Saturday 26 June 2010

Some Upcoming Games I'm Excited About: No. 9 - 7

This post continues the countdown of the commercial releases I hope are going to do fascinating things with interactive narrative over the coming year or so.

The story so far:
15. Privates
14. The Old Republic
13. I Am Alive
12. Brink
11. Kinect
10. The Last Guardian


Developer: 2K Marin    Lead Designer: Jonathan Pelling   Release: 2011   Format: PC, 360

WTF is it?
The long-awaited and controversial FPS reboot of the classic turn-based strategy series. Plenty more details here.

What's mind-bogglingly intoxicating?
- I think the new format is actually going to work. There. That's my official line and I'm sticking to it. I'm a staunch PC gamer and a huge fan of the original series, but the idea of mission areas so huge they can't be 'completed', of tactical retreats and more than just run & gun gameplay... these elements promise to keep alive the spirit of X-Com - which, for me, was at its core about the on-the-fly dramas generated by your pixellated men.
- 2K Marin have proven their writing credentials with Bioshock 2 which, to my mind, was actually tighter scripted than the original.
- Five bonus points straight away for being set on earth in the 20th century.

What's a little bit disquieting?
- Given their only full product so far has been an (overly?) faithful sequel to a game of drastically stripped back ambition I'm reserving judgement on 2K Marin's ability to deliver a full and inventive vision with new(ish) IP.
- The setting is Fallout and Bioshock's love child.
- It's not turn-based. But I'll get over it. 

8. Subversion

Developer: Introversion Lead Designer: Chris Delay Release: Done when it's done    Format: PC, 360(?)

WTF is it?
Maybe I should have just bitten the bullet and labelled this a list of procedural games - although if it was, Subversion would be right up the top. The latest from 'the last of the bedroom coders', Subversion is almost more X-Com than XCOM - control a squad of corporate infiltration operatives in a dynamically generated city.

What's mind-bogglingly intoxicating?
- While there'll be room for the developer's touch (hand crafted elements crowbarred into the game world), the environments and missions are fresh for every player, allowing for some truly unique experiences.
- The studio are famously candid about their development process, and things are sounding good.
- Introversion proved with Uplink and Darwinia that they care about telling personal stories from within a unique and malleable gameplay framework.

What's a little bit disquieting?
- Darwinia + and Defcon didn't really do that at all. Quite the opposite, in fact.

7. Journey
Developer: thatgamecompany   Creative Director: Jenova Chen   Release: 2011   Format: PS3

WTF is it?
Officially announced at E3 following a leak, Journey is ex-student developer thatgamecompany's adventure style follow up to PS3 download hits Flower and fl0w, and the studio's fourth project. Based in a huge desert environment, the game touts the developer's usual emphasis on minimalist visual style, combined with a new and perhaps more traditional exploration-based central mechanic and a multiplayer aspect that's still shrouded in secrecy.

What's mind-bogglingly intoxicating?
- These guys care about emotional engagement. After speaking with Jenova at last year's Develop I can confirm that, while it's anyone's guess whether or not they'll achieve their lofty ambitions, they're certainly shooting for the right goal posts.
- With what at first appears to be a more traditional adventure / platformer I'm interested to see if this turns out to be a more meaty offering than the studios' previous vignettes. We've seen they can pull off simple and evocative ideas with elegance, but a more complex offering can only be a fascinating prospect.
- The mutiplayer aspect is a sort of massively singleplayer concept: a singleplayer adventure in which you may stumble across other players and choose to work in tandem. From a scripted vs dynamic narrative perspective this is a valuable avenue of enquiry that's been touted for a while but rarely delivered upon.
- This will mark thatgamecompany's first foray into a more explicit narrative. Flower was not without its arc and sentiment, but Journey looks to be focusing on a far more immediate plot.

What's a little bit disquieting?
- It's hardly a problem, but the studio has a very iterative approach to development: expect the final product to look very different.

No. 6 - 4 coming soon.


  1. Re: XCOM.

    OK, I keep seeing this all over the place, and I have to ask. How is this ...

    "The setting is Fallout and Bioshock's love child."

    ... a bad thing? It's like all those people complaining that BioShock 2 took place in Rapture again and it felt like an old thing and blah --I never saw any of those people (or any other people for that matter) complain when, say, Mass Effect was set the same Star Wars-ripoff universe we've been seeing in gaming for like 40 years; or when Dragon Age: Origins took place in the same pseudo-Middle Earth we've been seeing since the motherf'ing dawn of time.

    Me, I wish we see A LOT more games with that retro-futuristic America-in-the-50s-gone-bad kind of setting.

    And once that gets old, maybe we can do something with Victorian England.

  2. I can't comment for anyone else, but personally I WOULD complain about those examples as well. I recall the original ME was criticised for its generic space opera setting at the time, and I'm very definately bored to tears with elves and orcs.

    Like you, I really enjoy the "America-in-the-50s-gone-bad" stylings of Bioshock and Fallout, it just feels like the Bioshock team could have been more ambitious than setting their new IP in territory so familiar to them.

    I'd hate to see retro-sci-fi become the new middle earth.

  3. I missed the whole X-Com thing as I was not a major PCphile at the time, so I can look upon XCOM without dread. That didn't stop me having a quick go at X-Com though.

    Been excited about Subversion for awhile. It was Darwinia that taught me that RTS games could be fun. Thank you Introversion.

  4. LOL, I think RTSs used to be fun, it's just Darwinia was one of only two games in the last 15 years to do anything different with the formula.

    If you don't know the other straight off the bat, you probably need to go check out Perimeter ¨:-)

  5. To be more precise: I could never get into RTSes, they always needed more sit-down time than I was willing to give up.

    Darwinia reeled me in without making me work hard to study everything. That's the odd thing, despite the Introversion boys being slated by Microsoft QA about a hideous interface, they managed to cut through the thick RTS surface scum into the heart of the experience - and pulled me into a game genre I'd never really grokked before.

    When I see stuff like <a href=">this</a>, though, it scares the shit out of me.

  6. Looked like I just screwed up that link with no close quote. Ah well.

  7. Yeah, the time travel mechanic in that one looks like it works very nicely. If only the game around it was as inventive.