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May 31, 2012 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Proteus is a beautiful game by Ed Key with no goals except admiring natural features and exploring a procedurally generated island [some spoilers in videos], modeled loosely after the open land near Key's parents' home in Cumbria. The game also features "reactively mixed" ambient electronic music (think 'chiptune Boards of Canada') composed by David Kanaga, which changes and shifts according to your physical context. Though only in v0.1, it has already won critical accolades, as well as an award for The Most Amazing Indie Game at A MAZE 2012.
posted by p3on (50 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite

 
Where are the zombies...
posted by Huck500 at 12:01 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm still waiting for Noctis V, but I GUESS THIS WILL HAVE TO DO UNTIL THEN
posted by theodolite at 12:02 PM on May 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Where are the zombies...

over in DayZ
posted by p3on at 12:02 PM on May 31, 2012


Some people are still trying to figure out Myst...
posted by Fizz at 12:04 PM on May 31, 2012


Sounds very cool but those screen shots are pretty useless in their beauty.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:13 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was just gonna say, I hated Myst then... I'm not buying into Myst III: Revenge of that one light fixture that dropped the bridge on the other side of the island when switched off.
posted by Blue_Villain at 12:14 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Proteus is a beautiful game by Ed Key with no goals except admiring natural features and exploring...

So is Skyrim, if you play it right.
posted by The Bellman at 12:27 PM on May 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yes, this looks pretty neat, but no Mac support so far, which is a bummer.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:36 PM on May 31, 2012


forgot to say, windows only for the moment, but mac and linux support planned by the end of the year
posted by p3on at 12:38 PM on May 31, 2012


What? No Demo version?
posted by Ardiril at 12:52 PM on May 31, 2012


This reminds me of VIM, except that VIM looks a lot nicer.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:27 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, this looks pretty neat, but no Mac support so far, which is a bummer.

Yeah, looks pretty, but I'd love to be able to play it one day.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:29 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't enjoy this game because I keep expecting a creeper to hiss out from behind every tree.
posted by oulipian at 1:39 PM on May 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


OK, I'll bite, what makes this particularly interesting or lovely? The generative music could be neat, but the graphics and environment look very simple. I appreciate there's a different aesthetic than the gritty grim space marine future but the execution feels lacking to me. Probably I'm totally missing the point.

Related: I played Love for a bit and enjoyed the completely disorienting visuals and environment. I never could really figure out the gameplay though, that took some of the fun out of it.
posted by Nelson at 3:03 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK, I'll bite, what makes this particularly interesting or lovely?

Or, for that matter, a game.
posted by adamdschneider at 3:09 PM on May 31, 2012


OK, I'll bite, what makes this particularly interesting or lovely?

Personally I think Love is prettier, but there's a low-fi thing going on with Proteus that might appeal to some.

Or, for that matter, a game.

Well it depends on your definition of game.
posted by juv3nal at 3:20 PM on May 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's Minecraft without the Mine or the Craft.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:21 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


think 'chiptune Boards of Canada'

Sold!
posted by en forme de poire at 3:40 PM on May 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yes, this looks pretty neat, but no Mac support so far, which is a bummer.

Yeah, looks pretty, but I'd love to be able to play it one day.


I don't think it's out yet for Windows either (preorder link) ... despite winning an IGF prize in 2011?

Has anyone actually played it? Can you play it without buying it? The gallery shows me low-res, empty landscapes. :?
posted by mrgrimm at 3:45 PM on May 31, 2012


Sorry...
Skyrim is beautiful.
Diablo 3 is beautiful.
Wolfenstein 3d (from the 90s) was beautiful.
Knights of the Sky (from the late 80s) was beautiful.
Test Drive2 was beautiful.
This is 2012. While i am impressed someone would take the effort to do this, while it works well and is free (and free if advertising asides from the freeware passed hat technique). This is impressive -not beautiful.

Raise your standards. Id did this on crappy machines twenty years ago.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:32 PM on May 31, 2012


I just bought it and it is indeed low-res empty landscapes, but it's curiously charming. Not something to spend a long time with, but neat for a little while.
posted by winna at 4:43 PM on May 31, 2012


It's Minecraft without the Mine or the Craft.

That was my thought too. Minecraft has similar world beauty exploration (plus the miney crafty parts). Not as much music though.
Still, the world is richer for having this (and who knows what the investigation of problems and issues during development of this production will enable in subsequent projects. Things like this are often stepping stones for the people involved.)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:47 PM on May 31, 2012


As always, wow, always surprises me what a harsh audience it is here. I for one find the stripped back low res graphics very appealing. Since when did something have to be.

(Nanukthedog, yep, and all those games were produced by funded teams involving dozens if not hundreds of artists and programmers. This seems to be largely a team of one with a start up fund of 0. Impressive by my standards, if not yours.)
posted by arha at 4:50 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]




all those games were produced by funded teams involving dozens if not hundreds of artists and programmers.

Wolfenstein had 2 artists and 2 or 3 programmers. (But they might also have had more time to spend on it).

