Proteus (video game)

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Proteus logo.png
Developer(s) Curve Studios (PlayStation)
Designer(s) Ed Key
Composer(s) David Kanaga
Platform(s) Linux, Mac OS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
Release date(s) Windows & Mac
30 January 2013[1]
8 April 2013[2]
PlayStation 3 & PlayStation Vita
29 October 2013[3]
Genre(s) Open world adventure
Mode(s) Single-player

Proteus is a 2013 open world exploration video game developed by Ed Key and David Kanaga for Linux, Mac OS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation Vita. The game was released on 30 January 2013 for Windows and Mac and 8 April 2013 for Linux. PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita versions were later released on 29 October 2013. The game is based around exploring and discovering an island, with no specific goals set. Players explore an environment in which every creature and plant has its own unique musical signature, resulting in audio changes depending on where they explore. The game world is procedurally generated, giving a unique layout each game.

Ed Key began development of the game in 2008 and was joined by David Kanaga in 2010. The pair aimed to make a "nontraditional and non-violent" game.[4] They considered different game mechanics, including quests, before settling on the final game. Curve Studios developed the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita versions, adding extra features to the Vita version at the request of Sony.

Proteus won the award for Best Audio in the 2011 Indiecade awards, and in 2012 was a finalist for the Independent Games Festival in the Nuovo Award category. Critics received both the original and PlayStation releases well, specifically praising the game's use of audio, though often commenting negatively on the length and replayability. Many players debated whether Proteus could be defined as a video game, and it was sometimes described as an anti-game.


Players explore (from a first-person perspective) a pixel art style island containing hills, trees, structures, and animals such as frogs and rabbits, the layout of which is different every time the game is played.[5][6][7] The focus of the game is on exploration rather than interaction as there is no narrative and the player is given no instructions as to how to proceed.[8] Possible interactions are limited; one example is that, when players come close to an animal, it may run away from them.[9] The soundtrack changes depending on players' movements and location. It may become silent when the player is at the top of a hill or full of an assortment of different sounds as they travel down it, and will have extra sounds and notes added to it when the player nears objects or animals.[10]

Areas such as this memorial cause different sounds to play when players are walking near or through them.

When the game begins, players are situated over the ocean away from the island and must move across the water to reach it.[10] Upon arrival, players are free to explore all of the island during the initial season of spring. During night time each day, players can enter a cluster of lights to advance time to the next season, eventually coming to the end of winter, after which the game ends. Each season changes the landscape; trees lose their leaves during autumn for example.[7][11]

The PlayStation Vita version contains extra features that allow players to directly affect the environment by using the console's rear touch panel and generate islands based on the current date and their real-world location.[12][13]


British developer Ed Key began work on Proteus in 2008 during evenings and weekends, with the game only nearing its final form when David Kanaga joined development in 2010.[14][15] Key originally envisioned the game as a procedural RPG in the same vein as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in which players would visit towns and fulfill quests. Realizing the extent of the work that would be needed for such a game, the pair decided to make something "nontraditional and non-violent".[4]

The game was developed using a game engine created by Key, primarily written in C#, and the developers have expressed interest in allowing player-created mods of the game in the future.[15][16] After David Kanaga joined the development team as audio composer, the audio mechanics were refined through many different ideas. One such idea was allowing players to create their own music within the game; this was not developed further because the developers felt it would take away from exploration of the game's world and turn it into more of a creative tool.[17]

The island's visuals change with the seasons, such as orange/brown leaves during Autumn.

Proteus was released on 30 January 2013 for Windows and Mac and 8 April 2013 for Linux.[1][2] When Proteus pre-orders were open in 2012, a US$40 Artifact Edition was available which included a boxed version of the game with artwork, soundtrack, and extra development notes.[18] In December 2013, Key apologised that this edition had still not shipped, saying that it was still in development and offered refunds for customers requesting them.[19]

Around the time of the game's PC release, Ed Key was approached by Curve Studios, who went on to work with the developers to adapt the game for release on PlayStation 3 and Vita.[20][21] These versions of the game use Curve Studio's own game engine.[22] Sony requested that new features be added to the game, though Key said that they never attempted to steer the direction of the development of these features. Key added location and date-based world generation and a way to interact with the game using the Vita's rear touchpad; Key has stated that the location and date specific world generation is a feature which could come to the PC version in the future.[23] The PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita versions were released on 29 October 2013.[3]


