PlayerUnknown Provides Details On Ambitious New Projects Prologue and Artemis
When Nintendo adapts a new game genre for their iconic franchises, it’s likely that the genre has established itself as an industry standard. We saw this with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo’s latest Zelda entry that gave players a huge, sprawling world to explore and discover. The emphasis on huge environments that enable player interactions that are deep and meaningful has ramped up in the past decade, making Skyrim a household name and inspiring titles like Rust. Virtual worlds that demand exploration seem to be a fascination of PlayerUnknown, who recently spoke to GamesBeat about his latest projects, Prologue and Artemis. A trailer for Prologue was released in December of 2019 on YouTube, and now, Brendan ‘PlayerUnknown’ Greene has more details on what Prologue has to offer not only gamers but those looking for the next immersive, fully virtual experience.
Prologue And Artemis: The First Steps Into Virtual Worlds
In an interview with Dean Takahashi of VentureBeat, PlayerUnknown delved into what he and PlayerUnknown Productions are working on, which are huge, emergent worlds that offer players dynamic, responsive gameplay that occurs regardless of their interactions or not. It’s an experience that other games have struggled to replicate, according to PlayerUnknown:
“Red Dead Redemption is fantastic, but it’s just a bunch of scripts. You go kill all the bears in a region, go away, and they’re all back again. I want to have meaningful life in the world. If you kill all the bears in a region, maybe the deer population explodes.”
Gameplay as PlayerUnknown describes it would not solely fulfill the satisfactions and goals of players, but leave consequences on the surrounding environment that closely approximates the real world. “I want this world to have a life that isn’t dependent upon the player,” notes Greene, “I want this open world. This space where you can just even go by yourself and discover places in it. Just go hiking. I’ve had this dream for quite some time.”
As more and more ecological events occur, game environments may be one of the last bastions for observing nature that exists outside of the modern consequences of human living. However, if player consequence is equally valued as much as player choice, then the world PlayerUnknown wants to create may resemble our own in good time. But the question remains how do you achieve a world that’s big enough and dynamic enough to power consequence, arguably a more chaotic and uncertain design element than player choice. These are questions that PlayerUnknown seeks to answer with the technology behind his projects Artemis and Prologue.
Prologue: A Proper Single-Player Game
Prologue is meant to be a single-player experience where a player explores a 64 by 64-kilometer map with a realistic weather system the player must contend with. The player’s goal will be to survive without any external guidance, learning how to interact and build simply by the process of doing.
According to PlayerUnknown, Prologue mostly exists as a tech demo for PlayerUnknown Productions’ terrain technology and dynamic weather systems. AI plays a role in creating content for the massive world and helping inform interactions. The goal is to create something uniform that will change with time, and that modularity is kept intact to allow for new gameplay modes and user-generated content.
Artemis: A Living Open World
Artemis really shows the ambition of PlayerUnknown’s living world concept. The world of Artemis, according to Greene, will be an open-world, immersive, sandbox game that “uses machine learning to produce worlds and systems bigger than any other game ever made. It is an attempt to create the world as close as the team can.” Rather than players building bases and operating as squads or teams, the goal for Artemis is to allow player cooperation on the level of cities or states.
It also seems like players won’t be inhibited by Artemis’ internal game logic, as PlayerUnknown sees Artemis becoming a platform for players to create their own game modes:
“Even with the ArmA III battle royale code, there was one mission file at the start, and you could change the size of the map and all this. It would fit any size of the world. I want to keep that mentality. You can give your friends a set of paintball guns and a location and you can figure out how to play… I want to liberate people from coding. I want them to make a game mode without having to worry about modding.
The freedom to create game modes within a set of existing tools sounds an awful lot like what Roblox currently offers, as well as custom game modes that were created in Warcraft III. If PlayerUnknown is genuine about enabling user-created content in his game, then he needs to acknowledge that similar platforms with accessibility as a feature exist as competitors. How will Artemis stack up against Roblox, a platform that boasts 350,000 developers creating monetized experiences on their platform? How can Greene ensure that user-content is respected when non-endemic entities routinely adapt their content or branding to game environments as a means of occupying digital real estate as well as physical?
There’s also the metaverse question already looming over PlayerUnknown’s projects, which is a label PlayerUnknown seems uncertain of: “I’m not sure it’s the metaverse. Maybe it’s a part. They made a good talk in that talk about how the metaverse has to be open… Ultimately, with my world, I want you to be able to access it from a browser.”
PlayerUnknown acknowledges that what he describes may veer away from the concept of a game, but as more game offer opportunities for users to create the experiences they want to enjoy, it’s difficult to really acknowledge or appreciate Greene’s fascination in creating a world that so closely approximates our own.
PlayerUnknown’s History Should Help With Artemis and Prologue
Considering that Greene’s history as a developer comes from modding an existing game engine, he’s sure to create a tool suite that interacts with both Prologue and Artemis’ engine. Considering that modding tools for Bohemia Interactive games allow for asset creation and terrain building, the same tools Greene used to create the battle royale mod for ARMA, the toolkit for Prologue must be more comprehensive to allow the experiences that he envisions for his new projects. News about this toolkit would honestly be more exciting than news about Prologue or Artemis.
Much of the sentiment Greene describes in this interview echoes what DayZ creator Dean Hall said about his scrapped project Ion, a sandbox MMO meant to enable player autonomy over vast regions and link those spaces together in real-time space. Perhaps PlayerUnknown will succeed where Hall failed, but it’s yet to be seen if that’s the case. Another thing both Greene and Hall have neglected to consider is what players prioritize in their experiences. You can create the field, but you’re ultimately relying on someone else to create the reason for others to come, if you can excuse the Field of Dreams analogy. It’s a daunting responsibility that lands on the players’ shoulders.
On a personal note, the goals and design of PlayerUnknown’s Prologue and Artemis projects resemble Jorge Luis Borges’ short story “In Exactitude in Science,” which may offer a forewarning to Greene on how future generations may receive his work:
. . . In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.
—Suarez Miranda, Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV, Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658.