But this raises an ongoing problem - as content becomes more detailed, production team size grows to produce those details, but increasing team size can only be supported by increasing sales (or price), and that's a risky enough game already, so I'm always interested in attempts to break that paradigm - attempts to develop new styles that are less reliant on the application of sheer brute force of artistry, yet still yield pleasing results.

Charming procedural graphics are obviously a big player in that struggle. It wouldn't surprise me if "landscape programmer" starts to break out as a specialty in its own right, much like AI programmer has.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:02 PM on May 31, 2012


-harlequin- Yep, realised that after I posted, it's also the earliest game on the list (apart from Knights in the Sky), made in a time when putting together an A+ game in your basement was still somewhat possible. But if Wolfenstein's graphics are considered more "beautiful" (groundbreaking, sure) then I don't even know where to go in a discussion of aesthetics.

I can't imagine a discussion of an independent movie going along the lines of "you know what is impressive, Avatar, James Cameron was making multi-million dollar effects movies as far back as 1997, raise your standards people!"

But then maybe I am overly optimistic. Will stop derailing now.
posted by arha at 5:14 PM on May 31, 2012


made in a time when putting together an A+ game in your basement was still somewhat possible

FWIW I don't think that time has passed. Wolf was a shareware title, and modern 3D smash-hit Minecraft was one guy in his basement. (One guy who built a sufficiently compelling alpha that he was able to sell access to it online and use that money to hire more people to help him finish the game)
posted by -harlequin- at 5:36 PM on May 31, 2012


Well it depends on your definition of game.

If this is a game, then so is Tales from Topographic Oceans. It's a digital art installation. That doesn't make it not neat or pretty, of course.
posted by adamdschneider at 5:59 PM on May 31, 2012


OK, I'll bite, what makes this particularly interesting or lovely? The generative music could be neat, but the graphics and environment look very simple.

Didn't we get over fetishizing realism in art like 150 years ago?
posted by empath at 6:03 PM on May 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wolfenstein 3d (from the 90s) was beautiful.

The game was technically impressive, but hideously ugly. This game is the opposite.
posted by empath at 6:04 PM on May 31, 2012


Technically ugly, hideously impressive?
posted by adamdschneider at 6:58 PM on May 31, 2012


I have the game / art piece / however you want to define it.

There was a moment when I was standing atop a mountain in the middle of the night, looking at a storm rolling in far below with the clouds covering the lands beneath and the clear stars above. And then I briefly looked up at the stars and suddenly the stars started twinkling a little and then a lot and this gorgeous ethereal, ever so slightly dischordant, pealing of sounds rang out with each motion of the stars. The moment was brief, one lovely explosion of chaos in the heavens, and then everything was back to normal with the rumbling of the storm below.

I can't imagine the last time I was so surprised by a game or found a moment so absolutely sublime in a simulated 3d environment. I hope they will one day put in more interactive elements but I've gotten my money's worth as is, just from this moment alone.
posted by honestcoyote at 6:59 PM on May 31, 2012 [9 favorites]


Thanks for those comments, straight and honestcoyote. I didn't want to hate on this thing, nothing is more annoying than "meh" comments on Metafilter. I just honestly didn't get it from the screenshots. Sounds like that's my failing, you really have to experience it interactively to appreciate the design. Fair enough, it's an interactive art piece. I look forward to trying it.

The comparison to Wolfenstein or whatever is totally unfair. I think it's exciting that individuals are making art games entirely on their own as indie projects. I just hadn't understood what makes this particular indie project interesting.
posted by Nelson at 8:17 PM on May 31, 2012


Well it depends on your definition of game.

And you know, I don't think I've ever seen an article like this start with a rhetorical question where the author didn't answer "yes" at the end, but I'm going to go ahead and say no, they don't deserve to be called games, which is fine. They can be their own thing, looking nice, evoking feelings, engaging those who interact with them. Art? Yes. Games? No, not really.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:25 PM on May 31, 2012


I might dig this. I've noticed people bringing up Skyrim as a nice place to just poke around. I do the same thing in World of Warcraft sometimes. It can be really nice to just drink beer and fly around on yr mount, looking at the world.
posted by broken wheelchair at 9:47 PM on May 31, 2012


Hell, I question that World of Warcraft is a game.
posted by Ardiril at 11:51 PM on May 31, 2012


Has anyone actually played it? Can you play it without buying it? The gallery shows me low-res, empty landscapes. :?

i was hesitant to throw this into the fpp or early comments, but proteus is the first gaming experience that moved me to tears out of sheer beauty. i don't expect it to have the same effect on everyone (or even most people), but i thought it was important enough to share as my fifth fpp in seven years.

Raise your standards. Id did this on crappy machines twenty years ago.

lol ok
posted by p3on at 12:07 AM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Glad to see this here. Disclosure, I have spent a bit of time hanging out with Ed, so I might be a bit biased.

Proteus is amazing, and the screenshots alone don't do it justice. I don't know that a Let's Play would either. There are so many moments of sublime beauty in it. He really takes a bunch of what makes a walk in nature magical, and distils it into something otherworldly. There are also moments in it that have cause me tactile hallucinations. I may be prone to those already, but I think that the music has a huge amount to do with it.