PC reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 78%[24]
Metacritic 80/100[25]
Review scores
Publication Score
Edge 8/10[26]
Eurogamer 8/10[7]
GameSpot 8/10[8]
GameTrailers 7.4/10[27]
IGN 8.5/10[10]
PC Gamer US 76/100[28]
Destructoid 8.5/10[29]
The Guardian 5/5 stars[30]
GameFront 75/100[31]
Publication Award
Indiecade 2011 Best Audio[32]
A MAZE Indie Connect Festival Most Amazing Indie Game[33]


A beta version of Proteus was featured in indie game festivals and received coverage by journalists. In 2011 it won the Indiecade Award for Best Audio,[32] and in 2012 was shortlisted for the GameCity Prize, but lost to Journey. Proteus was a finalist for the Independent Games Festival's Nuovo Award, a prize aimed at abstract and unconventional game development, whilst also receiving honorable mentions in the Excellence in Audio and Seumas McNally Grand Prize categories.[14][34][35] The game also won the Most Amazing Indie Game prize at the 2012 A MAZE. Indie Connect Festival and was featured in the Museum of Modern Art's "Common Senses" exhibit.[32][33]

In an article which discussed 2011's exploration games, Jim Rossignol of Rock, Paper, Shotgun described Proteus as "one of the most charming experiences" he had had in an indie game.[36] In 2012, Rick Lane of IGN stated that he found the game "delightfully intoxicating", unique, and intriguing,[37] and Tom Francis of PC Gamer responded positively in his game preview, drawing particular attention to the game's changing soundtrack.[38]


Proteus received generally positive reviews following release, holding aggregate scores of 80% and 78.08% on Metacritic and GameRankings respectively for the PC version.[24][25] Reviewers particularly praised the game's changing audio; Eurogamer's Oli Welsh, PC Gamer's Tom Senior, and IGN writer Nathan Grayson all gave it praise, commenting on how it guided them through the game.[7][10][28] A review in Edge, though generally positive about the soundtrack, said that the music "never truly gets going", particularly because of the lack of drums in most seasons.[26] Based on a poll of their staff, Proteus was named the seventh best game of 2013 in Shacknews. Alice O'Connor, writing for the website, called the game "delightfully devoid of explanation".[39]

The game's length and replayability received mixed reactions; GameSpot's John Robertson thought that the game had little replayability, and Senior said that the game felt "deeply familiar" in subsequent playthroughs. GameTrailers' Daniel Bloodworth, however, thought that the randomly generated islands provided an opportunity to see things players may have missed the first time and Grayson said that he found himself replaying the game many times.[8][10][27]

The PlayStation 3 and Vita versions were also received well.[40][41] Mike Rose, writing for Pocket Gamer, gave the game a mostly positive review, praising the extra features present in the Vita version, though commenting that he encountered some performance issues.[42] In Metro's review Roger Hargreaves said the game was an experience that would stay with him and PlayStation Official Magazine's Joel Gregory called it "simple but wonderfully effective".[43][44]

Many players debated Proteus' status as a video game, citing aspects such as the lack of real goals or objectives, with some calling it an anti-game.[45][46][47][48] This description, however, was controversial; in IGN's review, Grayson argued that there is an action (walking) and a goal in proceeding through the seasons.[10] Edge's reviewer commented that there were systems in the game such as a day/night cycle, changeable weather, and a change of seasons which could be triggered by the player.[26] Ed Key responded by arguing that the game does have systems but that it was optional whether the player interacted with them, and that these interactions did not usually provide feedback. He went on to say that he thinks "encouraging a strict definition of 'game' does nothing but foster conservatism and defensiveness in a culture already notorious for both".[49]


