What the Hell is Everything?

What the Hell is Everything?

The upcoming PS4 release promises more than a million years of gameplay. But what is it all about?

Ever since it was first announced on the Playstation Blog a little over a year ago, I've been highly intrigued by the upcoming PS4, PC and Mac title, Everything. Mostly because try as I might, I just can't quite figure out what the hell it's all about.

It's the product of a small team of developers led by LA-based artist David OReilly, whose previous creation, Mountain, was one of the most popular iOS apps of 2014. The experimental "relax 'em up" enables you to "fulfill your dreams of being a mountain". When you first start the… well… I guess I'll call it a game, you're asked to respond to a series of three abstract questions and statements by drawing your answers on-screen. These are used to procedurally generate a mountain, which you can then watch over as it floats in space.

As time passes, the game runs through a day-to-night cycle, weather patterns form and change, and trees grow and die. Occasionally, random objects appear and embed themselves in the mountain, and sometimes the mountain might say something – a question or observation that seems to be randomly generated. If you let the game run long enough – apparently around 50 hours – the mountain will eventually reach the end of its lifespan in one of a number of different ways.

Despite lacking much in the way of interactivity – some users have described Mountain as being more of a screensaver than a game – the unique and surreal experience was surprisingly well received, and precipitated some philosophical musings from the likes of The Atlantic and Gamstutra.

And speaking of existential chin-stroking, that brings us nicely back to David OReilly's latest project, Everything. The game was showcased yesterday in this 10-minute short narrated by late British philosopher Alan Watts, which I found strangely mesmerizing and utterly compelling. Underpinning a large part of my fascination is the fact that the game sometimes looks amazing, and sometimes comes across as really weird and wonky. But what is it? Is it a piece of interactive art? Is it actually a game? Or just a load of highbrow twaddle?

According to the official website, "Everything is an interactive experience where everything you see is a thing you can be, from animals to planets to galaxies and beyond. Travel between outer and inner space, and explore a vast, interconnected universe of things without enforced goals, scores, or tasks to complete. Everything is a procedural, AI-driven simulation of the systems of nature, seen from the points of view of everything in the Universe."

Couple that with publisher Double Fine's recent blog post that states Everything will feature, "one million+ years of gameplay, a rich musical score, and thousands of playable characters," and you have something that feels somewhat akin to No Man's Sky, another procedurally-generated open-universe game that boasted 18 quintillion planets to explore. However, while Hello Games' much-hyped, but ultimately rather disappointing release was clearly a game, Everything seems to be a lot more vague in terms of the way it functions. Indeed, it's unusual to watch ten minutes of a something being played and still not really know how it's actually going to work.

And that makes me very curious. Everything is clearly an experimental title that seems to buck most gaming conventions, but I'm really keen to see exactly what kind of experience it's actually going to deliver. It seems that you can zoom down to the level of microbes, or expand your view to encompass whole galaxies. You can tumble across planets as stylized animals, insects, and plants, or become a balloon or a violin and float around in space. It all just seems so strange and random. What's the point? Is there a point?

It won't be long until we can find out: Everything is scheduled for release on PS4 on March 21st, and on PC and Mac on April 21st.

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