Creating compelling stories by documenting the natural world
When we first saw Beyond Blue we were immediately sold on its visuals and promise of being able to explore the ocean and discover more about the creatures that dwell there. But being told that there will also be a narrative running through it we were unsure as to how they could achieve both in a satisfying way. All became clear, however, during our recent hands-on session.
Set in the not-too-distant future, you play as Mirai, the leader of a research team, and along with your fellow researchers you head out to the South China Sea on the trail of a super pod of sperm whales. As this is one of the biggest gatherings that has ever been witnessed you’ve gone to explore the ocean to discover why.
In order to tell their story and give you the best experience possible, the developers have given you various different perspectives in which to do all your exploring. There’s the third-person diver perspective that allows you to see the beauty of the ocean as you swim among the creatures. Drones are controlled in a first-person perspective, and let you observe in close-up. But you also have the perspective of the creatures themselves. Attach a tag onto any creature and you can see the world as they would. This is the best way to witness them act in a natural manner without human interference.
Making a splash
During our demo we were sent to investigate a tag that we previously placed on a whale but is now sitting stationary on the ocean floor. In most cases when you’re sent on a mission you’re free to wander off and explore and undertake your own research. We do a little bit of that when we come across a turtle feeding on jellyfish. You’re able to scan all of the sealife and doing so will increase your knowledge base and you’ll gain a better understanding of their behaviour.
After some relaxing exploration we make our way inside a cave to where the tag has somehow ended up. As we go to pick it up the culprit of the tag thief is revealed and a camouflaged octopus gets startled and sprays us with ink. We were told that the scent of this ink can actually attract other creatures such as sharks. Thankfully this isn’t a survival game by any stretch of the mark and you’ll never be in any real danger, but there are small elements of risk like this to add narrative tension.
Using the data from the tag we discover the last location where whale activity was registered before the tag fell off and was stolen by the octopus. So we head in that direction, and overlooking an ocean cliff we witness the large pod of sperm whales swimming towards the surface. We then spot a baby whale who is clearly very unwell but before we could see any more the demo ends.
The developers are keen to have you absorbed in the game and paying full attention to what’s happening around you so that you experience the sense of exploration without being distracted. So although you’ll have conversations while you swim around the ocean, the bulk of the narrative and more in-depth conversations will take place within your submarine. The sub essentially acts as your safe house and is a place where you can reflect on everything you’ve experienced. It’s also where you’ll take control of the drones should you need to use them.
We may be in love with pacing and tone of the game but now all we want to do is save that baby whale.
“You head out to the South China Sea after a super pod of sperm whales”
Only 5% of the ocean has ever been explored. The other 95% is a total mystery