It’s been a year since we first revealed ABZÛ on PS4 at the PlayStation 2014 E3 Press Conference. Since then, the talented team at Giant Squid and I have been hard at work designing this unique and atmospheric adventure. We’ve got some new information to share about ABZÛ, and we are very excited to be giving players their first hands-on demo at the PlayStation E3 booth next week!
ABZÛ roughly translates to “The Ocean of Wisdom” from old Sumerian. This ancient, mythic concept is central to the narrative of our game: a universal story told purely through imagery and sound. You play as a lone diver who descends deeper and deeper into the sea, searching for her true purpose. Encounters with majestic creatures await and forgotten secrets lie hidden in dense kelp forests, sparkling reefs, and the murky abyss.
Although the game is greatly inspired by our experiences scuba diving, there is no air gauge in ABZÛ. We want nothing to get in the way of delivering a powerful sense of awe when players discover the mysterious ocean environments that we have created – so we allow the diver to explore and linger in these underwater realms without limitation.
Developing a deep connection with the sea life you find is a core aspect of ABZÛ. The diver can reach out and touch fish, allowing her to school and ride with them. We have designed these interactions and their emergent consequences with the goal of creating respectful and meaningful ways to commune with creatures. All of the species featured in ABZÛ are based on real animals from around the world. We have created a dynamic ocean ecosystem which simulates tens of thousands of fish, procedurally schooling and darting through the water, reacting to each other and the diver. There is a real sense of magic when swimming gracefully with a school of giant trevally and catching a ride on the back of a playful manta ray, or the fin of a majestic blue whale.
The concept of fluidity is central to Giant Squid’s approach to game design. It manifests in every element of the project, from the controls and animation to the highest level of game flow. When you play, it is immediately apparent that we allow the diver to pitch freely in the water. The ability to swim smoothly in complete loops gives a sense of weightlessness and freedom very unlike swimming control schemes in most other games. There is no game over state that forces the player to restart an area, as that would break the continuity of the story’s timeline. By focusing on fluidity throughout the design, we hope to create a completely immersive experience and a vivid world that players may lose themselves in.
Music in ABZÛ also plays a critical role in delivering emotion and narrative. Composed by our good friend Austin Wintory who I’ve worked with before on the game Journey, the score evolves with the player experience – rather than focusing just on the area the player is in. Our process is very collaborative: the art inspires the music and the music equally inspires the art in each step of development. This ensures a harmony of visuals and sound that gives the world of ABZÛ its unique atmosphere and identity.
We will be at E3 2015 showing ABZÛ at the PlayStation booth. If you’re around, be sure to come check it out or tune in to the PlayStation Live Cast on June 18th! I’ll be stopping by to talk more about ABZÛ!