The artistic history of Èric Chahi a brilliant creative mind behind such fundamental works as Another World and Heart of Darkness and particular experiments such as From Dust, is that of a designer seeking to constantly crossing the limits of interactive language, reworking and deconstructing the forms and means available to the videogame world. It was therefore reasonable to expect that his new project, called Paper Beast, would use one of the most recent and widespread technologies of today's panorama: virtual reality which appears increasingly full of appeal for dozens of authors and authors of all the world. The French artist has decided to opt for this formula (which will be followed by the publication of the "traditional" game one year after the launch of the original version) to give substance to his new idea of videogame exploration, which from the first information disseminated appears yes more traditional of his previous experiments, but at the same time full of potential. With his new studio, Pixel Reef, Chahi intends to promote a new way of understanding videogame development: the "pixel cliff" represents an atoll of peace for those who intend to explore the creativity of the sector. So let's see what we know today of the new project.
Somewhere, in a distant big data …
The concept behind Paper Beast is as simple as it is functional to a credible story , and represents a perfect "ring composition", a circular structure of the evolution of the narrated world: some particularly evolved society has created incredibly complex algorithms and strings of code, to then abandon them in some virtual or digital crevice, leaving them to their destiny.
Over time, these tiny intelligences and immense big data galaxies have slowly evolved, to the point of creating a real ecosystem born of their own minds. A primordial world, in sudden and sudden growth, with which we will have to interact according to rules and schemes that cannot be guessed from the trailer and from the textual presentation provided by the official website. What we know, according to the information disseminated during communication with the press, is that we will be dealing with creatures and systems born of this sort of Big Bang digital and that our way of interfacing with these particular and fascinating beings it will tend to modify its behavior and attitudes. All this is allowed by a system that is defined as "deeply simulative" at the base, in essence, and which is used to fuse together the poetic and implicit approach of Paper Beast's emerging narrative with the virtual reality technology desired by the studio French. An experience that, in the view of the French author, therefore wants to be exploratory, typically playful in its structure, to then evolve into something more complex and traditionally narrative once the system of simulation and cooperation with creatures is deepened.
A new philosophy
Unexpectedly, it is precisely on the technological aspect that Èric Chahi seems to bet very much, in this new adventure of his: " with this game, we wanted to create a real new ecosystem, born from the digital boundaries of big data. […] With the fantastic team at Pixel Reef we finally found the creative freedom to dig deep into the latest technologies to tell the story of Paper Beast ".
Unlike his previous works, more focused on new ludic and conceptual than technical perspectives, the first chapter of Pixel Reef's creative history will be based heavily on muscular exploitation of modern technologies to reconstruct an experience in line with Chahi's vision and, judging by the presentation of the game, we can only agree with this perspective: the visual majesty and the quality of the chromatic and musical choices is excellent, as could be expected after the phenomenal From Dust, and the perception of consistency of the "thinking" beings around us is already palpable from the videos and, considering the VR nature of the experience, one can only hope.
However, the longtime fans of the French genius must not despair, also because we are faced with the very first post-announcement trailer and, although the publication window is expected to be 2019, nothing tells us that there cannot be a some particular playful or narrative choice that makes the experience more peculiar and original. Secondly, it is enough to look carefully at the trailer to get the promise of a narrative progression that is very different from the typical " open world ecosystem " (No Man's Sky, Minecraft, etc.) and, taking account of the author's history, we could almost speak of certainty.
It is obviously still very early for to be able to fully understand the structure of the work Pixel Reef, but unlike many other cases we also have a granitic certainty: the signature of an author who, for good and for bad, he always tries to do something new, particular, original, memorable, perhaps not perfect but brave, sometimes visionary when not seminal. All that remains is to wait for the birth of this new virtual universe.