In our latest interview, we had the chance to speak with Ed Key, one of the main forces behind Proteus. Ed discussed much of the backstory of Proteus including the inspirations. He revealed some of the key points in his road to success such as the various conventions and Notch’s approval. Proteus is set to receive an update later this year and a Linux version in early April.
Proteus is a game about exploration and immersion in a dream-like island world where the soundtrack to your play is created by your surroundings. Played in first-person, the primary means of interaction is simply your presence in the world and how you observe it. The procedurally generated islands are home to creatures natural and imagined, tranquil valleys and ruins with magical properties.
Indie Game HQ: Who are the major contributors behind Proteus?
Ed: For almost all of development it’s been just me on code, graphics, and design and David Kanaga on music and co-design. Towards the end we also had Jon Brodsky (of Lucky Frame) working on the OSX port, Alex May (of Eufloria fame) doing some additional coding.
Indie Game HQ: Prior to working on Proteus, what projects have you all worked on?
Ed: This is my first indie game, but before that I worked in the UK games industry. My last games there were Battalion Wars 1 and 2. David’s also known for his work on Dyad for PS3.
Indie Game HQ: Where did the idea of Proteus originate, and how long has it been under development?
Ed: I was toying with a lot of different ideas for games about exploration and landscape, but the whole “musical exploration” direction came together as soon as David and I started discussing it. I started to work on it about a year before that point, so I’ve been working on it for about 4 years (with breaks) and David for about 3 years.
Indie Game HQ: Who thought of the name Proteus, and what does it mean?
Ed: Originally I chose it because I needed an important-sounding name for the project folder and I knew that it was going to be something that’d find it’s own way through many changes (“protean” means something can take many forms, one of the attributes of the Greek god Proteus). Some time after we had the final direction for the game, I went through a short phase of trying to change it, but it had stuck too hard. “Wildward” and “Widdershins” were briefly under consideration!
Indie Game HQ: What were some major inspirations for the game’s art style and music?
Ed: The art style comes partly from old 8 and 16 bit games from my youth, but nothing specific. I stripped it down a lot from those reference points til it has the solid blocks of colours you see now. The palette and the bold style were influenced a lot by Art Deco tourism posters and the paintings of Paul Nash. David has cited Ravel, Brian Eno, Zomby, and Ornette Coleman.
Indie Game HQ: At what point did Proteus really begin to take off, and how would you rate the response thus far?
Ed: It’s been a gradual process – during 2012 whilst it was in beta we had regular spikes of interest and sales, and each of those was a nice surprise. The funniest one was when the boss of 2K games claimed games had to be realistic in order to evoke emotions, and a bunch of people including Notch brought up Proteus. That was a crazy few weeks…
The launch on Steam has really dwarfed anything before it though – we sold about 5000 copies before then and about 30000 since then (most on Steam, but some direct via the site). It’s really been way beyond our wildest dreams.
Indie Game HQ: You’ve been to many large gaming events including the GDC, how much of your success do you believe was driven from these?
Ed: Right, I went to my first GDC in 2011 and took an early alpha of Proteus to show people on a laptop. Getting feedback from other designers there gave us a push to keep working on it, then we go selected for Indiecade in 2011, then got into IGF in 2012, so it really felt like that recognition and encouragement was important, especially when making something unusual that would be hard to get exposure for otherwise.
Indie Game HQ: Proteus has taken home its fair share of awards, how has this affected your team?
Ed: Well, we only have two physical trophies, so no trophy cabinet yet! But yeah, it’s been crazy. I think the major effect has just been that encouragement to keep working away on it and refining it to the point of releasing the full thing as a commercial product.
The game seems to be playing with the players senses as they explore with the game, is this intentional?
Of course! Changing perception is one of the themes of the game, and we’ve tried to get some really overwhelming odd moments in there. The island is “Proteus” in a sense that it changes each playthrough, and with the seasons, but also we hope that the player’s perception keeps shifting around somehow.
Indie Game HQ: What is included in the upcoming Artifact Edition, and how much will it cost?
Ed: The plan is to have a soundtrack CD, game CD containing the game and other bonus material, a nice physical package, a guidebook of sorts, maybe a strange card game. Preorders were $35 but are currently closed until we ship this batch, then we’ll make some more available. The price will depend on how much it eventually costs to produce them. I’m sure that at least some of the digital bonus stuff and the soundtrack will be available to download too, since we don’t want to make it hard for everyone to get hold of that side of it.
Indie Game HQ: Is there a chance we see Linux support added in the future?
Ed: Yep, Ethan Lee has been helping out with the port, and we should have it available in early April both on Steam and the Humble Store pages.
Indie Game HQ: Where do you guys go from here? Any plans?
Ed: We’re doing a bit more work on Proteus, but I can’t say much more about that at the moment. Partly it’s new content for an update later this year, partly it’s secret stuff! Other than that I did a small prototype of something for the recent Seven Day Roguelike Competition and David is working on various musical projects including Panoramical with Fernando Ramallo which just received backing from Indie Fund.
Indie Game HQ: Thanks for your time. Is there anything you would like to add for our fans?
Ed: No problem! Umm… Be excellent to each other!
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