[PlayStation 4] Probe: A Game Dev Experience Review
Probe: A Game Dev Experience from Sony interactive Entertainment and Voxel Labs is a game development simulator on PS4. Check our Probe: A Game Dev Experience review!
Experience the magic of the videogame production cycle. Go behind the scenes and discover how videogames are designed, the programming which underlies them, and the digital art which brings them to life!
Probe: A Game Dev Experience is the newest game from the PlayStation Talents initiative, where smaller releases get their time to shine on the PlayStation platform. In this release, you have just accepted a job as a jack of all trades at a fictional video game company named EcoSoft.
You’ll begin the game by exploring the office in search of people who can give you tasks. I liked walking and discovering the small life-sized office since, and as a software developer myself, I think it is a pretty accurate representation of an office and the employees that would work there.
The game was designed with optional support for the PlayStation VR headset from a first-person perspective. You can also use your DualShock 4 and play it as a regular PlayStation 4 game without the need for a headset. As you wander through the office, you’ll be given a total of five different tasks, ranging from working on the art on a scene to configuring AI and watching the game unfold. The first missions are about setting up a light source on different scenes. The concept in itself was nice, and I really felt like I was designing a proper light source, but some of the sub-tasks felt random and required trial and error instead of correctly understanding what was required.
The second type of task is programmatic sequences, which are displayed as little boxes of buttons configuration and gameplay actions. You’ll have to link them together in order to achieve the desired result. As a software developer, I thought this was great and kinda representative of the analysis required before going into a task. Like with the previous tasks, trial and error is needed.
This brings me to the issue with Probe: the horrible controls in a non-VR environment using the DualShock 4. By the time I had completed the second set of tasks, I had realized that I had spent nearly half of my time fighting against the controls. The issue here is that the developer opted to use the motion sensors of the DualShock 4, but this isn’t precise nor reliable. Every now and then, I would contort my arms only to move my reticle to the desired spot and then complete the specific action. I needed to recalibrate my controller every 30 seconds or so in every task because a drift would happen, and the “stable” position would be way off. The fix here is simple: remove the DualShock 4 motion controls in a non-VR environment, and let me use the left analog stick to move the reticle like in any other game.
Back to the tasks to execute, in the next one, you’ll program a basic AI, which is once again a great introduction to the concept for a younger programmer, although the challenge ramps up a bit as you need to use more inputs to complete the rudimentary levels. The last type of task is modeling a new character using a skeleton and different parts. Once again, this is a great introduction to the work of artists, but it was by far the worst mini-game to play with the DualShock 4.
As for the presentation, the character’s models are of varying quality. The main character’s CEO off the game looks good. The office is also great to explore. I did think that the actual frame rate was quite low and often dipped below 30 FPS even with the relatively simplistic environments in a non-VR environment. There are also multiple typos and non translated Spanish terms, which can hopefully be fixed by way of a patch. I finished the game in around two hours, and I’m confident having a better control scheme in non-VR would have cut that by at least half an hour.
Probe: A Game Dev Experience has a very interesting premise, and the trailer sold me on its potential…. until I played it. In a non-VR environment, using the motion sensor of the DualShock 4 is a terrible option, and it’s something that will get in the way of those of you playing this without a PS VR headset. The tasks to complete were clever and easy to understand, showing at a basic level what is done when creating a video game.
As for trophy hunters who want to 100% the game, here’s a trophy guide if you’re looking for the shortest route towards every trophy in this game:
This Probe: A Game Dev Experience review is based on a PlayStation copy provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment.