players by giving you a lustrous, expansive open world to explore. It satisfies, it relaxes and most importantly: It looks great.

Very pretty :)
Very pretty :)

It’s a beautiful world to explore and if anything, it kind of makes me want to discover more of the world I actually live in, too. But first, let’s explore the world of Proteus.

Music

I can’t say much here: The music is supposed to make you relax, which it does. It’s supposed to give a sense of exploration, which it does and it’s supposed to be nice. Which it is.

The music is spot on for this kind of game. Perhaps Proteus should fall under a genre of “Interactive art”, rather than game? Is this unfair of me to say this?

A very cool point to Proteus is that everything you discover affects the music in some way! Now THAT is a great feature and I’d not praise this enough. As you explore, if it gets darker, the music will change to reflect it. If you discover a plant, it somehow impacts the music in some way. If you stay in one place, there’s nothing different at all. This is how the game encourages you to explore. The more you see, the more feeling you’ll get from the world you’re just discovering for the first time.

Overall

I feel bad for giving this a relatively negative review. Graphically, this game is nice and audio wise, this game is awesome. Remember too, this is a procedurally generated world you are exploring and the game wants you to explore. Procedurally generated: This means, that based on some code(an algorithm), the world will change, seemingly randomly/dynamically.

This is how England always looks to me.
This is how England always looks to me.

But this is where I fail to understand it as a game, unless it was truly to spark off “Video games as art” as a genre. If that’s the case, this game has more than succeeded. I’ve spoken about this before, where games are a set of rules. That’s fine, that’s great even! So let’s examine the rules of this game:

  1. Each world is procedurally generated.
  2. Everything the player sees changes the audio with its own unique twist to the audio and the world they explore.
  3. Players can move.

I don’t know if I’ve missed something. I really don’t know. I feel bad that I don’t like this more than I do, as honestly; it is a beautiful game. Retro inspired, relaxing music… Shame about the “game” side of this.

From me, I’ll give this a medium score of 3/5.

On the upside

There’s nothing wrong with Proteus; however as a video game, I really cannot say much about it.

It’s an interactive medium with no story and the game play is simply walking around a procedurally generated world with some (Very well done) changing audio. If I could jump, I might be more excited? I’d see if I could get my way to the top of one of the little castles that appeared on my last play through. I’d see if I could leap from tree to tree. I want not to be limited by the constraints of walking, this is why I play video games. I want to be free. I want to explore your worlds, but I want to explore them on my terms. Just a jump button would have made all the difference in the world to me. I’m not even joking about that. I’d have scored higher if I could jump!

Hey, you don’t have to listen to my ramblings alone, as one of the creators of Proteus has written to defend his game – as a game. This Kotaku article explains his side of the coin and whilst I wholeheartedly agree with him, especially this line: “Outside of academic discussions, encouraging a strict definition of “game” does nothing but foster conservatism and defensiveness in a culture already notorious for both“, I also disagree to some extent.

From someone who’s played games since he can remember – This goes all the way back to my 4th year of living, I seem to have relatively good memory, when I was playing on the Amiga that we owned. I loved Super Frog. (I love you, Team17!) This was a game that had: rules, reason and a goal. You don’t need a story: Look at Tetris. You don’t need good graphics: Look at Pong. The very notion that someone who picks up a video game and has to accept it as a game, is absurd! I’m not going to slate Proteus as it was a very nice experience.

Here’s my problem

I found out and bought this game on Steam; where it is labelled as “Casual, Indie, Adventure.” The trouble is the word “Adventure” which is commonly depicted as having a goal in a (usually) fantasy world. Don’t take my word for it – Please come up with your own idea of an adventure game and write below! I’d want this game to, instead, have it’s own genre. Be an “Exploration” game. Not an “Adventure game” and if you read their website, “A game of audio-visual exploration and discovery by Ed Key and David Kanaga”. This misrepresentation isn’t the failing of Proteus, see? It’s everyone involved with selling this game.

With all of this set aside, let me very quickly do a second review for this game, using my own terms:

For a game that is now labelled (by myself) as an: Immersion Exploration game, Proteus delivers on all levels. With an unknown avatar to walk through a procedurally generated world, you are left with a sense of glee, as you explore this world more and more, in hopes to see and hear the many great sights and sounds of the world of Proteus.

The audio plays nicely as you set aside the problems of your working day, by listening to the blissful and dynamic music that plays throughout. You see a plant, how nice, the audio reflects this lovely experience.

As a game in the Immersion Exploration gaming world, I give Proteus: 5/5.

I leave you with a peaceful view.
I leave you with a peaceful view.

Finally

I will probably have annoyed some people who read this post; Please don’t be silent, I want to hear your take on this! If I had discovered this game from, say, the Humble Store: There would have been no genre discrepancy! Instead, it says: “Proteus is a game about exploration and immersion in a dream-like island world where the soundtrack to your play is created by your surroundings.” As an adventure game, I cannot recommend it. As an “Immersion Exploration” game? Yeah, I dig it. Hard!

What did you all think of Proteus? Are you interested in it? I do think it’s a great concept, I just feel bad I can’t enjoy it more; simply due to how I found out about the game! When I took away and made my own genre of it, this game was a lot more enjoyable. I didn’t hold to “Adventure” rules. I held to the rules of a game as a piece of art.