Proteus OST release: Proteus Suites

Proteus Suites cover


An alternate journey across the island landscapes as visited by the wandering Robin Goodfellow, a Puck:

The album begins the afternoon of the day before the game begins,
In the Tower, where the Birds are in congress. From here,
The suites loosely follow the familiar seasonal arc of playing the game,
while occasionally drifting outside of its procedural space,
to trail and soak and stir up various secrets spotted along the way.

~DK

We’re delighted to let you know that our beloved David Kanaga (the main co-creator of Proteus alongside Ed) is releasing a 15-track Proteus OST titled Proteus Suites on Bandcamp today, on the Autumnal Equinox.

The soundtrack is available to purchase or stream for free from this link!

If you already own the Artifact Edition, we're aiming to send out digital download codes in the next few days.

Proteus Suites is a collection of tracks built out of the music from the critically acclaimed Proteus. In Proteus players were invited to traverse an island, as their interactions with the procedurally generated landscape shaped the sound and music around them. How do you make a fixed soundtrack out of a game where the music is so intimately entwined with the live playing of it? David has presented the OST as a series of four journeys, using the parts from which the game music is constructed and re-mixed them to portray the routes of an imagined character across the Proteus island.

Proteus Suites tracklist

Killscreen recently described the Suites in its coverage of the Artifact Edition:

These sonic landscapes suggest both possible paths through the game’s own formations, as well as imaginary journeys undertaken in idle daydreams, soothed by unknown creatures. They are a survey of past wanderings, a musical composition for live performance and a score for future voyages.

You can also get hold of a physical copy of the music as part of the Proteus Artifact Edition, a limited run of 150 beautiful, esoteric objects, expanding on the world and ethos of Proteus.

Do also check out David's recent & upcoming works of game; Panoramical and the forthcoming Oik OS.

If you’re a member of the music or games press and would like to interview David about how he made the OST, drawn from a procedurally generated soundscape game, just drop him a line at dkanagamusic@gmail.com.


Procedural generation, AI, and Storytelling

This is the second in a series of blog posts by producer Hannah Nicklin featuring in-depth interviews with the Forest of Sleep team, focussing on different aspects of the art, animation, sound music, inner-workings and influences shaping the game. Ed can be found on Twitter as @edclef.

Ed is the second of our team members I'm talking to as part of this series of long-ish reads investigating the making of Forest of Sleep. You could, perhaps, be faintly surprised he's not the first, as many people know Ed as the 'face' of Twisted Tree Games. I can already hear him cringing at that, though. After 5 months of working as a producer with Ed I've developed a keen sense for him cringing, even when hundreds of miles away.

Ed is founder of Twisted Tree Games, but it's a games label he primarily put together to release the games he makes in collaboration with others. He's really keen to emphasise the collaboration bit: Proteus was created by both Ed and David Kanaga, who in turn worked on it with many other game developers, designers, and friends. In the same way, Forest of Sleep is born out of a central collaboration between Ed and Nicolai Troshinsky, but they have built a team around them, all of whom influence the design and development of the game. Indeed, Forest of Sleep didn't really come alive in its current form until Ed began to bounce ideas back and forth with Nicolai, grappling with the question of procedural generation in stories. Initially, he and Nicolai kept talking about 'a roguelike in a forest':

We were talking about making a kind of game where you go through several encounters, it was a very glib description of it, but that was our thinking: a roguelike in a forest. Then there was some point at which Nicolai and I started talking about generating stories.

This shift happened gradually over 2015, made up of design discussions, mockups, useful disagreements and several conceptual iterations until they reached a common and agreed upon understanding of what they were setting out to make. Something that Ed says is "more complicated but hopefully also more interesting than the original idea." I ask Ed if Forest of Sleep follows on from any of the themes or questions at the heart of Proteus. He explains that initially:

[...] the expedition game idea followed on in a much more obvious way: as an aspect of walking outside and exploring in nature that is deliberately completely absent from Proteus. So it started off as the negative of Proteus. Then it became more about stories, and now it feels like the through-line is about creating a sort of reflective space to play in, and to create your own connections and meanings for things. That's a question for procedurally generated content: how does it come to mean something for someone playing? This is a philosophical rabbit hole that I'm quite obsessed with: "how does meaning arise from partial randomness inside a system?"

Ed's outlook on this is influenced by a close interest in the mechanics of divination methods like tarot cards or I Ching – systems for emergent story: systems that allow authoring to emerge between game and player. Ed explains how in tarot, or I Ching:

They're relying on random combinations, and the 'deck' itself is just an incredibly dense intricately authored object: the amount of association in the cards or in the I Ching text is deliberately huge, that's part of the mechanics of it. Even so, when you take a combination of those things it has meaning because of how you invest in it, how you frame it as a person interacting with that object. It allows meanings that aren't designed into that object to arise, meanings other than the author-imagined ones. That feels like a good guideline for me, for how to approach Forest of Sleep. I want to make something that's an interpretive experience; I want to make something that has that openness and strength of lending itself to interpretation rather than conveying a single message.

Ed is clear, however, that at the heart of the Story System in Forest of Sleep isn't an intention to replicate a human storyteller, but rather to make an instrument that the player plays with. He doesn't want us to build a game that can make up a story in the same way a human can, but rather to explore the player's storytelling instincts through a system that allows story and meaning to emerge. This is something that crosses over into the realms of computational creativity - an area of specialisation that didn't exist in AI when Ed studied it at university, but which is now a growing field. Ed has some quibbles with calling Forest of Sleep an 'AI system' though:

What I'm trying to do is definitely a computational creativity question, but I'm coming at it from a different angle [...] 'solving' AI problems in games particularly can often be a sort of Quixotic thing where people spend years and years trying to generate [human-like] stories. Whereas I often think it's better to think of the feel of the result and not just direct simulation. I think of things like Tales of Arabian Nights, and other combinatorial board games; a deck of cards where you combine them to create something interesting. [...] I'm interested in human-centred AI, rather than "can we make an AI do a thing that a human can?"

Ed is describing an aspect of computational creativity which is interested in trying to figure out how humans work through simulating them. But, as he clarifies, that's not what Forest of Sleep is trying to do - we're not trying to simulate human storytelling. The game will, instead, be a framework for associations that make a space for story to emerge between game system and player.

Stories are already engines for human imagination, folk tales doubly so (Forest of Sleep focuses on the Eastern European tradition, which has particularly influenced Nicolai). Folk tales are made up of patterns and constituent building blocks, character archetypes, and familiar settings that in their simplicity leave room for inferred nuance.

We're trying to make something that's interesting to play, and which the player can push back against. Both in the sense of leaving gaps and letting the player fill those gaps with their imagination (which also relies on us framing things in a way that feels important enough that you might want to fill those gaps) and letting the player show what they're interested in by how they interact with the game.

We're doing this thing of reacting to the player, taking things from them, transforming and giving them back, rather than generating a story and the player just walking through it.

Ed explains how this is actually responding to older ideas about AI - such as the ELIZA chatbot from the 1960s, based on Rogerian psychological practices. The ELIZA bot was encoded with certain tactics of questioning that were effective because they were open enough to allow the user room to infer, and respond; to self-reflect. In this same sense Forest of Sleep is a framework for inferred storytelling. One that, Ed hopes, works on the basis of transparency: it doesn't pretend to be human, and it doesn't pretend there aren't humans who designed the framework: but in not-pretending, the game leaves room for the player-as-author's imagination to go to work.

In games you could suggest that there are two overarching trends to storytelling: largely railroaded, carefully authored experiences – and that's not a disparagement, a novel or a film also relies on a level of immersion and authorship to tell a particular kind of story. And then freer, less immersive*, more interactive, responsive frameworks for play; divination systems, folk tale traditions, tabletop and paper RPGs; these frameworks take the opposite approach. They expose the system, don't try to vanish the edges between 'authored' and 'experience' and instead make clear how that system is authored, and that the player's place in that system is one of equal authorship – leading (one hopes) to emergent practices – things that come up from the interplay between player and game, that the designer never directly envisaged.

(*immersive in the sense of 'washing away' reality and immersing you in a new totally authored universe, more interactive: handing you the tools for play and a place to play with them.)

We're creating something where hopefully the game reflects back on the player, allowing them to tell a story to themselves: it's a framework. Also, there's always in any system an author - all systems have some authorial content and conceits built into them - we're not trying to make a completely blank slate which doesn't mean anything until a person does something with it. We're creating a structure that will hopefully lend the gameplay a dramatic shape, and building formula for storytelling, made out of authored parts.

Humans are storytelling animals. There are evolutionary and psychological theories which talk about the importance of 'the storied self' (how we construct our identities through storytelling) – the act of tool building which allowed our species to grow in the first place required storied, imaginative leaps. And as many people talk about the problems of 'post-truth politics' it seems to me that at the heart of the struggles of our contemporary global community are ones driven by powerful, sometime problematic stories. One could suggest that one vital tool in these struggles; political, social, psychosocial; is story literacy.