  1. ^ a b Meer, Alec (21 January 2013). "Proteus Gets A Releaseus Dateus At Lasteus". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Key, Ed (9 April 2013). "Version 1.1 now available: Linux, Steam Big Picture support". Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Clarke, Rob (29 October 2013). "Proteus Out Today on PS3 and PS Vita". PlayStation.Blog. Retrieved 29 October 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Grayson, Nathan (26 June 2013). "Staying Humble: Proteus’ Origins And Ed Key’s Next Game". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  5. ^ Hernandez, Patricia (30 January 2013). "A Gorgeous Digital World That You Can Explore Starting Today". Kotaku. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  6. ^ Rossignol, Jim (12 June 2011). "Ambient Works: Proteus EP". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c d Welsh, Oli (5 February 2013). "Proteus review". Eurogamer. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c Robertson, John (13 February 2013). "Proteus Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  9. ^ Smith, Adam (27 February 2012). "The Hills Are Alive: Proteus Beta Release". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f Grayson, Nathan (8 February 2013). "Proteus Review - A Virtual Vacation In More Ways Than One.". IGN. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  11. ^ Walker, John (30 January 2013). "Wot I Think: Proteus". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  12. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (29 October 2013). "Proteus rolls onto PS3 and Vita next week". Eurogamer. Retrieved 8 November 2013. 
  13. ^ Suszek, Mike (10 October 2013). "Proteus launching on PS3 and Vita this month with new world generation options". Joystiq. Retrieved 8 November 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Alexander, Leigh (27 January 2012). "Road to the IGF: Key and Kanaga's Proteus". Gamasutra. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  15. ^ a b Ashpari, Zohra (4 March 2012). "One-on-One With Proteus Developer Ed Key". Tech Hive. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  16. ^ "Proteus Engine". Proteus Forum. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  17. ^ "Video: How Abstraction Gave Proteus its Voice". 13 October 2012. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  18. ^ O'Connor, Alice (27 February 2012). "Proteus pre-orders pack playable beta". Shack News. Retrieved 24 December 2013. 
  19. ^ Mejia, Ozzie (10 December 2013). "Proteus PC patch adds PlayStation's Wild Islands". Shack News. Retrieved 24 December 2013. 
  20. ^ Stuart, Keith (1 November 2013). "Proteus: adventure game is a meditation on place and nature". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2013. 
  21. ^ Long, Neil (1 July 2013). "Curve Studios is bringing Proteus to PS3 and Vita". Edge. Retrieved 8 November 2013. 
  22. ^ Mejia, Ozzie (11 October 2013). "Proteus creator explains PS3/Vita-exclusive features". Shack News. Retrieved 8 November 2013. 
  23. ^ Reynolds, Matthew (13 November 2013). "'Proteus': How the exploration game came to PlayStation platform". Digital Spy. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  24. ^ a b "Proteus for PC". GameRankings. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  25. ^ a b "Proteus for PC Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  26. ^ a b c "Proteus review". Edge. 30 January 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  27. ^ a b Bloodworth, Daniel (12 February 2013). "Proteus - Review". GameTrailers. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  28. ^ a b Senior, Tom (5 March 2013). "Proteus review". PC Gamer. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  29. ^ Hancock, Patrick (8 February 2013). "Review: Proteus". Destructoid. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  30. ^ Stuart, Keith (4 February 2013). "Proteus – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  31. ^ Hornshaw, Phil (11 February 2013). "Proteus Review: Still Beautiful, Now Slightly Less Empty". GameFront. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  32. ^ a b c Matulef, Jeffrey (23 January 2013). "Proteus set for Steam later this month". Eurogamer. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  33. ^ a b Maxwell, Ben (20 December 2012). "Proteus maker cautions devs against paying entrance fees for awards after €5,000 prize payout delayed". Edge. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  34. ^ Meer, Alec (10 January 2012). "They Could Be Heroes: IGF 2012 Finalists". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  35. ^ Stuart, Keith (4 October 2012). "GameCity prize 2012 – shortlist announced". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  36. ^ Rossignol, Jim (24 November 2011). "Is 2011 The Year Of Game World Exploration?". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  37. ^ Lane, Rick (17 April 2012). "Proteus Stimulates Your Wanderlust". IGN. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  38. ^ Francis, Tom (30 March 2012). "Proteus: the best song I’ve ever played". PC Gamer. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  39. ^ O'Connor, Alice (17 January 2014). "Best of 2013: #7 - Proteus". Shacknews. Retrieved 6 February 2014. 
  40. ^ "Proteus for Playstation 3 reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 8 November 2013. 
  41. ^ "Proteus for Playstation Vita reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 8 November 2013. 
  42. ^ Rose, Mike (7 November 2013). "Proteus review - PlayStation Vita reviews". Pocket Gamer. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  43. ^ Hargreaves, Roger (4 November 2013). "Proteus PSN review – a new journey". Metro. Retrieved 8 November 2013. 
  44. ^ Gregory, Joel (29 October 2013). "Proteus PS3 review: A walk to remember". PlayStation Official Magazine. Retrieved 8 November 2013. 
  45. ^ Rose, Mike (30 January 2013). "Is Proteus a game -- and if not, who cares?". Gamasutra. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  46. ^ Rose, Mike (1 February 2013). "Opinion: It's totally OK to not like 'anti-games'". Gamasutra. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  47. ^ "What does it mean to be a game?". Edge. 17 May 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  48. ^ Hillier, Brenna (27 February 2013). "Proteus: homesick for unfamiliar places". VG247. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  49. ^ Good, Owen (2 February 2013). "Proteus' Creator Defends His Game—as a Game". Kotaku. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 

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