Despite it being a big influence on my project, I actually haven’t done a write up about Proteus. Proteus was created by Ed Key and David Kanaga and is an experiential adventure in procedural sound and pixel visuals.
“It’s more of an ambient piece than a game, although there is some challenge in finding the location that allows you to progress, and in finding the other couple of locations on the island that have interesting effects.”
When I played this time round, I realized that a lot of what makes me love the game is its sound, however that doesn’t take away from what the visuals do. The initial moment in Proteus is really important. Its what tells the player – “your goal is to explore” – rather than being confusing in the way the The Eternal Forest or Soundself is. Its a wow moment, as you wade towards the big island mountain, you know it is your goal. This is similar to the moment in Journey when you see the mountain. You can compare this to symbolism in art, which I discussed previously, wherein the mountain is a symbol for the game’s goal and purpose. Opening your eyes at the start of the game also denotes the start of your journey.
“Mysterious towers, lonely shacks, breathtaking mountains, dreary valleys – cloaked in mist and wet with a mournful rain. Sights. Sounds. And, melodramatic though it might sound, feelings. ” – IGN
The emotions I experienced whilst playing Proteus were happiness, relaxation and a sense of childlike wonder. I felt both free and safe while playing.
“An experience not unlike that bit in a movie where a child wanders into some weird wonderland and ends up gazing about in slack-jawed delight.” – Rock Paper Shotgun
“For me, it was a game of discovery, a game of experimentation, and a game of interpretation. Each time I played through I naturally gravitated to a different focus. The first time, I felt like a child. I was in this big, mysterious place where unexpected, utterly marvelous things kept happening.” – IGN
“Proteus contains some legitimately shocking moments, and even a little heartbreak” – IGN
“I couldn’t stop smiling. That’s what I remember most. Plunging into a seemingly endless cloud of fog, piercing through, and suddenly finding myself in another world. Raindrops dancing. Night falling. Seasons changing. Time passing. Life! Death. A giant, aching grin.” – IGN
“I actually felt myself welling up. I was more happily immersed in this abstract place than I have been in anything else I’ve played lately. It was so soothing. I felt calmer, like I’d just been on holiday and left my phone at home.” – Eurogamer
I think these were in part delivered by the colour scheme of the game. It is all bright and saturated, with bright pinks for trees and a brigh blue sky. Contrastingly, dark greys are used for the castle-like structures that produce unhappy tones as you walk by. This could be a comment on man and nature, or just a quirk of the game – who knows?
The subtle movement of the environment, coupled with the fantastic ambient soundtrack, made the world come alive and feel like a true place to explore. The moving animals give the player something to follow if they are unsure what to do or reluctant to explore, which is important.
” On some level, I’m sure the art style comes from a place of necessity (Proteus was created by only two people), but – intentional or not – I think it creates a better sense of mystique than the faux-realistic look of a world like, say, Skyrim. I mean, honestly, what are these creatures? Is that, like, some sort of plunger mushroom? Yuck, why is it making that sound? I want to go home. But I also can’t look away. Maybe… maybe I’ll get closer.” – IGN
There have been mods for Proteus, most notably, Purgatus, a dark version of the game which features harsh, angular shapes and greys and reds as the primary colour scheme. This is intended to provoke the opposite reaction in a player from the original game.
“the developer/musician is overhauling Proteus’ colour scheme, reducing the palette to a collection of stark, muted shades, while adding new sprites, and crafting a new interactive soundtrack”
Its a fantastic example of how changing shapes and colours changes mood, and how gameplay isn’t always relevant – I’ve been struggling not to go into game design too much so this is encouraging.