Personally (let's not attempt to vanish my authorship at the heart of this post) this is one of the things that drew me to work with Ed on Forest of Sleep in the first place. In an era of mass media, folk and oral storytelling culture has somewhat fallen by the wayside, and it concerns me that the power of storytelling is increasingly centralised, and perpetuated by those with vested interests. The way to re-cultivate our ability to take the role of author and storyteller – and to unpick the stories of others - isn't necessarily to return to what came before, rather to find new ways of investigating authorship and the act of story. Games can be one of those places.

Of course, that's just a backdrop, a context. Mostly, Ed hopes that he's making a pleasing, explorative framework for playful storytelling. A fun thing.

I certainly hope for it to be surprising and replayable and... beautiful in a moment-to-moment sense: the visuals and the music, and having individual surprising funny situations. I also hope it works as story, that it creates stories you feel invested in, that have a tension to them, and a sense of evolution. I hope it's not just intellectually difficult as an exercise, but that it stands up in it's own right as a fun thing. And something that appeals to anyone: accessible to people without games literacy, but also fun for gamers in the sense that it's novel and interesting and plays with and subverts some tropes that you find in videogames, with lots of fresh aesthetics in it. Also... in a lot of ways I don't know what we're making! It's important to make things that you're uncertain about.

Announcing! Forest of Sleep music from A Hawk and a Hacksaw

We are delighted to announce the final piece of the Forest of Sleep Team Puzzle! Slotting satisfactorily into place are folk duo A Hawk and a Hacksaw who we'll we working with to make music for the game soundtrack. To have a listen to the kind of music they make, play the above video, recorded live at WYNC's ​Soundcheck.​ The song is taken from their latest album, You Have Already Gone to the Other World

A Hawk and a Hacksaw are from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and are made up of accordionist Jeremy Barnes (previously the drummer for Neutral Milk Hotel) and the incredible violinist Heather Trost. We're particularly pleased to be working with them because they share many of the Eastern European, Carpathian and Balkan traditions that are influencing the folktale setting of the game. They tour extensively across the globe and we feel really privileged to be able to work with them. As part of the soundtrack, they’ll also be working with musician friends in Hungary, Romania and elsewhere for extra layers of instrumentation.

Ed explains how the collaboration came about:

I’ve loved A Hawk and A Hacksaw’s music for years, and it almost certainly fed into my interest in this part of the world, as well as featuring heavily on “mood” playlists I’d made for this and other projects. We’ve already got some beautiful material lined up, experimenting with the idea of randomly associating themes with characters and we’re excited to take it further.

You can get a sense of their music from the video above, or check them out on Facebook.

Also, stay tuned to the blog/our twitter/mailing list next month, when we'll be releasing an in-depth interview post with them, exploring how they're working on the music for the game, and some of the things we might expect from their soundtrack.

Thanks for reading!



Animation and Art, Nicolai Troshinsky

This is part one in a series of blog posts by producer Hannah Nicklin featuring in-depth interviews with the Forest of Sleep team, focussing on different aspects of the art, animation, sound music, inner-workings and influences shaping the game. Nicolai can be found on Twitter as @PluralGames and online at troshinsky.com

Nicolai at work on Astigmatismo

Nicolai is the first of the team members I'm talking to as part of this series of long-ish reads investigating the making of Forest of Sleep. This first conversation with Nicolai focusses on his background and approach to art and animation within the game (though we'll likely return to Nicolai on other gameplay and design topics, as he's also is co-designing the game with Ed).

Nicolai is Russian-born but grew up in Spain. He was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1985, but his family left to escape the turmoil of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and moved to Spain, where his father had found work as a viola player. Nicolai explains that "most of my culture is Spanish" but he has a lingering Russian influence that has helped inform the Eastern-European setting of the game.

"I did get to see lots of classical Russian animations and I was told a lot of these tales as a kid. Eastern European folk tales are often variations on the same themes, there's many familiar characters and motifs, things from my culture and childhood. Also because I was a Russian-born illustrator living in Spain, I was asked several times to illustrate Russian folk tales in Spain. So while I'm not an expert, [...] I can see [Eastern European folk tales] both as an exotic thing, as a foreign thing; how it can look interesting; but also have some understanding of culturally where it comes from - how it is felt - I'm lucky, to be able to see it from both perspectives."
Nicolai trained primarily in illustration, studying in Madrid, and working as a freelance illustrator from 2006. Then, wanting to expand his experience in visual storytelling, he went to France to study at La Poudrière - a filmmaking school, where he made several animations. It was just after that time that Nicolai discovered experimental contemporary games.
"I stumbled upon independent video games and decided to give it a try, make things up using simple tools. My first game ever was published on iPhone - adapted from a PC version - by an Australian studio, and my second ever game got into the IGF, as a finalist, so that was a bit surprising! I had no expectations at all, it was very fun to suddenly infiltrate this new place!"

Current screenshot from the game

Where it All Began

Nicolai met Ed at the IGF in 2011, (Nicolai was there exhibiting Loop Raccord, which was that year nominated for the Nuovo Award). Ed and Nicolai kept in contact, and after Ed released Proteus, and Nicolai released his multi-award-winning short film Astigmatismo, they started talking again, and Ed proposed that they collaborate.

"I think he just said 'let's work together'. He was toying around with a few prototypes but no real concrete ideas of what he wanted. We bounced around ideas and eventually Forest of Sleep started emerging from that. He liked some of the work I did for Russian folk tales I had illustrated, and he knew of Ivan Bilibin, so we had that in common. He was talking about procedural storytelling, and I said 'let's make something set in Eastern European Folk tales' - it seemed like a good fit."
The idea began with the theme of 'Russian Folk Tales' because Nicolai and Ed were interested in drawing influences from areas other than games.
"I find games exceedingly self-referential, how games look, how characters move, how they interact, how you talk to other people. In working together, we tried to figure out the consensus of how those things are done, and then how we want them to work differently."
As development of Forest of Sleep progresses, we're constantly re-shaping how we talk about the game (the copy on the site already needs updating, for example). This is partly because our ideas are continually being developed and refined, but also as we're learning how to talk about the game to other people, which is a whole other challenge! So, bear in mind that things said in these early blog posts might not totally reflect the final game. Roughly speaking, though, Forest of Sleep is a procedural story game, where the player interacts with the game to play through their own folk tale. All of the scenes, characters, costumes, music and possible actions in the game are procedurally generated and/or dynamic. The player will play as three children who fall asleep in front of their campfire, and wake up in a magical world, full of adventure and surprise. The gameplay features no text or recognisable speech, instead it uses a carefully constructed graphical and visual language. A lot of these decisions have been heavily influenced by Nicolai's background in animation and film.

Developing a Style

Nicolai describes his process in developing an art style for the game as one of imitation and assimilation. He and Ed dug up reference points, then Nicolai would experiment with their approaches and techniques, working out what he can draw to shape his own style.

"What I usually do is look at other things a lot, copy them for a while, then stop looking at them at all, and in time you preserve the things you understood and they start integrating in your natural way of drawing. Then at that point I might look at something else, do that process over and over until I find something that feels like a good balance."
Štěpán Zavřel image
Štěpán Zavřel
“We started by referencing a Czech illustrator, Štěpán Zavřel. [...] We were talking folk tales and handmade illustration this was my initial immediate thought. It looks nothing like any videogame you can find, so I started out experimenting - imitating some of his stuff”
Janusz Stanny, a Polish graphic artist was another influence - particularly the overlaid patterns that make up a lot of his work, Nicolai explains that it fitted well within the practicalities of animating art within a games context: "I figured it's super easy to do on the computer - layers - which also work nicely with movement." Early on, the intention with the art was to use no outlines whatsoever, just washes and shapes of overlaid colour, but the demands of game animation over film animation (at least in small, independent team) mean that this wouldn't work
Józef Wilkoń image
Józef Wilkoń
"it was just too hard to make it work when it needs to be drawn efficiently. I was really struggling with that and at some point I had to simplify. Make something more natural to the way I draw."
Józef Wilkoń is a further reference point - which can particularly be seen in the current 'map screen' as well as being a bit part of the early art experiments. And as well as illustrators, there are many animation references informing Nicolai's work. Eduard Nazarov, Ivan Maximov, Priit Pärn, and particularly Yuri Norstein.

"Yuri Norstein is the biggest master of Russian animation, the teacher of all the contemporary Russian animators, and beside really liking his work, I worked in a similar technique in my own films, it's a style that I understand and feels good to me."


Janusz Stanny illustration and a city in Forest of Sleep
An illustration by Janusz Stanny and a city in Forest of Sleep

Developing a Visual Language

When you ask Nicolai to talk about what exactly it is from this Eastern European/Russian school of animation that captures him, and that he has fed into the game, he talks about the overall 'feeling' of the work.

