Shape of the World is the latest entry into first person exploration games with striking visuals and and subtle objectives. Stu Maxwell is the man behind the project and when he isn’t working at his day job at The Coalition as a visual effects artist. The Kickstarter is currently running for Shape of the World so Stu joins us on the podcast to discuss the inspiration and design direction of the game.
It’s still early for the development of Shape of the World. However, there is already a distinct direction and aesthetic that is established. The game wants to slow things down and have people explore worlds they’ve never seen before. This is the task many games have been created for, and it is to me, the original promise of video games. When I see Shape of the World I see a continuation of the conversation from games like FRACT OSC, Ultraworld and Proteus. Stu agrees in so much as what he found exceptional about Proteus was how players continuously were able to discover new things about the world that was generated for them. While the game does remind me of Proteus it’s strong attention to detail and specific aesthetic expression reminded me of James Beech’s Ultraworld.
One of the most magical takeaways I had on the podcast was discussing Proteus with it’s creator, Ed Key; how the world all felt very deliberate and alive, even though it was entirely procedurally generated. It still stands as a testament to me as how good procedural generations can be, as well as a constant reminder of how many procedurally generated games often fall short on creating a world that feels deliberate and alive and not just the result of lines of code. In Shape of the World Stu told me that he is doing a hybrid approach. The world, the rocks, continents, islands, mountains are all placed by him, creating a space specifically designed for players to explore, however the vegetation, the wildlife grows around you is all through procedural generations. In this respect, Shape of the World is looking to merge what I love about Proteus unique, chaotic, and individual experience with that of deliberate, curated, and explicit nature of Ultraworld.
Shape of the World, if delivers on what I’ve already seen and played, will stand besides such beautiful experiences as the games mentioned above. In our conversation we discussed games like Hohokum and the push against ‘gamer baggage’ and how to enable players to interact with his game in the way it was designed to be played, or to find ways for players to be playful again. This is often the test of games like this, and it’s something that Stu is excited to continue working on. He believes through the nature of the mechanics of how nature grows around you, helps reinforce the idea that there is no correct path, only the path the players choose. As such exploration is greatly encourage and feeling of discovery somewhat easier to elicit. In the current demo I was able to spend an hour walking through his virtual world, and get a good sense of the direction, pacing, and experience he and his teammates are trying to bring out.
Be sure to head over to the Shape of the World’s Kickstarter page to get all the juicy details and back the project if you’d like to something like this exist. You will probably be seeing more of this game in the future, I know I will be sure to check it out once it is finally released. I am a sucker for games like this. You can also follow Stu on twitter @ShapeoftheWorld is him.