Cre­at­ing com­pelling sto­ries by doc­u­ment­ing the nat­u­ral world

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS - Adam Bryant Pub­lisheR E-Line Me­dia De­vel­oper E-Line Me­dia ETA 2019

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

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