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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 09:02 GMT
Gamers set for sensory overload
Rez for the Playstation2, Sony
Virtual world designed to overwhelm the senses
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By BBC News Online's Alfred Hermida
A new video game inspired by the abstract artist Kandinsky aims to overload the senses with its psychedelic visuals and pulsating dance beats.

Rez for the Playstation 2 seeks to create a sense of synaesthesia, literally a crossing of the senses, so that you can "see" sounds or "taste" colours.

"Rez is an experience, a fusion of light, vibration and sound completely immersed in synaesthesia," said its creator, Tetsuya Mizuguchi of Japanese game developers United Game Artists.

The game takes place in a virtual world inside a computer. You play a hacker of sorts, flying through six levels of cyberspace in search of the artificial intelligence at the heart of this world.

But there is a twist to the traditional shoot-em approach that makes Rez stand out.

Virtual DJ

Every time you destroy one of the insect-like enemies, a sound is generated. This sound becomes a form in the scrolling, flashing 3D computer world rushing past.

In Rez you have to fight insect-like enemies, Sony
Enemies create sounds when destroyed
Destroying enemies in patterns results in more elaborate sounds and effects, literally creating the music and the graphics on the fly.

"We worked closely with the artists within the game, breaking down the tracks to the most basic of notes then putting them all back together to fit in with the game structure," Mr Mizuguchi told BBC News Online.

"We tried to create a game that was true to the concept of synaesthesia. As nothing has ever been done like this before, I guess you could say we tried to be different."

Artistic influence

Tetsuya Mizuguchi drew much of his inspiration for Rez from the concepts of Kandinsky, whose own paintings were influenced by music.

Kandinsky was fascinated with power of expression in music and the freedom of imagination it gave the listener.

While one person is playing Rez, the others can watch the visuals and listen to the music

Tetsuya Mizuguchi, United Game Artists
Mr Mizuguchi was thinking along similar lines when the idea for Rez came to him at a club, seeing the lights, feeling the vibrations and hearing the music all around him.

He sought to capture some of Kandinsky's ideas by using wireframe graphics that are reminiscent of the 1980s film Tron.

The look of the Rez brings to mind the neon-charged cyberspace envisaged in William Gibson's bible of cyberpunk fiction, Neuromancer.

By flying through the virtual world of Rez, players are bombarded with colour, form, movement and sound.

"We have a vision that people will be chilling out with friends," said Mr Mizuguchi. While one person is playing Rez, the others can watch the visuals and listen to the music."

Rez for the Playstation 2 and Sega Dreamcast is out now

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