It should be little surprise for anyone who knows me that my most exciting development from E3 was the unveiling of Child of Eden. Kept hidden for two years in development, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Q? Entertainment and Ubisoft (with a little help from Joel McHale) announced the title to the world to start off the Ubi conference. Mizuguchi took the lead, presenting a demo level paired with the 360's Kinect motion capture system. While most detailed information on the title is still sparse and hard to find, bits and pieces of information are beginning to sift around, most of which sound quite promising. Here is what we know so far...
First, we can analyze the two primary videos which launched during E3. The first, of course, being the presentation itself, and the second being the trailer on the official page . Mizuguchi's presentation first and foremost displays a desire to show the motion sensing and visuals in full effect. However, the short, gui-less demo level gives us glimpes of other aspects. From this, it appears that the first-person Child of Eden will have a similar layer structure as Rez, in which stages were broken up into various segments before reaching a boss in conclusion. At various points, Mizuguchi demonstrates that the player now has access to two types of attacks, both a traditional lock-on and an automatic shot (more like traditional rail shooters). On Kinect, they seem to switch via toggle, currently a clap. The graphical detail in the demo builds up from start to end, from bare and basic objects/backgrounds (dark, wireframe, unshaded) to full, pseudo-realistic ones (bright, full color, with a planetary backdrops). This again mirrors the progression of Rez, which takes a similar progression within and between levels. Such a change from abstract to realism was originally designed as the opposite path of Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, the major inspiration behind the original Rez/K-Project. From this presentation, it is clear that the increased graphical power of the 360 opens the entire experience far beyond the capabilities of Rez on the Dreamcast and PS2. Now, even the dullest moments are portrayed with explosions of colored, dancing pixels. And the brightest are displayed in near chaos that youtube's video encoding is hardly even able to comprehend.
As the presentation reaches its climax, the music becomes more concrete/intelligible and we are joined by images of a singing girl on the screen. This is notable, as both the music and girl are creations from Mizuguchi's musical group, Genki Rockets. Genki Rockets is a jpop/dance/electronica group with an imaginary representation focused on a young girl, Lumi (think Gorillaz for fictitious inspiration). Lumi is an 18-year-old girl in the future, and the first person ever to have been born in outer space. In addition to concerts and single/EP/album releases, Genki Rocket songs have been part of previous Q! titles Lumines and Lumines II as well as being outsourced to Grasshopper Manufacturer's No More Heroes on Wii (yes, that's really their developer name). Time will only tell what tie this girl will have to the final product, if any.
The second exhibit on display is the official Ubisoft page at childofedengame.com. The trailer here begins with some ambient images, akin to an underwater rave that is somehow simultaneously primordial and futuristic. It quickly changes to show an object similar to a gate (layer?) and then a boss. Ultimately, it leads to a motion demonstration, in which our user is seemingly trying to cleanse a squid creature from some attacking dark, viscous corruption. Unfortunately, this trailer doesn't divulge many clues to the game itself and was ultimately a bit disappointing to me (especially since this was the first I saw on the game). However, the song on the bottom of the page offers a bit more detail. The embedded comments start with stating that the soundtrack is written by Mizuguchi. This leads to a decent educated guess that the Genki Rocket music will be a significant part of the game. Ubisoft also tells us that the team has been secretly working on the game for two years (which I already mentioned earlier). The last relevant comment is a dual release on PS3 as well as 360 in early 2011. And for giggles, their last comment refers us to "childofdengame.com" for more information.
The website also offers a bit of insight into the story: "Child of Eden thrusts you in the center of a battle to save Project Lumi, a mission to reproduce a human personality inside Eden, the archive of all human memories. As the project nears completion, the archive is invaded by an unknown virus. The Player’s mission is to save Eden from the virus to restore hope and peace." This, perhaps, is one of the most telling bits we've seen yet about the game. Compare this to the story of Rez:
The world has become massively overpopulated. The rapidly expanding network societ (sic) has been crippled by rising crime rates and is on the verge of meltdown.
The new system, 'Project-K', has been created in an attempt to resolve the situation. At the core of the system is an artificial intelligence center named 'Eden'.
Eden has a more advanced A.I. Than any machine that has ever existed. It has the ability to process vast amounts of information at once, and to use that information to form its own uniquely advanced independent thoughts. Some would say that Eden has even developed a consciousness. However, Eden became confused when the flow of information being sent to it began to greatly increase in speed and volume. Eden started to question the meaning of its existence and the consequences of its action.
Finding itself surrounded by paradoxes, and realizing the power of autonomy which it possessed, Eden began to shut itself down.
Now you are about to travel into the cyberspace of Project-K Network on a mission to re-awaken Eden.
You must gain access to each area and level of the system, destroying any viruses and firewalls you encounter.
Open your senses...
The thought didn't immediately occur to me from the title alone, but Child of Eden may very well go beyond a "spiritual successor" of Rez to a non-official direct sequel (without the need for additional licensing hassles). Again, time will tell if the Edens are the same, perhaps even with the same visual representation.
The website also discloses that the game is motion-optional, rather than motion-required. I'm not certain if anyone would have expected a motion requirement or think that motion-only would be a smart idea, but it's relieving either way to hear that Child of Eden can be played on standard controls without any need for expensive motion add-ons. Either way, both the controller vibration functions and motion controls will bring a form of tactile stimulation to the game. No word yet on any extra modes of feedback such as the famous original Trance Vibrator (or the ability to use secondary 360 controllers on Rez HD).
Unfortunately, this is pretty much the extent of the information we have on the game so far. But at least in my eyes, Child of Eden looks extremely promising. The way I see it, Mizuguchi has already mastered the video game medium with his releases and their ideal usage and application of sound, visuals, touch and control. All of this while other developers still continually struggle with creating games in their own genres. It's even hard to think of many games in terms of a complete media package; perhaps only NiGHTS and a few others could make a challenge. In fact, the game's announcement had an effect in finally convincing me to purchase a 360 (along with a dirt-cheap $150 + $50 giftcard pricetag sale and the ability to play Super Street Fighter 4). But for now, all we can do is wait for the final product, until it is once again time to open our senses...