"Animation, not just in games but in general, is drawing mostly from the American School. For me the American style and the Eastern European style are very different at even an ideological level: they care about different things. The Eastern European style is my favourite animation style in the world, it's the one which connects with me the most."
Hedgehog places a leaf gently on the ground, from Hedgehog in the Fog by Yuri Norstein
Hedgehog in the Fog by Yuri Norstein
Nicolai explains that the dominant style drawn from American animation (and we're talking about animation as an artform in and of itself here, not so much as the animation made in a hollywood, filmmaking context) is "mostly about the impossible" - if you can draw anything then let's draw the impossible, playing with the extreme, the abstract, unreal and extraordinary. "By contrast Eastern European animation is often very slight, tiny gestures, it's slower, less flashy, does not try as often to be spectacular." Nicolai explains that Eastern European animation is fascinated by the ordinary, by the contradiction at the heart of spending frame upon frame of exhaustive work to depict the slightest and most ordinary of gestures.
Characters pick food in the game
Animations from Forest of Sleep
"If you spend time, for example, animating someone peeling an orange it becomes very significant, it can become like poetry, you have to look at every detail under a microscope, find a way to represent it, whereas if you filmed it with a film camera it would be super boring."
These are the things that animation can do that other mediums can't. Each frame holds within it a value of attention.
"In general that's some of what I try to bring to the game: to animate carefully the little things, to take care of the gestures and the tiny details, not so much the dynamic and spectacular actions."
What's interesting about this approach (to me, at least) is that in Nicolai's attention to the small gestures and idiosyncrasies, he's also playing within the broad brushstrokes of folk-tale storytelling. Which is further heightened by Ed's wish to make the game without words.
"Ed was hoping that I can figure this out, because I'm an illustrator, and my films are without words. It's an interesting problem to solve, so basically every time we're figuring out a design problem - "how do we communicate this?" - and we propose solutions, they come often from cinematic language. One of the early principles we agreed on was skipping the action, this was done both as a way to save work (we're a tiny team, we can't do everything) but also
tree animated from Yuri Norstein’s Hedgehog in the Fog
From Hedgehog in the Fog by Yuri Norstein
because we're building a game that is about storytelling and about getting people to make stories in their head about what is going on - allowing them to connect the dots themselves. I really like films that do this, they jump in the middle or skip important bits. So we started to establish a language based around that idea, showing what is necessary, jumping everything else, and creating a rhythm out of that."
This idea of leaving room for the player to complete the work - to leave room for an imaginative leap between artist and audience - is one that suffuses many of the non-naturalistic artforms of the past few centuries. From the way the Italian Futurists talked about their movement painting, to the 'suspension of disbelief' talked about by Samuel Taylor Coleridge with regards to Romantic Poetry, and often referred to in theatre. Throughout the centuries artists have been interested by the power of the imaginative leap - not attempting to portray a hyperrealistic what is but playing with the audience to ask what if? This 'what if' is at the heart of storytelling, which is why, Nicolai and Ed often explain, they're interested in using an art style and visual language which invites the player to make their own leaps - to collaborate with the story system. And in that way, Nicolai explains, you could call the game more cinematic than the most hyper-realistic AAA approach (though of course, this has its place).
"In some ways I think when people talk about 'cinematic games', that this is way more cinematic than a game that just tries to replicate camera shots, this is about the grammar of cinema. How cinema tells stories, not just how it frames them."
When I finish by asking Nicolai what players might expect from the game, he laughs.
"To be surprised! I think in general I go to see a movie, or read a book, or play a game or whatever because I want a certain sense of wonder, and so the kind of things I like to experience, are some of the things I try to put in my work. I want you to be surprised, to have a sense of discovery or wonder. We want to surprise you."

Laughter animations from the game



Meet the Forest of Sleep team

Introductions

Welcome! You may have been wondering about the radio silence over the past year or so, but we're pleased to say we're gently reviving the long-hibernating Twisted Tree Games blog! In welcoming Hannah Nicklin aboard as producer in March, we've now got the capacity to attempt to talk to in public about the interesting things we're doing behind closed doors (with the upcoming game, that is. Otherwise you'd be getting a long list of all the great plant Ed's eaten recently).

Over the next year or so, we're going to be doing profiles and interviews with team members on how they're working on the games, spotlight particular influences and reference points, as well as producing a monthly newsletter with a few bonus items, and filling up our brand new Facebook page with other bits of interest and miscellany. You can also still find us on Twitter, and sign up to the mailing list for those monthly extras.

Hannah will begin guiding us through some of the creative landscape of The Forest of Sleep in the next week or so in an interview with co-designer and animator Nicolai Troshinsky. And in the meantime, we thought a nice thing to do would be to introduce the current team, with a little about each of them. You'll be hearing more in the coming months!

The team are:

  • Ed Key - lead designer, lead developer
  • Nicolai Troshinsky - animation, illustration and addtional design
  • Hannah Nicklin - producer
  • Martin Kvale - sound designer
  • Joonas Turner - foley and additional sound design
  • Chris Butler - developer
  • MUSIC TBA - VERY SOON - WE'RE EXCITED ABOUT THIS!

And here's a little intro to each team member.


Ed brandishing a fencing mallet

Ed Key

@edclef

Who are you?

I'm Ed Key and I make computer games.

What do you do on Forest of Sleep?

I'm the lead designer and developer, and the general "creative director". I'm also the one that worries about time and money. I am temporarily the main source of google docs.

What's a surprising thing about you?

Contrary to my strong personal branding, 99% of my diet consists of food bought in a shop, although I did just make a nice cup of peppermint tea from some I picked while out for a run.

What are you excited about at the moment?

I'm going to finally see [our secret unannounced musicians] play live this month after missing their UK tours for the past 7 years.

What excites you about Forest of Sleep?

There's an exciting amount of scary work! Or is it a scary amount of exciting work? I'm also excited by these awesome people we've gathered together. *gestures non-euclideanly from inside this webpage at other parts of the webpage*


Nicolai spotting something offscreen

Nicolai Troshinsky

@PluralGames - troshinsky.com

Who are you/what do you do?

I'm Nicolai Troshinsky and I make illustrated books, animation short films, small experimental videogames and who knows what else.

What do you do on Forest of Sleep?

I'm doing everything you see on the screen. From concept art to animation to interface design. I also collaborate with Ed on the game's design.

What's a surprising thing about you?

I'm currently ranked as the 16th best pinball player in Spain.

What are you excited about at the moment?

I'm born Russian but I grew up in Spain. I'll be visiting Moscow this summer for the first time in 13 years. I'll profit to do some research and get good reference material for Forest of Sleep.

What excites you about Forest of Sleep?

I'm very proud of the visual language we are building and the animation work I am doing so I'm really excited to see how people react to it.


Hannah giving a talk

Hannah Nicklin

@hannahnicklin - hannahnicklin.com

Who are you?

I'm Hannah Nicklin, I work in games and theatre as a writer, producer, and academic.

What do you do on Forest of Sleep?

I'm the producer, I make sure that things happen to spec, to time, and to budget (ha). I also have an academic and artistic background in storytelling, so can be a useful sounding board during some of the creative/design decisions around the game.

What's a surprising thing about you?

I've decided to become an elite cyclist. 31 years old isn't too late in endurance-based sports. I may not make it, but I dislike doing things without aiming to be the best, so I'm going to try to get to racing at an elite level.

What are you excited about at the moment?

My background is in the cultural sector, I'm pretty excited about the potential of this game to reach beyond the games community (who it will also serve well!) - I'm excited about finding ways to talk about experimental games to new audiences/players.

What excites you about Forest of Sleep?

I think it's asking questions both about what storytelling can be and do in games, but also, excitingly, wider questions about stories, and how we interact with them. I also have a career as an independent designer/writer, so I'm very picky about what I produce, only choosing stuff I really care about. I really care about this. I'm excited to be able to work on it.


Martin communing with the forest

Martin Kvale

@martinkvale

Who are you/what do you do?

My name is Martin and I work with sound and music for various interesting indie games, just like this one!

What do you do on Forest of Sleep?

I work with the team supervising the sounds and music for the game, as well as implementing, editing and production duties on both the sound and music. I initially got approached to do ambience and textures for the game, but since then I´ve become more involved :)

What's a surprising thing about you?

I work with horror game sound but I'm too scared to play horror games!

What are you excited about at the moment?

These day I am excited about summer slowly crawling back and reclaiming Norway for a few months. Having a break from making awesome sounds to going out throwing frisbees with friends in the sun is close to heaven imo.

What excites you about Forest of Sleep?

Working on something this open and different, it leads to many possibilities we get to explore, as well as many problems to crack. I love challenges and that the game will be generated and unique each playthrough makes the sounds and music have to be adaptive and feel organic with developing next to the stories.


Joonas wielding a pitchfork

Joonas Turner

@KissaKolme

Who are you?

My name is Joonas Turner and I am a Sound Designer / Voice Actor / Foley Artist.

What do you do on Forest of Sleep?

On Forest of Sleep I am more of a Foley Artist/Sound Recordist, I provide a bunch of sounds in a style unique to Forest of Sleep that Martin can then use to cook up the final assets!

