Video Games as Art: Proteus
Proteus is “a game of pure exploration and discovery,” as creator Ed Key describes it. “Kind of like a wandering simulator,” he says with a laugh. It features an unusual but beautifully abstract soundtrack by David Kanaga, a composer from Eugene, Oregon, of whom very little is known about.
In Proteus, music and sound are deeply intertwined in a way that I’ve never quite seen in other games. A sonorous storm cloud glides down, and brings with it a melodious serenade of raindrops, while a family of fireflies chimes excitedly before passing on. The sweeping of dusk turns an airy tune into the calming heartbeat of night. Every element of the world, from the smallest flower to the sun in the sky, has its own voice.
Recently, Proteus was nominated for the Nuovo Award at the 2012 Independent Games Festival - an award that celebrates innovation in game design. Key described how he originally envisioned Proteus as a much more traditional type of game, in the vein of Oblivion or Skyrim - epic Western-styled role-playing games based around branching quest lines and progression treadmills. But after hitting a wall with the design he contacted David Kanaga about the idea of working with him. It was this initial spark of collaboration that gave birth to the modern incarnation of Proteus.
Beyond the sublime use of iconic sound design, what I find most fascinating about Proteus is the way Key lures you into exploring the world of Proteus with the use of living entities like frogs, rabbits, and other fauna. In a recent interview he described the way players would see one of these and start chasing it, and before long they would be over the mountain, and would see some really cool things along the way.
Proteus is available for pre-order on its website, which you can find here. Key also keeps a development log which you can follow here.
- Gabriel Verdon