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Video: How abstraction gave Proteus its voice

Speaking at last year's GDC Europe, Proteus creator Ed Key explained why staying away from complex game systems made his music-based exploration game a far more meaningful experience.

August 19, 2013

3 Min Read

The music- and exploration-based Proteus is a perfect example of minimalist game design. It has few defined goals, and exists primarily to let players wander about its atmospheric, pixelated world. However, the game almost became something quite different. During an in-depth postmortem at last year's Game Developers Conference Europe, Proteus creator Ed Key explained that he and musician David Kanaga threw around some complex ideas when creating this dynamic musical experience. "We were looking at ways to give players the tools to make music within the game, so they could arrange objects and you'd have a synthesizer or sequencer," Key said. "But I think the reason we didn't go any further with it is because it felt like it would feel too useful; it'd feel too much like a creative tool rather than a mysterious game world to explore." Key wanted to create a game that players could appreciate like a work of art, and he felt a game based around complex systems would just complicate things and distract players from his original intention. Instead, he set out to make a game with almost nothing but exploration, allowing players to take in the world in a much more thoughtful and meaningful way. "There's this concept of uselessness," Key said, "You might have something like a mountain tree, which is completely useless; there isn't any fruit, you can't use the wood, and the only way to engage with the object is to engage with it in this indirect, poetic, almost passive kind of way." Key and Kanaga set out to refine that theme throughout the game's development, as they strove to create a game that was not about its mechanics, but about the experience it presented. You can learn more about the origins of this unusual indie title by checking out the full postmortem in the above GDC Vault video.

About the GDC Vault

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent GDC events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers. Those who purchased All Access passes to events like GDC and GDC Europe already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription Beta via a GDC Vault inquiry form. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company. More information on this option is available via an online demonstration, and interested parties can send an email to Gillian Crowley. In addition, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault admins. Be sure to keep an eye on GDC Vault for even more new content, as GDC organizers will also archive videos, audio, and slides from other 2012 events like GDC Online and GDC China. To stay abreast of all the latest updates to GDC Vault, be sure to check out the news feed on the official GDC website, or subscribe to updates via Twitter, Facebook, or RSS.

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