Friday 15 May 2015

Project Announcements: The Masterplan & Talos: Road to Gehenna

Okay, so both these projects were already announced but I was too busy writing them to say anything about it.

The Masterplan
I played The Masterplan in early access six months ago, and instantly bought into its world. It's a top-down heist game with real-time pause and a tactical stealth focus, and central to the whole thing is the hostage-taking mechanic which enables you to control rooms and implement on-the-fly tactics like having the bank manager rob his own bank, or having the clerks form a human shield between you and the cops.

I ran into the Sharkpunch team deep in the snow at PAX East, and couldn't resist the chance to offer them some help with the writing. It's such a charming little game, it deserved better than second-language English - plus the entire script is less than 10,000 words, so it's not a great time sink.

Since coming onboard I've tried to make the world feel more consistent. A simulation game like this, where most of what happens is player-driven, turns not on the cinematics or the linear text, but the authenticity of the world you are interacting with. It doesn't need to be real, it just needs to make internal sense.

To that end I've been using flavour texts to build out the sense that you're in a 70s crime caper, recruiting a team, scoping joints and pulling off the impossible. Right now we're working on implementing more dynamic in-game speech. It's silly stuff, but the world comes alive when the characters in it react in unpredictable but logical ways.

Finally, the whole game is bookended with some more traditional linear plotting which was already hinted at in the original teaser. This is not a story-heavy game, but it wouldn't be a crime caper every detail went to plan.

The Masterplan releases on 4th June 2015.

Road to Gehenna
Having gotten Talos out the door in December last year I was all ready to take a bit of a break, and then come back and start something completely new. As ever, things did not work out that way.

Croteam collared me in January. They'd been working on extra-hard Talos DLC puzzles for who knows how long and contrary to their intentions throughout that development they decided the DLC needed some kinda story.

Not blown away by the thought of churning out more Milton, more Elohim Jonas and I immediately set about generating plot pitches which would  expand on the original world without simply following in its footsteps. We wanted a new challenge.

Pitches we discarded included the game being set in the distant past when the system was still being developed, with researchers commenting on and interpreting your every action; a secondary server with all the same rules, but completely different archive information, resulting in very different versions of ELOHIM and Milton; and one where far future beings discover the system and begin to explore it.

Without spoiling anything, the pitch we went with provides us huge flexibility in terms of the sort and tone of material we deliver. It gives us a world that fits within the original game's religious and science fiction mythology, but which resolutely has its own identity. Most importantly for me, it lets us explore completely new ideas about how to interact with the game.

Road to Gehenna is ambitious (overly so: the script is around the same size as that of the original game). I haven't undertaken a follow-up to one of my own games since the Penumbra series eight years ago because I want to keep moving forwards (the same reason, more or less, that I didn't work on Amnesia), and so Gehenna we have consciously designed to be experimental. We wanted to explore new ideas in a safe environment so that when we inevitably come to Talos 2 we will be able to raise our audience's expectations once again.

Story was fully implemented a week or two ago, and we are now in final bug-hunting. Road to Gehenna will arrive for computers and other toys in the next month or two.