The launch such as the odyssey Paper Beast is announced for PlayStation VR tomorrow. We had a talk with Eric Chahi, Creative Director & Game Designer for the four years he and the team at Pixel Reef spent developing the game. Read on to learn about the technologies they have developed for the game and the challenges they face as they work to make this atmosphere feel more alive.
Where did Pixel Reef get inspiration from creating Paper Beast?
The living world, of course! The way animals move, their curiosity, their way of looking at things… There is a strong bond between the earth and the living. Animals have an impact and influence on their environment. Look for ants, beavers, or simple aquatic worms and how they change the landscape. That's part of the game.
Other incentives to travel with wildlife areas such as the Sahara or Tassilia, with their beautiful dunes and rocky areas.
Virtual reality allows you to feel that. Paper Beast plays through these gaps; from closed spaces to open spaces. This is often changed and redefined by the entry of data-related objects, one of the game's themes. It is an amazingly pure world that uses reality to imitate you.
How long did the development last?
Four years is a long time! What kinds of challenges have you encountered there?
The biggest challenge has been to create a home-made engine tailored to our needs. We wanted creatures to be fully self-conscious. We started working on a sandbox for two years, which gave us an engine base.
After that, we worked on scale construction. We were looking at large areas with a lot of earth resources. As we progressed, we entered into the balance between creativity and technology.
The most challenging part was the performance of the game, ensuring it could work at 60 FPS in VR. It's been a great effort. We made sure there were no compromises in game quality.
An important aspect of Paper Beast is the use of physics, especially to make its creatures pretend. Is there any particular reason for you to decide to take that path?
In a video game, you usually have great pictures that are pre-defined, but you can't really use the character; their shape does not correspond to real time. At Paper Beast, animals have visual cues that are driven by physics and created by an evolving algorithm. With this technology, these virtual animals can go well in any situation, making them feel really “healthy”.
Physics seems to surpass gameplay, becoming part of the game's atmosphere. It's not normal. Why this choice?
Creatures are actually calculated by a physics engine and parts of the environment, such as sand, water, air… and even moving paper. It's part of the narrative.
For example, we have used physics to create data and paper storms: the powerful elements of space. It creates flow and cohesion throughout the game, from gameplay to nature. Like looking at a sea of rage in the real world – beauty comes from physics!
There is no dialogue in the game, yet the player stays with the story. Is this the kind of narrative you have been exploring in another Earth / Exit World?
Of course, but the story is told differently, about the behavior of creatures and the dramatic changes that take place in this world. Paper Beast is set in a sort of crazy world. It gives freedom of thought to the player; In retrospect, I realize that it is a deep breath in the world that is troubled by the broadcast of information. During the process, I had strong surrealistic ideas that I couldn't explain in words. The group was in the process with this idea. We were in sync with Pascal Lefort, our art director and 3D artist. Amazing sky on Paper Beast – to him. Floriane and Roly had complete freedom in the audio and ambiance of the music. The result is very emotional, and even though I've played the game many times, I still have tears in my eyes … but no one knows, because I'm wearing a VR headset.
What advice would you give to Paper Beast players?
- Use the appropriate audio headset and make sure the volume is high enough to be completely immersed in the Paper Beast universe.
- This adventure is an odyssey about emotions and the diagnosis of vertigo. You are about to discover a new world with strange yet reasonable laws. Pay close attention to their surroundings and emerging behaviors.
- The sandbox is a testing ground. Enjoy watching the "god mode" where you'll feel like a grandma. You can scroll the world and monitor the performance of the creatures.
- Don't forget the connectors! You can combine creatures with each other and create funny situations.
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