What's a surprising thing about you?

I am a game designer as well, working on my own games on the side. That or that I also used to sing in heavy metal bands for plenty of years, hence I voice act a lot of monsters in video games…

What are you excited about at the moment?

The vibrant patterns of life, so many cool things happening around us to tap into and gain inspiration from!

What excites you about Forest of Sleep?

The unique style and approach, not just visually but with sound too. Recording in ways I haven't recorded before using tools I probably wouldn't have used before. Exciting!


Chris looking wry

Chris Butler

@Avalix

Who are you/what do you do?

My name is Chris Butler, and I am a Freelance Unity Developer working on Forest Of Sleep

What do you do on Forest of Sleep?

I write code and work together with Ed to develop all the features and gameplay involved in Forest of Sleep.

What's a surprising thing about you?

I use to be a fire spinner! I span fire poi and fire staff (But sadly haven't done it in a long time due to living spaces). I'm also pretty sure its the reason my beard only comes in in patches now...

What are you excited about at the moment?

Looking forward to the summer. Long, warm days plus I've got a camping trip planned with friends that going to be awesome!

What excites you about Forest of Sleep?

I'm excited to get to work on something so unique, with very interesting themes to explore and problems to solve!


That's it!

We'll soon have an announcement to make about our exciting musical collaboration, and in the meantime, Hannah's done an interview with Nicolai on some of the influences around the animation and art, which will go online in the next couple of weeks. Thanks for reading!




Hiring a Unity Developer (UK-based)

Meet the team

Hi All!

We’re looking for an additional Unity3d developer to work with us on our upcoming game, Forest of Sleep. Twisted Tree Games are a friendly bunch of folks, based in the UK and Europe, who work remotely together. The studio was founded by Ed Key to release solo and collaborative work (including Proteus, made with David Kanaga) and this new game, made in collaboration with animator Nicolai Troshinsky.

Already on the team are producer Hannah Nicklin, sound designer Martin Kvale, and some other yet-to-be-announced audio collaborators. We’re really excited about Forest of Sleep: a procedurally-generated storytelling game based on Eastern-European folk tales, using illustration, animation and musical styles from the region.

Good communication skills, and being able to work together with us remotely are as important to us as the technical part of the work. We have weekly team Hangouts to catch up and plan ongoing tasks. The new team member will need to be UK-based (more info in the application) for funding reasons. You can find more about the position in the job description, which you can read here: Full Job Description

Applications are due 5pm GMT on the 25th of March, and we’d especially like to encourage people to apply from unconventional backgrounds, as well as welcoming applications from underrepresented groups in the games industry; women, LGBTQ*, people with disabilities, people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, people with caring responsibilities, etc.

Feel free to share this anywhere you think it might find friendly and brilliant Unity developers, and please let us know if you have any questions. We’re excited about this, hopefully you are too!

If you have any questions, email hannah@twistedtreegames.com with ‘Unity Developer question’ in the subject.

Proteus 1.2 patch for Windows, Mac and Linux

Stones and spheres

Hi all,
We've just released a small update for Proteus on Windows/Mac/Linux. This is mainly to fix a crash (or very long hang) on first run on OSX Mavericks, and to greatly improve the framerate on all versions. (This was due to me leaving in some terrible debug code many months ago… there'll be stricter code-reviews around here from now on, let me tell you)

If you had no framerate or crashing problems, the main update is that I've added some of the "wilder islands" features from the PSVita/PS3 port. Some of these are subtle, some aren't, and they're all locked until you play through once, then are randomly applied on future islands. They are all purely visual or "structural" things. You can also change the "Wildness" setting in the "Other" options menu if you want to force "normal" islands or maximum wildness.

Here's a list of changes:

  • Fix for crash on startup on OSX Mavericks
  • General framerate improvement
  • Slight tweak to title screen animation
  • "Wild" islands have 10 or so new possible wild traits
  • "Wild Islands" setting in the menu is now "Never"/"Maybe"/"Maximum"
  • Fixed a bug where a certain creature sometimes didn't appear in summer
  • Winter and ending sequence timings improved
  • Various small fixes and improvements to audio mixing

Once again, big thanks to Jon Brodsky at Lucky Frame for battling the OSX crash problem and Ethan Lee for the Linux support.

The Steam version should update automatically, but the ones on Humble or IndieGameStand will need to be re-downloaded.

If you bought via Humble (or before) and have lost your download information, please use the Humble Store Key Resender to retrieve it.

Other news:

Artifact Edition and Soundtrack

These are still in the works. Coordinating work is hard but we're making definitely progress. We're using A-to-Z Media to print and package them, and we building up a collection of what's going in them, filling in DTP templates etc. There's a wild zine-like booklet and a card game. If you're one of the people who pre-ordered and are sick of waiting, let me know (ed@visitproteus.com) and I'd be happy to refund you. It's proven much harder and slower than we thought, but we are still working on it.

Playstation 3 and PS Vita Version

I failed to write an update about this at the time, but Proteus is now available on PS3 and PSVita thanks to Curve Studios. It's cross-buy (i.e. pay once and get it for both platforms) and you can find out more here.

Humble Indie Bundle 8

We're excited to announced that Proteus is currently available as part of the Humble Indie Bundle 8! Pay-what-you-want for Proteus, Hotline Miami, Dear Esther, Awesomenauts, Capsized, Thomas Was Alone and Little Inferno, plus a bunch of soundtracks.

A Note on the Bonus EP/Soundtrack:

The 10 minute track included with the bundle is the same as the one that you currently get with regular Proteus orders: An abstract story related by one of the creatures of Proteus, weaving together some memories (that is, early soundtrack sketches) of the island from the days when it was still called Nodeland.

The full album-length arrangement of the soundtrack is still work-in-progress and will hopefully be available later this summer. It's a big part of the delayed "Artifact Edition," so will probably be exclusive to that at first, then released via Bandcamp soon after.

Version 1.1 now available: Linux, Steam Big Picture support

Grey

I'm happy to announce that Proteus is now available for Linux, both on Steam and via the Humble store. For Windows and Mac this is also a "1.1" release that is mostly minor tweaks, bugfixes and user-experience improvements.

Apart from the Linux build, the most notable addition is full support for Steam's Big Picture mode. This simply means that everything is now controllable via a joypad, including the menus.

Here's a rough list of the smaller changes and fixes:

  • Added option to affect behaviour when running in the background: running or paused, with audio on or off.
  • Options screen now available in-game (press F1)
  • Fixed mouselook not working on some systems
  • Graphical improvement to horizon
  • Fixed horizon type planes getting cut off under camera when looking down and FOV very wide
  • Volume control now works
  • Rotation speed setting now affect keyboard rotate
  • Slightly reduced walk speed
  • Invert Y now off by default (oops)
  • Improved mouse-smoothing and general mouse control (hopefully)
  • Added a setting for mouse smoothing on/off
  • Minor sound tweaks
  • Adding missing credits
  • Fix for OSX case sensitive file systems

Once again, big thanks to Alex May, Jon Brodsky, Ethan Lee (Linux porting maestro) and the Linux testers for making this happen!

Next up: Continuing to try and get the Artifact Editions designed and produced, preparing a talk for AMAZE and working on a secret console port of Proteus, due out later this year. David is currently working on the soundtrack album…

…And spring is finally here!

Go outside, listen to the birds, look out for flowers!

Seven-day Roguelike Wrap-up

The annual Seven Day Roguelike competition was going on last week. I made an incomplete game called "Forest Story" about foraging and trying not to poison yourself, but didn't finish to my satisfaction. Regardless, I thought I'd write something about how I felt it went, what I'm thinking of doing with this idea in future and naturally to make the "7 days" build available to download.

First: If you have no idea what a roguelike is, check out this amazing primer and list of fine examples on Indie Statik.

Second: Here's what I had at the end of seven days, in all it's wonky unfinishedness:

(Getting to the edge of the map is probably the closest thing it has to an objective in this state)

This is actually one of a family of prototypes investigating this same idea of exploration, survival, expedition-planning and dying alone on a mountainside with a broken leg after eating the wrong plant whilst cornered by a bear. Clearly none of this would make sense in Proteus, but equally there's more to explorating and figuring out a relationship with the natural world than just carefree wandering. Here's an old version that was inspired by Lords of Midnight. Here's a more recent pen-and-paper iteration. There's not much in common except the general theme. Here's something that looks like the Giant's Causeway. I often feel like I'm designing stuff just to scratch an itch, and I'm still not sure if this is the best way to do things. The current specimen (the 7DRL linked above) is rather indulgent and over-literal, and was feeling a bit lost (ha!)

