At some point or another, almost everyone has wanted to go swim with dolphins, fish, sharks, or turtles. For those of us who live inland, E-Line Media’s new diving game, Beyond Blue, is a chance to explore the deep. Protagonist and professional diver Mirai takes the player on a journey under the sea to study some of the magnificent animals that live there and to share some of the wonders living below the surface.
To take a deep dive into Beyond Blue, we talked to some of the minds behind the project to find out more about the game and how it came to be. Creative Director and E-Line Media CEO Michael Angst explained the history of E-Line Media and how that led up to the BBC partnership.
“We founded the company specifically to try to explore games that could be super fun but also meaningfully explore people and the planet at the same time. So you know the company is dedicated to exploring different perspectives from a cultural perspective and trying to identify the things in the real world that are as awesome as a lot of the fiction that's created for games and movies," Angst explained. “We got a call from the BBC, who was working on Blue Planet II, their most recently released nature series about the ocean and they had invited us to potentially partner and be inspired by the work that they had done. They felt like there was an opportunity to do a fictional game that explores the same themes and take advantage of some of the scientists that they had brought together to help focus their documentary.”
Kevin Jorge, Senior Producer for Video Games and Interactive at the BBC, said that BBC Earth had been looking into opportunities to get involved in the gaming space but was having difficulty finding a partner. After E-Line released Never Alone, the studio caught their attention. The studio's commitment to accuracy and education was just what the BBC was looking for.
"So we got in contact with them and conversations gradually evolved over time to find this useful way to work together," Jorge said. "Eventually it evolved into what you see now which is Beyond Blue, which is inspired by Blue Planet II, our landmark natural history series."
The partnership was formed with one goal in mind: to teach players about the ocean and its creatures in a fun and realistic manner. By using footage filmed for Blue Planet II, Beyond Blue gives players a chance to learn about the underwater world through "Ocean Insight" videos.
"Those Ocean Insight videos are there to provide more context to what you've seen and really reinforced the fact that this game is based on real animals, real location," Jorge said.
As Angst related, “Honestly a few weeks in, we were like this is just too awesome an opportunity, too important and … that was really what caused us to do the game.”
Once they actually started to develop Beyond Blue, the team realized they were going to need expert scientists to make the game as realistic as possible. They consulted with seven experts in the fields of Marine Biology and Oceanography, including the game's Resident Ocean Scientist Anna Bakker.
“When I saw this project, I thought it was the most unique and exciting way to connect with the public about the ocean, and having been an amateur gamer myself, was immediately attracted to the idea of working for a company with E-Line’s genuine mission statement of making meaningful and fun games,” she explained.
Bakker’s role as Resident Scientist was primarily concerned with ensuring scientific accuracy in the game, and fleshing out Mirai’s world in a realistic manner.
“Because E-Line’s mission is to make games that capture the real world to educate their players, the team wanted to be sure that all of the science they included in the game was correct. From Mirai’s swim speed to the placement of the coral and algae to the ideas for storylines, I gave input as to what a marine scientist would expect to see in the game and what the ocean actually is like. I helped the team brainstorm what kinds of marine life would be present at all of the dive locations, how it should all look when put together, and what interesting facts we could share about all of the animals and coral."
Beyond Blue’s commitment to realism is evident in the game, where Mirai’s underwater scan tool identifies animals you find and opens up profiles for them. Wanna know more about an octopus? There’s a menu section you can pull up at any time and browse through information, and the Ocean Insights are also available from there. For those interested in reading more about the game, check out TechRaptor's review.