Okay sure, today’s State of Play broadcast had sweet deets on big upcoming releases like The Last of Us 2, but for my money, the most interesting thing that Sony showed off today was Humanity, a new simulation game coming to the PlayStation 4 sometime next year. Based on what little we know about it from today’s reveal, Humanity might just scratch the ever-elusive Weird Puzzle Game™ itch that something like IQ: Intelligent Qube might have soothed back in the day.
It’s not being developed by a game studio, for starters — it’s the brain child of a small Japanese design firm called “Tha,” pronounced like an acronym, who originally set out to build the kind of human behavior simulation that a “transcendental being” would create.
“I wanted to explore how we humans and our society would look to an outside form of intelligence, and how they would simulate human group behavior,” said Tha founder Yugo Nakamura in a post on the Official PlayStation Blog. “I started this project by investigating and collecting assorted examples of how people behave in groups. Luckily, I live in Tokyo, which has crowds everywhere, so I was able to discover a lot of unique group behaviors at train stations, event venues, on the street, and so on.
“For example, if these otherworldly beings looked at influencers, tweetstorms, and other social media phenomena,” Nakamura continued, “what would they deduce about humans based on that? What would they think of dictators, who come to power and get overthrown, only to see another dictator take their place? How would they interpret our history of war and peace, which seems doomed to repeat itself forever?”
As can be seen in the above trailer, Humanity contains deeply abstracted representations of many different human group behaviors, peaceful or otherwise, portrayed in a striking, somewhat alien, and markedly dehumanized fashion. While specifics on Humanity‘s gameplay mechanics and narrative (if any) remain a mystery, the trailer suggests a sort of Lemmings-esque, goal-oriented people herding thing.
Enhance, the studio behind Tetris Effect, is publishing Humanity, and is also lending Tha some of its games industry expertise. The two companies began working together after Enhance founder/rhythm game visionary Tetsuya Mizuguchi saw an early demo of Humanity at a Unity engine showcase.
“Our main programmer, Yama-san, showed an early version of Humanity as part of a presentation to Unity developers; one of the judges at that event was Mr. Tetsuya Mizuguchi from Enhance,” Nakamura said. “Several months later, Mizuguchi-san reached out. ‘I can’t stop thinking about that demo. Let’s talk.’ The idea of the man behind Rez taking an interest in us was very exciting, so we met up with Enhance and agreed to formally develop this as a full game for them to publish.”
Beyond what we can infer from the trailer, and the fact that Humanity will have some kind of optional PlayStation VR component, the rest of Humanity is behind closed doors. But even with just these small tidbits to work with, as someone with both a dusty PSVR headset and a deep interest in weird-ass experimental games, I’m extremely down for whatever Humanity ends up being.