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Discover the surreal world of Paper Beast

by ace
Discover the surreal world of Paper Beast

Image: Playstation

Paper Beast's dream odyssey arrives on PS VR tomorrow, March 24. Eric Chahi, creative director and game designer, spoke in an interview with the Playstation Blog, about the four years he and the team at Pixel Reef studio spent developing the game. Continue reading about the technology they developed specifically for this game and the challenges they encountered while working to make this universe look so alive, via Playstation Blog.

Where did Pixel Reef get the inspiration to create Paper Beast?

From the real world, of course! The way animals move, their curiosity, the way they look at things … There is a strong link between the earth and the living. Animals have a great impact and influence the environment. See ants, beavers or even the simplest earthworms and how they change the terrain where they live. This is part of the gameplay. Another source of inspiration was to travel and discover wild areas like the Sahara or Tassilia, with their majestic dunes and rocky terrain.

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Virtual reality allows you to feel this. Paper Beast plays with these spaces; you go from indoors to open. This is usually a process in flux and surreal, with the arrival of elements related to data, another of the themes of the game. It is an amazing hybrid world.

How much development time did the game take?

Four years.

Four years is a long time! What kind of challenges did you face along the way?

The main challenge was to create a homemade physics engine that would meet our needs. We wanted the creatures to have simulated locomotion. We started working on the sandbox for two years, which gave us the basis of the engine.

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Then came the level design work. We were looking for great environments, with different terrain elements. As we progress, we find a balance between design and technology.

The most challenging part was adjusting the game's performance to ensure it could run at 60 FPS in a VR. It was a tremendous effort. We had to make sure it didn't affect the quality of the game.

An important aspect of Paper Beast was the use of physics, especially to animate its creatures. Is there a particular reason for deciding to take this path?

In a video game, you usually have predefined animations, but there are no ways to manipulate a character; your posture does not adapt in real time. In Paper Beast, animals have virtual skeletons that are affected by physics and animated by an adaptive algorithm. With this technology, virtual animals can move realistically in any situation, which makes them really look "alive".

Discover the surreal world of Paper Beast

Physics seems to go beyond gameplay, becoming part of the game universe. It is quite out of the ordinary. Why this choice?

The creatures are calculated by the physics engine and by parts of the environment, such as sand, water, wind … even moving paper. It is part of the narrative.

For example, we use physics to create data and paper storms: powerful aerial phenomena. This creates a flow and consistency throughout the game, from gameplay to its environments. It's like looking at the sea in the real world – beauty comes from physics!

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There are no dialogues in the game, but the player lives a story. Is this a form of narrative that you have explored in Another World / Out of This World?

Discover the surreal world of Paper Beast

Certainly, but the story is told differently, due to the behavior of the creatures and the great changes that happen in the world. Paper Beast takes place in a crazy world. Freedom of imagination belongs to the player; in retrospect, I realize that Paper Beast is a break to breathe in a world overloaded with information. During the creative process, I had strong and surreal visions that I could hardly describe in words. The team was in agreement and we were all in sync with Pascal Lefort, our art director and 3D artist. The incredible skies of Paper Beast – are his. Floriano and Roly had complete freedom to create audio and background music. The result was very exciting, and despite having played the game hundreds of times, I still have teary eyes … but no one notices, because I'm using a VR headset.

What tip would you give to anyone playing Paper Beast?

  • Wear a good audio headset and make sure your volume is loud enough to be completely immersed in the Paper Beast universe.
  • This adventure is an odyssey about emotions and discoveries. You are about to discover a completely new world, with strange yet logical rules. Pay close attention to emerging environments and behaviors.
  • The sandbox is a place for experimentation. Enjoy the view of “god mode”, where you will feel like a giant. You can transform the terrain and observe the behavior of the creatures.
  • Don't forget the linkers! You can connect creatures with each other and create unusual situations.

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