However something just happened which rekindled my enthusiasm for this: I played Adam Kałuża's new game "The Cave," a strangely peaceful game of competitive cave exploration. I'm not sure how it stacks up as a regular game for groups (we were playing 2 player) but it absolutely nails some things that were cumbersome or ill thought-out in my previous paper version. The way it deals with food and inventory management is so similar but much neater than what I had, but also I feel like I had some dynamic stuff going on that could have added a lot. Now I'm convinced that I should make a mash-up of 2 of my previous versions whilst learning some design lessons from The Cave. I'm undecided about whether this should be a physical board/card game first, or another digital iteration. Either way, it's not going to be my main focus again for a while until various Proteus-related tasks are out of the way.

Normal Proteus service will be resumed this week. If you're waiting for an email or other reply from me I'll try and get on that in the next few days! Apart from communication backlog, I'll be trying (with Jon and Alex) to get the 1.1 patch out before the end of the month.

Happy Birthday Proteus!

It's exactly one year since the Proteus beta was released! The original FastSpring store went live on February 26th 2012 whilst Tamsin and I were in the air on the way to GDC, where Proteus was shortlisted for the IGF's Nuovo Award. Confusingly, some clever people had already bought it by the time we landed, so we only had time for the briefest of high-fives before heading out to meet David for a celebratory beer and burrito in San Francisco.

Beginnings

Like most things, Proteus had lots of beginnings. Perhaps its real birthday is 17th February 2010, when David and I first started discussing the project in its current form. Here are the first two emails we exchanged, which give a good idea of the direction we set out in:

From: Ed Key
To: David Kanaga
Date: 17 February 2010 12:12
Subject: Slow-burn game music project

Hi,

I just read your post "Scenes from Arcturus" (and listened to several of the
mini-albums) and wondered if you might be interested in a project.
It's a kind of ambient exploration game, perhaps with some survival
mechanics. You can see the almost-current state of it here:

http://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=6168.0

(BTW the block-colour graphic style is close to "final" but there are a lot
of rough edges that could be improved)
The choice of music on the video clip [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2OqQ6-ESp4 ]
is significant… it's probably my favourite album, and is also associated with
exploring virtual forests from having constantly had it on in the background whilst
playing Ultima 7 when I was young.

From your tunes, "Pool" (from The Nymph) and "Lusion Plain" 1 and 2 are
probably my favourites when thinking about this project :)

If you are really looking for something like ElectroPlankton, a "music
game", then this probably isn't it…
However, if you're interested in some kind of gentle reactive ambient music,
I hope this would be a good vehicle for it!

Some elements that might be associated with musical elements/moods/themes:

 - entering a forest clearing
 - weather conditions and transitions from rain/sun etc
 - times of day
 - looking out to sea
 - climbing through the cloud layer and exploring the mountain peaks above
 - discovering ancient ruins, stone circles, overgrown statues, etc
 - finding some ambient wildlife
 - entering a village
 - falling asleep in the forest and waking up surrounded by spirits
 (maybe… http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/a/a3/Mononoke_Kodama.jpg )
 
You can see some of these in the video. The rest are planned features, with
the "spirits" being the only speculative one. The main thing missing from
the design at the moment is some motivation for the player to
explore/inhabit the world so that it's a bit more compelling than a screen
saver. I don't have any clear idea for this, but maybe the music could be a
part of it?

If you're interested I can send you a build, although I will do a bit of
cleaning-up work on it first to make it more presentable.

Also, I felt I should qualify it with "slow-burn" as it's not really
progressing much at the moment (injured my wrist so can't do a lot of
computer work) but it is definitely alive and well, just hibernating…
hopefully it will be back on track in a few months.

Regarding money, my plan was to make it freeware. If it seems to have the
potential maybe it could be sold at some point, but that's some way in the
future, it's too much of an experiment at the moment.

cheers!
Ed

------

From: David Kanaga
To: Ed Key
Date: 18 February 2010 21:54
Subject: Re: Slow-burn game music project

Hey Ed

Your game looks beautiful--I would urge you to not change the graphical
style at all, as it is one my favorite visual designs I've ever seen (no
kidding!) :).

Anyway, I'd definitely be interested in doing some gentle reactive ambient
music for this. You said "I don't have any clear idea for [developing player
motivation], but maybe the music could be a part of it?" -- I definitely
think that if the music is reactive enough to give the player a sense of
"performing the landscape," that it could provide a good deal of motivation
for play. For instance, when I see all the different types of vegetation in
your game world, right away I imagine them having (subtle) musical tracks
which get louder as the player approaches them; flowers could produce some
sort of soft chimes, the yellow trees could have a different sort of musical
character, etc. This sort of detailed musical-play in conjunction with the
larger structures you listed in your game-elements-to-associate-with-music
list I think would give the player the sense that they are experiencing an
interactive musical/environmental composition at their own pace, which I
know is something that I'd very much like to do :)

It was a very inspiring video; I'd love to write music for the game whenever
you feel like continuing work on the project (and I'd love to play a build
of it, which I'm sure would get me even more inspired :)).

Hope your wrist feels better soon! :)

- David

Here's that old Proteus test video. The "Nodeland" refers to the terrain generation method, but it turns out it's a place in Sweden too. An inbox search turned up that someone there bought Proteus, which tickled me.

(Another cool thing about the 17th of February is that it was my last day working at my regular day-job in 2012!)

I'm making a note here

We had some great days during the (admittedly slow) beta period. I think the biggest sales (and interest) spike was in August when the boss of 2K games argued that photorealism was essential for "emotions" in games. Watching theeditorials pop up talking about Proteus over those few days was amazing and totally out of the blue. Also really heartening to see it used as a counter-example in this discussion. I guess we did something right!

During those 11 months we sold about 5200 copies, 300 of which were preorders for a special physical "Artifact Edition" (more on that below)

So many times I thought "surely everyone who could ever want to play this will have played it or heard about it by now" and that was doubly true in the run-up to the launch in January. I was wrong! It's now sold about 23000 copies since launch, which seems insane for the odd thing that it is. Maybe it's proof of that slowly maturing development process where we could feel our way along and only add what felt right, mostly without feeling too much pressure to rush and to add extraneous things. Perhaps a "lessons learnt from Proteus" should be a whole other post. I feel like it needs a lot more thought. For now, the greatest news for me is that I can carry on making games full-time. It's a very lucky andprivilegedposition to be in.

Current Status

Now I'm in an odd post-partum limbo. I'm finally almost on top of emails. I've been doing some patching work with Jon and Alex. Tentativeinquiriesabout ports have been made. A Linux version should be out on Humble fairly soon, courtesy of Ethan Lee. We're also recharging: David is writing an essay-cum-fanfiction on Infinite Sketch (hopefully in Infinite Sketch) and I'm planning a weekend amongst some hills and thinking about prototypes for future stuff.

Artifact Edition

The major piece of unfinished business from the preorders is of course the production and shipping of the Artifact Editions. We're going to get onto this in March now, and just want to reassure anyone who ordered one that we haven't forgotten. Due to CD and printing costs it looks like we'll produce 500 copies and reopen orders for the remaining 200. They were originally priced at $30 but I have no idea what they should be post-launch yet! The soundtrack album that will be part of the Artifact Edition will also go up online shortly afterward. David is making exciting noises about the soundtrack already :)

Thanks

This post turned into a monster! It's got me all sentimental now, so it feels like a good time to thank everyone who make it possible: David for the music and design philosophy, Jon Brodsky and Alex May for invaluable coding assistance, Erik Ravaglia for creating the launch trailer, Tamsin for putting up with the 'joy' of living with a game developer (I'm transcribing) and everyone who bought, played, critiqued, steered, wrote about, talked about and tested Proteus, especially the hardcore of 4-5 beta testers who really helped push it towards the launch.

Thank you all!

(Coming soon: a reviews and videos round-up post?)

WHAT ARE GAMES

I find this rather burdensome to write, but it feels necessary to set out my thoughts given recent rumblings, and specifically to respond to this article and its comments.

I don't call Proteus an antigame* or a notgame. I call it a game, but obviously I am at pains to make it clear that it doesn't have explicit challenge or "winning."

I’m also absolutely not against game mechanics or traditional schools of design.

If you want to narrow your definition of "game" for purposes of academic study or personal taste, then that's fine, but the vagueness of the term itself has been around as long as things that we call games. "Snakes and Ladders" is my favourite example of this inconsistency: it involves no decision making and therefore is well outside of many of the stricter definitions, but clearly is a boardgame as far as society is concerned. More recently, videogames like The Sims and SimCity are also "not games" according to some.

The stricter the definition of an inherently nebulous concept, the more absurd the implications. Should Dear Esther and Proteus be excluded from stores that sell games? Not covered in the games press? Since Sim City is either a toy or a simulation, that should be excluded too, along with flight simulators.

Are all comics "comical?" Meanings are fluid. Most of the words we use don’t mean what they originally meant – that’s just how everyday language works.

If you are a game designer and you are focusing on a particular formal definition or have a guiding principle to your work, like Sid Meier’s famous motto “A game is a series of interesting decisions” then go ahead. Insisting that your definition is the definition is a foolish obsession.

