Will World of Diving be an aquanaut’s holiday or an online yacht party?

, | Games

There are a couple of reasons I’m predisposed to follow World of Diving, an underwater exploration game from an independent Dutch studio crowdsourcing its development (Indiegogo link here and Steam Greenlight link here).

The first is that I’m an erstwhile diver myself (if you haven’t actually been in the water in the last, say, two years, you can’t call yourself a diver in the present tense; scuba diving is as unnatural as space exploration and it takes acclimation, no matter how much experience you have). So I love the idea of a moderately serious simulation in a procedurally generated underwater world. In the above video, I was sold when the divers gave each other the “okay” sign rather than talking over mysterious microphones in their mouthpieces.

But the main reason I’ll be following this game is that there are too few like it. Nintendo’s Endless Ocean games for the Wii were a bit too gamey, as befits games published by Nintendo. Most of you have never even heard of the golden standard for this tiny genre. Aquanaut’s Holiday, for the original Playstion, came out in 1995. It was a simultaneously confounding and relaxing game, from a time when there was no such thing as a first-person open-world sandbox. As I should have guessed from the title, Aquanaut’s Holiday had no game structure: no quests, no goals, no danger. I swam around in vain searching for something like a shark or a giant squid. What sort of underwater videogame doesn’t have a shark or a giant squid? I’m not sure I ever figured out that the only thing that passed for gameplay was a coral reef endgame in which you built a home for fish. The developer of Aquanaut’s Holiday went on to make another confounding and relaxing game called Tail of the Sun, which is arguably a precursor to games like Minecraft and Don’t Starve.

Unfortunately, World of Diving is also an online game. Here’s where the promise of procedurally generated underwater exploration starts to look like something else:

Starting out in the Caribbean, World of Diving recreates and brings to life the world of wonder and discovery that is at the bottom of the ocean, where you will be hang out with friends — whether you have met them in or outside of the game — and can dive with the sea turtles, hunt for the great white shark, and party on your own luxury yachts.

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