Blurring real life and fantasy in the Pluto Gameworld

April 1, 2016

The Space and Tumblr prize winner Mez Breeze gives us the inside track into the development of Pluto, a gameworld where objects can have mysterious properties..

In 2015, Andy Campbell and I had the distinct privilege of being named recipients of The Space’s open call commission for our transmedia/gameworld project Pluto. In tandem with this commission, we were awarded The Tumblr International Award for Digital Art, an award which thoroughly surprised us at the time – it being one of those secretly-squirrelly awards that doesn’t accept nominations and one to which you can’t directly submit. As we are currently right in the thick of Pluto-development thanks to both The Space and Tumblr, we thought we’d take the time to give a quick update explaining just what our audience can expect.

Pluto is a transmedia work which has at its heart a 3D gameworld. This gameworld delicately blurs fantasy and what’s commonly known as “the real”. Pluto is about what happens when the world as we know it isn’t, doesn’t, shouldn’t: it plays on the fact that perception is a crucial aspect of how we construct (what we know as) reality. When entering the Pluto gameworld, expect the unexpected. Nothing established holds true: or… does it? Time *might* just stretch into and beyond the past and/or run higgledy-piggledy into the future. Realities *may* just switch and merge. And the characters? Let’s just say the characters find and lose, lose and find themselves in this space where realities fragment.

But what about the story? Well, the Pluto narrative stitches and stretches through a 3D gameworld, an app, a VR world-extension, and a website hub that houses backstory elements that knit together this duplicating, fracturing place. The plot centers on John, a computer engineer who inherits a collection of weird objects from Mo, his Aunt. Mo bequeaths them to John and his daughter, Charlotte. Over time, John and Charlotte begin to realise that the objects have unusual physical properties and that the more they are exposed to them, the more their realities and memories appear to change. Through the app, a VR/3D gamespace and browser-based story, Pluto presents windows into a splintered storyworld where perceptions are stretched beyond the “real” as we (think we) know it.

To date, we’ve had amazing and encouraging feedback about Pluto: in November 2015, our Environment Demo was exhibited at the 2015 International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling. Pluto was also showcased at the 2015 Digital Writer’s Festival and Freeplay/ACMI’s 2015 Parallels Indie Game Showcase, and made the Official Selection of the 2016 Electronic Literature Organisation Conference/Exhibition to be held in June this year. Just a smidgen of the feedback from demos, footage, and visual we’ve released include: “Looks stunning! One not to be missed” (Theodoros Chiotis) and “So gorgeous! I can’t wait to play it” (from Shane Hinton). And finally, Alan Sondheim has described Pluto as: “Astonishing, wonderful, I’d think the future of gaming and electronic literature itself” – we’re pretty hopeful we can prove him right.

Mez Breeze

Take a peak at our new 360 trailer available to view on YouTube here. Pluto will go live later this summer. More details here when it does.