Proteus doesn't have or even aspire to the same systemic complexity as SimCity, but it does have systems. It's just 95% optional whether you engage with them and it generally doesn’t give you any confirmation when you do. There’s a design reason for this. But, as the other headline went: Who cares? Would adding more game-like elements improve it? Or would it just be a box-ticking exercise that would harm** what it's designed to express?

Outside of academic discussions, encouraging a strict definition of “game” does nothing but foster conservatism and defensiveness in a culture already notorious for both. Witness the raging threads on the Proteus Steam forum, most of which are posted (and re-posted and re-posted) by people who don’t own the game. There’s a huge difference between this kind of “activism” or claiming something is the Emperor’s New Clothes and individual people trying something and deciding it’s not for them.

Proteus was certainly made by a game developer (and a musician), working in the context of videogames, using game design and development techniques to express a particular set of things. None of that is really important, because the proof is in the playing.

(* I’m not accusing Mike of misquoting me here, as that part of our conversation was fairly ambiguous and more about my insistence that I don’t subscribe to the term “notgame” rather than signing up to a new term)

(** The emperor of the South Sea was called Shu [Brief], the emperor of the North Sea was called Hu [Sudden], and the emperor of the central region was called Hun-tun [Chaos]. Shu and Hu from time to time came together for a meeting in the territory of Hun-tun, and Hun-tun treated them very generously. Shu and Hu discussed how they could repay his kindness. "All men," they said, "have seven openings so they can see, hear, eat, and breathe. But Hun-tun alone doesn't have any. Let's trying boring him some!" Every day they bored another hole, and on the seventh day Hun-tun died. - Zhuangzi)

Addendum:

Thanks for the comments. It's worth reiterating that the looseness of the word "game" is actually the original state rather than some limited formalistic definition, which perhaps originates in the "game theory" of the 20th century. I had forgotten about Wittgenstein's classic use of "game" as an example of the concept of family resemblances - thanks Lana Polansky and Chris McDowall.

Despite not subscribing to the term "notgame", Michaël Samyn's manifesto is a good, provocative read.

Old friend Simon Brislin pointed out something I should have made a bigger deal of in linking to the Gamasutra post: Who on the internet needs reassurance that it's ok to share their dislike of something?

Finally, I'm not feeling brought down by this whole argument, though it's regrettable to me that Proteus is being used as such a prominent example. We've had such an amazing wave of nice messages and good write-ups that the number of people who dislike it feels irrelevant. From a practical point of view, it looks like it should make enough in sales to pay for development time on a new project. After a long and uncertain development, and a very stressful January, it feels amazingly freeing.

1.0 "Final" version released on Steam and Humble

Hello!

I'm happy to announce that the "1.0" build of Proteus is now available to download on Humble and Steam. If you bought a beta version, see the instructions below for how to get a fresh download of the standalone version or a Steam key or both. My brain is fried so this is kind of a short post, but there'll be more soon, including a partial explanation about the nature of all things. Some of them anyway.

For now…

Information for Beta Purchasers

If you bought the beta via Humble, you can simply re-download from your Humble Library to get the new build.

You should also find a Steam key on the game page for Proteus. If these aren't immediately visible, give it a few minutes for the changes to filter through. The keys are already on the system, just waiting for the link-up with Steam to go live.

If for whatever reason you can't find your download link, enter your email into the Humble Key Resender and that will send you links for everything you've purchased via them, including Proteus.

If you bought via FastSpring, you should have received an email last year with a link to a Humble download, but if if this got lost somehow, just use the link above and you'll get an email with a download link exactly as if you'd bought via Humble.

Artifact Edition

If you preordered the physical Artifact Edition of Proteus, thanks for bearing with us for so long. We recently had to divert all our efforts to hitting this date, so design and production work will resume in February. We're still excited about the contents, even though we're probably going to make a net loss on it. Ah well! Thanks again for your patience, and we hope you like it when it arrives. We should also have a small surplus of these, depending on production runs, so expect another chance to get hold of one

Proteus Tourist Board, circa 1930

Proteus Print reduced

A poster for a tourist destination that never existed, Created by AJ Hateley after I enquired about some cool stickers I saw at GameCity. I'm hoping to have some exciting news about real physical posters and other good stuff sometime shortly after launch!

Incidentally, her period styling was especially nice, because an inspiration for the summer afternoon palette in Proteus was this Art Deco poster of Central Park, New York:

Proteus @ MoMA

Last year, Proteus was shown as part of the Museum of Modern Art's "Common Senses" exhibit.

I stopped by on my way home from Cambridge/Game City to visit.

Moma exterior Moma exterior Common senses MoMA Studio MoMA Garden

The space was beautiful, felt like a great place for Proteus, with plants from the garden (above), lots of tangible pieces to play with. It was an honor to be a part of it.

Thanks Sarah Kennedy for the photos!

Proteus Leaving Beta, Coming to Steam: 30 January 2013

Date

We're excited to finally announce that Proteus will being leaving its "beta" period and coming to Steam on 30th January for Mac and PC!

Since the start of the beta we’ve been refining and expanding Proteus and have reached a point where it feels right to call it “done” (at least until we’ve had a rest and thought about another update).

The current beta release is still available here for $7.50 until the 30th of January when the price will switch to $9.99 both on this site and on Steam. All existing and future purchasers will get a Steam key and the version on the Humble Store will remain DRM free.

If you're a journalist or blogger, you might be interested in our presskit, and you can reach me at ed@visitproteus.com or on Twitter. If you're already on my list of contacts, you'll be getting an email sometime in the next couple of days with info on review copies and maybe a more formal press release if I can figure out how to write one. I just hope there's enough snow.

Big thanks to Alex May for bravely helping with the last chunk of work (and the inscription above), Jon Brodsky for tireless work on the Mac version, George Buckenham for website help and as always to everyone who has patiently given their support, encouragement and feedback since the start of development.

Keep an eye out for more updates over the next few weeks, including a new trailer!

AMAZE Update

A MAZE.

Just a quick follow-up to this post to say that we received the prize money just after Christmas, so I'm happy to confirm that we're all square. We look forward to seeing the festival continue to grow in 2013.

AMAZE 2012 Prize Money, AMAZE 2013 Submissions (now resolved - see update)

Those following the progress of Proteus earlier this year might remember that Proteus won the award for “Most Amazing Game” at the first AMAZE Indie Connect festival in Berlin in April. As a fledgling indie developer burning through savings, one of the most tempting things about this unknown festival was the €5000 cash prize.

Since April we have been waiting fairly patiently for this money, despite one of the terms and conditions of the competition being that this would be given on the actual night of the award. I won’t go into too much detail here, but part of my rationale for patience was that it seemed like the natural deadline for the money to finally be paid out would be the start of preparations for the 2013 festival. Surely everything from the previous festival would have to be resolved before the opening of submissions for the 2013 prize?

I was cautiously optimistic when I was contacted in October in order to arrange that the money be paid in two installments, one in November and one in December. I was beginning to worry about the first installment as December got older, and then was totally shocked to see the press release of 14th December announcing that submissions for the 2013 were open, with the same cash prize and the same entrance fee (€45). At that point, we had not received any of the cash prize. As I write this, we have received half of the money, with the rest promised to be paid by the end of December.

On one hand I’d like to see the festival continue, but on the other I can’t endorse this if the same situation is likely to happen to someone else.

It seems like the fairest course is to make my experience public so that future entrants can make up their own minds. My hope is obviously that this doesn’t happen to the 2013 winner and that AMAZE can move on from this, possibly with some assurances that prize money if offered will be put aside at the time of the event rather than future winners go through this process as well.

Finally, I want to stress how keen I am to see the festival continue as it could and should be a nice addition to European games culture. Berlin is a great city and it feels like the festival really fits in there. I’ve got fond memories of the weekend and would recommend it as an event to meet devs and creators from around Europe. If you’re thinking of submitting your game, approach it like a smaller Indiecade: you’re paying the entry fee for a cool, passionate, creativity-oriented festival with a great atmosphere. The trophy and the award ceremony were both really fun, understated and tastefully done, more so than most. The offer of the cash prize is nice, but you might want to bear our experiences in mind.

I’ll update this post when the situation changes.

Ed

UPDATE:

  • Edge Magazine asked me for a comment on the situation. You can read the article here.
  • Thorsten at AMAZE has temporarily suspended submissions and posted a statement here. I disagree with some key points in the statement: The first time I was given a date for payment of the money was in August when it was given as November 2012 at the latest. I also think it is reasonable to resolve issues from 2012 before opening the 2013 festival, so I'm glad that action has been taken.
  • I've just received an email saying that the final €2500 is on the way, so hope to be able to update this post again in a few days to confirm this.

UPDATE 2:

I'm happy to confirm that we've now received the prize money in full. (To be exact, this came through just after Christmas.) I made a seperate post for maximum clarity.

