Rae, a 10-year-old girl, walks towards what she thinks is a water fountain. She recognizes the sound from a fountain near her house. But Rae is blind, and as she gets closer she realizes that she's actually hearing water drip from a sewage drain.
Rae approaches laundry on a clothesline, only to get closer and realize she's actually walking towards a scarecrow.
Rae hears a dog barking loudly and gets scared, only to get closer and realize it's friendly.
Beyond Eyes is a game about Rae and the struggles she faces as a blind girl in search of a simple goal: finding a cat. Along the way, she'll explore the world around her, looking for clues. And whatever pops into her head shows up for the player on the screen.
As the player, that means most of the world appears white. But as Rae touches, hears and smells things around her, the world fills in — or at least, the world as she imagines it. If a bell rings, a bell animation flashes in the distance showing a tower. If a dog barks, the dog appears with a bubble around it indicating that it's barking. And as Rae walks, the ground appears under her feet.
The game is about exploring. It's about walking, making choices about how to interact in certain situations and feeling what it's like to be blind. To that end, there's only a single button in play: interact. Creative Director Sherida Halatoe says she experimented with traditional adventure game puzzles, like the player being stuck in a room and needing to find a way out, but found that they felt wrong so the team decided to move for a simpler experience — one that she says has been inspired by animated shorts that tell a lot of their story through animation.
Visually, the game loosely resembles Giant Sparrow's The Unfinished Swan, in that unexplored areas typically appear white until you interact with them, and fill in as you play.
"The funny thing is a lot of people are reminded of Unfinished Swan, but when I started working [on this] it was just a tech demo," says Halatoe. "It was one of the things that I looked at purely based on how I can achieve this [idea of] making things physical from a technical point of view, but there was nothing else to Unfinished Swan at that point."
Halatoe has been working on Beyond Eyes for three years, first as a school project in the Netherlands, then as her job out of school and now as part of a publishing deal with Worms creator Team 17. The publishing deal means she's getting development help from Team 17 staff, and that the game is also coming to Xbox One.
Halatoe also says that over the past three years, she has experimented with a variety of ideas related to the game's concept — braille on a touch screen comes to mind, as does something involving Kinect or audio clues — but that Beyond Eyes will be a streamlined game that players can even play on mute if they choose.
At this point, Halatoe says the game is in production and scheduled to release in 2015, likely in the second half of the year.