Those complaining about the lack of game in it, for better or worse, there are a few game elements in it. It is basically just enough to hang the rest of the walk on.

You can buy it now, it is a preorder, so you get an alpha copy to play. It runs pretty well on vmware, and it might even run ok on wine.

I can see the comparison to skyrim, but there is a huge effect that the HUD with the little quest icons has on the world. The world of skyrim also has fauna that either wants to kill you, or conversation tree you to death (in my limited experience), where as proteus has animals that want to play a song with you.
posted by jonbro at 12:52 AM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


That thing about this being a really great song... The experience of playing proteus is the closest I have come with a videogame to that of putting on a record, and just listening to it.
posted by jonbro at 12:57 AM on June 1, 2012


there are a few game elements in it

You are the first person to say so. Would you mind elaborating?
posted by adamdschneider at 6:38 AM on June 1, 2012


I guess there is really only one game element, and I hope it isn't being too spoilery, but the change in seasons doesn't happen without player influence (i.e. presence in one part of the island). That said, a bunch of things don't happen without player presence, so I am not really sure where you draw the line.

It is more of a pacing thing I guess? It isn't like there is a highscore table or anything, just sometimes there is a (metaphorical) door, and you can choose to walk through it.
posted by jonbro at 7:06 AM on June 1, 2012


After watching a couple of videos, I just went to the site and bought it.

I bet it ends up making me motion sick, but that's okay. I REALLY enjoy fishbowl games
posted by DigDoug at 7:14 AM on June 1, 2012


I actually would not call that a "game element" at all, but thank you for expanding on your comment. I still really want to try this.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:17 AM on June 1, 2012


Also, while we're talking about funny looking indie games, Torchships here may be the first game I've backed on Kickstarter that won't make it. Sad, too, because I think it looks really neat.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:15 AM on June 1, 2012


Or, for that matter, [what makes this] a game?

This sentiment is so bizarre to me. "Video games" is a ridiculously broad category, including stuff as diverse as Portal, Nethack, Grim Fandango, Guitar Hero, Tetris, Time Crisis, Modern Warfare 3, Doom, DOTA, Dance Dance Revolution, Minesweeper, Minecraft, Starcraft, World of Warcraft, World of Goo, EVE Online, Ikaruga, Amnesia, Brain Age, Myst, Sonic, Soul Calibur, Civilization, SimCity, The Sims, Dwarf Fortress, GTA, Yoshi's Island, Panzer General, Panzer Dragoon, Zork, Skyrim, Tony Hawk, Robotron, Rollercoaster Tycoon, FIFA 12, Wii Sports, Ico, God of War, Streets of Rage, Counter Strike, Garry's Mod, Final Fantasy, Pokemon, Harvest Moon, Hatoful Boyfriend, Angry Birds, Bejeweled, Farmville, Draw Something, Johann Sebastian Joust, X-Plane, Trainz, Carmageddon, Mario Kart, Mario Party ...

It's a rare person who can enjoy even half the games on that list. To criticize Proteus for not being a "real game" seems pretty silly when there's dozens of ways it could be more like a card-carrying "Game" that you would hate.
posted by straight at 10:12 AM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Am I hating on it for not being a game? Let me answer that for you: no, I am not. Maybe you didn't read the rest of my comments before posting; it happens. You make my point for me, though. The category of "game" is far too broad if it includes both this and Nethack. Might as well just call them both "electronic pastimes," and include YouTube while you're at it. I never said it wasn't worthwhile, and I did say I want to try it, but I don't see what makes it a game. I can select scenes from a movie on my DVD player. That's not a game, either.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:20 AM on June 1, 2012


The category of "game" is far too broad if it includes both this and Nethack. Might as well just call them both "electronic pastimes," and include YouTube while you're at it.

perhaps it's helpful to think of 'game' as a medium, like 'film'
posted by p3on at 1:22 PM on June 1, 2012


Fact is, people call all the stuff in that list, "games," as they do Proteus and Dear Esther, and almost nobody uses the word "games" to describe surfing YouTube or selecting scenes on a DVD. Good luck swimming against that stream.
posted by straight at 2:50 PM on June 1, 2012


perhaps it's helpful to think of 'game' as a medium, like 'film'

Of course they're a medium. The question is, what does it mean to be a part of that medium? Unless you mean a physical medium, in which case I don't think that's very helpful at all, but I don't think you meant that.

Fact is, people call all the stuff in that list, "games," as they do Proteus and Dear Esther, and almost nobody uses the word "games" to describe surfing YouTube or selecting scenes on a DVD. Good luck swimming against that stream.

I'm aware of common usage. That common usage of the word "game" is pretty informationless is my whole point. You're not really answering my criticism of it.
posted by adamdschneider at 3:12 PM on June 1, 2012


I'm saying there isn't a useful distinction between Proteus and "video games" outside of a very idiosyncratic one in your head that goes against the way just about everyone else uses the word.

I'm a huge video game nerd and I have only the most vague idea of what you might mean when you ask, "What makes Proteus a video game?" I doubt very much that all the people who say that sort of thing could agree on what they mean.
posted by straight at 3:21 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


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