Screenshots, playing around with "wild" geography

Idea for a free demo version of Proteus Night

(The idea is that rare landforms shown in the first two pictures would have a random chance of being created after the first playthrough. The third picture is from when I got distracted by the moon rising behind a tower)

Proteus Live

During GameCity 7 last month, David and I "performed" Proteus Live, along with a couple of other volunteers. We'd been invited to do a live playthrough, but we always feel rather stiff and self-conscious when walking around the game ourselves for the purposes of showing it to other people. We racked our brains (whilst walking around the Cambridgeshire fields) and figured it out: We'd get other people to play it for us. Well, OK, so that would be cheating. We'd get other people to play it whilst we played it:

We'd think up and implement a load of ways to tweak the game in realtime: shifting colour palettes, spawning animals, attracting animals to the player, switching seasons, changing time, triggering existing and new effects. I'd have the PC keyboard in front of me whilst our "explorer" played on an XBox pad. We'd also have controls to mix out the game music, and David would be mixing and improvising live to create a unique new reactive soundtrack. On the day before the event we picked Jon Brodsky as our accomplice: coder of the Mac OS version and experienced explorer.

It worked! As you can probably tell (especially in the Venus Patrol footage) David was working - playing - insanely hard whilst I was just pressing a few buttons - on the night itself anyway. If you're familiar with how Proteus playthroughs go, I didn't get to use many of the features I'd added, but that was fine. After the "live" run was over, we did a long and often intense Q&A whilst the game was played through again on the big screen in "normal" mode.

For more on Proteus Live, including two more videos and a sneaky photo of my near-illegible cheat-sheet, check out this Venus Patrol post. I think the whole things was being recorded "officially" too, so if that goes up I'll post a link that.

Lots of people asked if we could somehow work this into the released version of the game, and this is definitely something we want to do. Some of the events and triggers are just THENs waiting for an IF so those will definitely be in the next release. On top of that, it seems like it would be pretty easy to clean up the code and make it available as a special mode: One person could play on mouse or joypad, whilst someone else controlled the environment via the keyboard. Making your own live soundtrack will be harder, but we'll leave that up to enterprising and talented players! We haven't exactly decided how we're going to release this, but it'll probably simply be part of the standard edition of the game.

Finally, David made a 60 minute mix to play whilst we were setting up. It's an intense blend of some of the music that has been very inspiring to us, and in some cases sampled in the game audio.

Download here! (about 80MB)

Proteus Live Pre-show mix

1. synth 1 (b - synth 2) // 2. Alice Coltrane - Shiva Loka // 3. inchadney - Rain // 4. Nodeland Dreams & Memories // 5. A Hawk and A Hacksaw - Vasalisa Carries a Flaming Skull Through the Forest // 6. Belbury Poly - The Hidden Door // 7. Dakim - 7 // 8. Zomby - Digital Fauna // 9. David Kanaga - Gold // 10. The Advisory Circle - And The Cuckoo Comes // 11. Paul Giovanni - Willow’s Song // 12. Bibio - Quantock // 13. Ornette Coleman - The Man Who Live in the White House // 14. digifishmusic - Gentle Sea on Flat Beach // 15. BBC Radiophonic Workshop - Colour Radio // 16. The Beach Boys - Trombone Dixie // 17. autumn pads // 18. David Kanaga - Wombflash Forest 2 // 19. Brian Eno - Triennale // 20. Erik Satie - Sarabande No. 1 // 21. David Kanaga - The Crystal World // 22. The Advisory Circle - Learning Owl Reappears // 23. - Carlo Gesualdo - In te, Domine, speravi // 24. Maurice Ravel - Daphnis & Chloe part 3; sunrise; Daphnis prostrate at the grotto of the nymphs // 25. Friedrich Nietzsche - Da Geht Ein Bach // 26. J.S. Bach - A Musical Offering; canon 1 a 2 (cancrizans) // 27. J.S. Bach/Lorenzo Snow - A Musical Offering (stretched) // 28. Alice Coltrane - Jagadishwar // 29. low end peace

GAMECITY 7

What a week… We just got back from Nottingham's fantastic GameCity festival!

A few of my personal highlights:

  • Seeing George Buckenham and Doug Wilson's "Proteus Frog God Mod" running on the trampolines. Every time I wandered into the Venus Patrol area I couldn't help cracking a big grin at the kids soaring over treetops accompanied by mix of frog melodies and trampoline creaks. Here's a post on Hookshot Inc.
  • "Reads Like a Seven" - a Simon Parkin-curated evening of game journalists/critics reading their work to a packed bar. I was a bit dubious about this, but it turned out to be really wonderful. If this runs at a future festival, check it out. Here's a writeup by Chris Chapman which does it more justice than I could.
  • The Proteus Live event as a whole, and perhaps especially the Q&A after the "live" run. I hope it was as interesting for the audience as it was for me, because some of those questions went really deep. I'll make a seperate post on the main event and add a bit of background info on what happened and how it fits into future plans.
  • Playing a whole bunch of new games was pretty great: I got to play Adam Saltsman and co's simple, complex, beautiful Hundreds and played George Buckenham's B.U.T.T.O.N.-meets-Battlezone keyboard-fighting-game "A Bastard" on the dancemats that had been laid out for MegaGIRP. MegaBastard was born, and it was great. If it's not at the next Wild Rumpus then there's something wrong.
  • This isn't a single hightlight, but meeting devs, organisers and other attendees was a constant pleasure. For me, being an indie developer is a weird mix of sitting on your own stressing about stuff then ocassionally and suddenly feeling part of this huge international family. These events and the people at them are what makes it all possible for me.

Oh, and we didn't win the GameCity Prize. As pretty much everyone knew it would, that went to Journey. It's hard to feel bad about that choice!

Finally I'd like to say a big heart-felt thank you to Iain Simons, David Hayward, Phil McGough, Christine MacSween, Chloe Smith, Chris White, the stewards and everyone else for their hospitality, for keeping everything running and for the invitation to come in the first place. See you next year!


(Lovely game stickers by A J Hateley)

Eurogamer Expo

I'll be at the Eurogamer Expo in London this week showing Proteus as part of the Indie Games Arcade area. I just got a big box of Proteus cards delivered, so come by and grab one if you're at the show.

Autumn

Work

Over the past two weeks we've been hard at work on new content and tweaking and fixing existing in-game things. Mostly this has been about adding a dramatic new event in autumn. We want to fill out the season a bit more, but thinking more about environmental story-fragments and magical events than creatures. The block of work after this will include more creatures in summer, some twists on the way the island is generated and possibly some new things in winter, although that season will keep its current mood.

(Sorry to be so vague! This paragraph could just say "working hard on stuff we hope you'll like")

Festivals

Seems like Autumn is a time of festivals!

  • Proteus is due to appear at Fantastic Arcade in Austin from 20th-23rd September, where David is doing a developer's commentary event. (I wish I could have made it too)
  • I'll be accompanying it as part of the "Artists' Games Night" at Spike Island in Bristol on the 20th September. (Tonight!)
  • It's showing in Melbourne at Freeplay this Saturday (22nd September)
  • It's going to be part of MoMA's Common Senses exhibition running from 24th September to 19th November in New York
  • David and I will be doing some Proteus-related events atNottingham's GameCity. This is in October - more news later. (Come to GameCity, it's amazing!)

It feels a bit overwhelming… We're really honoured to be part of these events and humbled to be in the company of so many great games. Do come and say hello if you're at any of the ones that we're at!

Steam

As you might have already read, Proteus is going to be launched on Steam* later this year. We don't have a launch date yet, but hopefully it will be around the end of October. This might slip to November, but either way our plan is to try and launch on time and then do a "1.1" update later rather than delay it. (In the longer term, we have some loose plans for a 1.5-ish update sometime in 2013. This will be based around some modding and remixing ideas)

(*Everyone who has bought the game via Humble or Fastspring will get a Steam key.)

Thanks for your support as always - it's going to be a busy few months!

Beta 0.2.1

We just released a small update for the beta released last week, including a couple of major fixes and some other little things.

Here's an uncharacteristically detailed changelist:

  • Fixed crash on startup on some Macs
  • Fixed mouse cursor sometimes appearing on Macs
  • Fixed rare random crash when loading postcards on PCs (with fallback safety option if it still happens)
  • Fixed missing 360 controller support on PC (gamepad for Mac coming in future)
  • Removed "unlock" button for now, as it was confusing
  • Added a "Please Wait" to make the loading screen a bit more obvious
  • Re-added falling leaves and blossom
  • Sightly tweaked audio mixing levels
  • Various other in-game fixes

This is available by re-downloading from the Humble Store page.

Thanks to Jonathan as ever for the hard work on the Mac version, Dana and George for helping test the horrible random postcard crash and Robin for the header image.

Postcards

Make a postcard

While in the game, find somewhere nice or interesting and press F9. On Windows, this will save an image to Documents/Proteus/Postcards, while on Mac it will save to Proteus/Postcards in your home directory (~/Proteus/Postcards).

(Currently animals will be not be exactly captured by postcards, so I'm afraid you'll have to wait until the next update to share postcards of creatures doing funny things)

Send a postcard

Attach the image to an email, upload to the web, whatever you would do with any other image. The important thing is to make sure the patch of random-coloured pixels in the bottom left is intact. Scaling the image or converting to a jpeg might break this. The game doesn't care about the size or content of the image, as long as those pixels are present.

Open a postcard

You can only open postcards after playing through once, but you can shortcut this by clicking on the leftmost button in the top right. This is because we'd prefer new players to play through "normally" but we're not going to be strict about this. Once postcards are available, you can view them by clicking the down arrow that appears at the bottom of the screen. (This interface may be refined in future updates)

Any postcards created by you will automatically appear here. If you want to see postcards from other people, you just need to copy them into the Postcards folder.

Beta 2 is here - for Mac and PC

Proteus Beta 2 is now live on the Humble servers! Emails have gone out to everyone who ordered in the old pre-Humble system - If you didn't receive one, first check your spam folder, and if that doesn't turn it up, the best option is to grab your Humble code via the key resender.

If you bought it from Humble, you can download the new build from your Humble account, or from the link in the email you received at the time. I'm looking into a way of sending out emails to Humble purchasers, but if you're reading this, you don't need one!

(Any problems, comment below or email me.

What's new?

There are some new creatures in the game. One of them is quite rare. In accordance with Proteus tradition, I can't say much more.

There are some new musical systems.

Lots of bugs were squashed (not real ones, or chunky pixelated ones) including some odd fullscreen resolution problems for some people.

If you play through once, you unlock two things:

First, islands will have a chance of being "wild" - this effect varies from spawning lots of extra creatures of one type to some dramatic visual differences.

Second, the "postcard rack" appears below the title screen. If you take a screenshot using the ingame function (on F9), this is saved to a Postcards folder in your user data area ("Documents" on PC). World and location data is encoded in a strip of pixels, so that the game can regenerate that view (and the world) from the screenshot. You can use this as as a save and restore mechanism, a souvenir collection, or a way to share discoveries and favorite places. See this post for more details.

All these things are a little rough, and will be refined in the next updates. There are a few things that didn't make this cut in their full form, but you might catch a glimpse of them.

Drum Roll…

Last but not least, we now have a working Mac build, thanks to a ton of hard work by Jon Brodsky of Lucky Frame!

(This is also available to download via the Humble servers as detailed above.)

(Photo courtesy of Xavier Belanche)

Proteus Beta 2 on the way…

Sorry about the ominous silence: After some delays and struggles with schedules, government bodies, payment processors and email providers we're hoping to release the first public beta update in a couple of days.

There'll be a few new things to discover, new music, bug fixes and refinements and a new way to save and share islands.

We're also sending out Humble download keys to all pre-Humble buyers.

This will be still be Windows only at first: The Mac build is not quite ready for a release beyond a few brave testers, but it's not far off and should be along a few weeks later.

(We haven't forgotten Artifact people - there'll be another email going out with some info about the edition, exclusive digital stuff and a confirmation that we've got the right shipping address)

Lastly, please enjoy this pack of postcards, wallpapers, whatever you want to call them. (That glitch in the bottom left of each one? Hmm…)

Artifact Edition orders closing… CLOSED!

Hey all,

At the time of writing, we have 289 orders for the Artifact Edition, so we're going to close orders on this until we've printed, assembled and posted this batch.

I think we'll stop taking orders when we hit 300, or on August 3rd, whichever is sooner. Sales are pretty quiet just now, so it seems like a good time. If we overshoot 300, that's cool. Hopefully there isn't a rush of orders whilst I'm asleep!

We're amazed that so many people have bought it and recently we've been quietly planning contents and costing up components. I don't think we'll make much profit on these, but we think people are going to be pretty happy with the package! More details when we have more prices and feasible options figured out.

"Upgrading": A couple of people who bought the Standard Edition emailed me a few months ago about whether it'll be possible to upgrade: We'll still honour that, and if you email me before the 300 limit (ed at visitproteus.com) I'll sort this out for you too.

Delivery Address: Don't worry about confirming postage details for now. Once orders are closed, I'll send out a mail confirming your information and containing a progress update on what'll be in the package, and maybe some teaser images.

Mac and Linux builds: Barring any unexpected technical problems these will be on the disc in this first batch!

Future Artifacts: Once we've released the "1.0" version and shipped all of this current batch, we'll think about doing another run, which may differ slightly from this batch. We'll also make the OST available digitally, probably via Bandcamp.

(Image: Business card/packet of seeds from Indiecade 2011. Photo by Kris Piotrowski)

Dogbomb Island

I should post a write-up of AMAZE soon, and a general project update (I should do these regularly, right?) but for now, here's a video review/playthrough/first impressions that made me cry laughing:

PC Gamer on Proteus

Tom Francis of PC Gamer just posted a wonderful article on Proteus!

"It is nuts, and magnificent, and engrossing and beautiful."

:')

"PS. Don’t press Escape to pause it and write a blog post, because it turns out that quits."

GDC 2

Hinted at in the last post, Proteus was screened/played in a small hang-out room at the Wild Rumpus-organised party after the awards on Wednesday night.

Rev3Games had a film crew there…

Proteus is mentioned at the start and then the main bit is around 5:37. But seriously, I'm just saying that so you can avoid it, just watch the other bits with Doug Wilson and Bennett Foddy and George talking about the magic of spreadsheets. I hate being on camera…

Anyway, the Proteus Room was really great, so much postive response from people. It was fascinating to talk to people after they played it and find they were either absorbed and oblivious to the audience or felt some urge to "direct" a nice playthrough for them.

GDC 1

GDC was amazing, but so incredibly busy! I'm finally getting over the jetlag and conference flu.

Here's a bunch of photos from the inspiring roadtrip we took via Big Sur, Death Valley and Yosemite in the week before:

Full album on Picasa

And a video I quickly chopped together from what I had on my camera:

The soundtrack is cut up from tracks by David, and the final piece (starting from the footage of Proteus) is from a rough cut of the Proteus Suite. (More info on the video's YouTube page)

FAQ (Occasionally Asked Questions)

I thought I'd try and collate a few things here. Please add a comment below if I missed anything!

When is the Mac version due?

My current estimate is around May August(?). The first step will be to get it running on Linux using Mono and then the hopefully simple next step from there of packaging it for OSX.

If I preorder the current version, does that include Mac/Linux?

Yes - the price includes Windows/Mac/Linux versions. If you're waiting for either Mac or Linux, feel free to hold off from preordering until there's more news. The $7.50/$30 prices will still be in effect when those come out.

I'm tempted by the Artifact Edition, but not yet sure whether to buy it. What should I do?

We don't want the Artifact Edition to be a gamble, so what we'll do is allow anyone who's bought the Standard version to upgrade to the Artifact just by paying the difference in price. I'll set this up later this month, but it will definitely happen. By that time we'll also be able to post a bit more about the contents and physical packaging.

What is the "OST Suite" in the Artifact Edition?

This is music built from the audio in the game. David sent me a rough cut a few months ago, and I love it already!

(It's different from the preorder bonus piece - that is more indirectly related to the game. If people are curious about the "Worms Present" piece we'll maybe post something about it soon)

Will the final version have a goal or some more traditional gameplay?

I'm not religiously against it, and am very interested to hear peoples' thoughts on this, but probably not. The main idea here is a for the exploration and discovery to be motivated by the enjoyment of finding new things for its own sake. I found a strange effect when something goal-like was introduced, where players would latch onto it and it dramatically changed the atmosphere of the game. This could get waay too long and rambling for an FAQ answer, but let's say that it's an area of interest for me at least. (Also, see the next answer for more)

So what can we expect in the Beta period?

We're *definitely* going to add a lot more to discover in the game world, including more locations, more weird magical/psychedelic effcts, more creatures (and more behaviours and suprises to existing creatures).

We've also been discussing some meta-game features, like sharing and revisiting islands. One idea is to have a kind of "living postcard" system: Screenshots will have world generation information embedded in them, so if someone posts one on a forum, twitter, email, etc, you'll be able to open it in the game and explore that same island. We'll probably weave some nice stuff around this, but it would spoil it to explain much more here!

Another possible addition is new game modes, so maybe there'll be different ways to explore the island(s) with different constraints.

Will there ever be multiplayer?

We'll think about this! There are lots of design problems involved, e.g. what would the other players look like? would that change the feeling of the game too much? We won't rule it out, but I promise that it won't disrupt the single player experience - no "Player X wants to join you!" stuff.

Why is my comment taking a long time to appear?

It might be stuck waiting for approval. I'm going to try and change a wordpress setting to fix this!

Will there be a forum for the game?

Yes, in March sometime. Update: It's here

If you get on Steam, will you be doing Steam unlocks for people who buy direct from your site?

Yes, this is definitely possible, just needs a little work on the infrastructure for it. We'll have more details if and when it's applicable.

Good Morning

Welcome to the new Proteus website. I'll post something worth reading soon!