Flug is right. Revolving an entire game around one play mechanic is a very bad idea. As soon as I heard “immersive sim” being bandied about in relation to UA by the dev team to the exclusion of story/depth, I knew it was doomed.
A game that, bogglingly, by some trickery of art and science, happens to be…Thief Modern.
A Thief Modern that doesn’t suggest Thief 1998 is tired and worn out, but scratching the surface of possibility no one tapped, and if it doesn’t need ownership of Thief IP to pull off, due to how lovingly it revitalizes what LGS’s Thief games did without appearing to be Thief, yet has the player feeling they are intruders in the game spaces, deserving to die if caught. Please, build the systems, even if you don’t build a Thief game.
I’d tend to agree a stealth game would be great, but with an expanded toolkit. Not just gadgets, though that, too. Concepts that have been mined in other games like Tenchu, Splinter Cell, Deus Ex, Metal Gear Solid, and the Hitman series. For instance, using disguises to blend into a crowd, or access restricted areas. Crowd management isn’t often utilized in stealth–would be nice to address more than sound, light, and shadows.
And if most equippable items have multiple uses, not based in stacking or combining, then they’re on the better track. Elegance and intelligence, avoiding tropes of execution or expectation. A city that is less and less set dressing as game development tech improves.
How about this for a template?
So, for example, a game based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Mars” novels might be characterized something like this:
Theme: Heroism and cooperation amid dwindling resources
Story: Perform heroic deeds to become Warlord of Mars and save the city of Helium
Style: First-person swordplay
Toolset: Agility, fencing
Mechanics: Jumping, swordplay, heroic choices
Dynamics: Traps protect useful ancient tech; heroes, villains, traitors, spies all have agendas
Aesthetic: Barbarism and pockets of tech on a dying planet
Following that pattern, here’s an idea for what a stealth game might look like:
Theme: Secretly defend the world from eldritch horrors
Story: Secret societies collude to empower ancient extra-dimensional evils
Style: First-person sneaker
Toolset: Mentalism, performance of rituals, collection of mystic orbs
Mechanics: Lay on hands to cloud/clear minds, reveal truths (within truths)
Dynamics: Group memberships confer power – shifting alliances, betrayals
Aesthetic: Steampunk Doctor Strange
I love your idea for a stealth game based around Lovecraft! We could expand on that.
My next question is more precise: Otherside has done a fantasy game, and soon a sci-fi game. What setting would form a suitable background for their next game? I am not fond of modern, so something fantastic would be nice. How about a survival-stealth horror game? I’d love to see Otherside’s take on a horror game.
There is a black-and-white staticy, grainy art style to a game coming out featuring Dario Argento, one of my favorite Italian horror movie maestros. It is called Dreadful Bond, and is still in Kickstarter. Something like this would work. Maybe even a dash of spot color, like red for blood. Thoughts?
PS: if you go the survival stealth route, weaponless running-away would be best.
Exactly. I’d love a proper game, but until the rights are returned to their parents… Workarounds.
Sinusoidal and serpentine in six directions.
Slitted pupils and glaring irises.
Black orbs in sockets.
Draping and flapping membranes and tendrils.
Viscous dripping and plopping.
Dusty, papery, wheezing.
Hacking phlegmatic eructations.
Cavitating joint articulation.
Whooshing plasmatic surge.
Ancient corruption and chaotic consanguinity.
But fresh in its moldy humidity.
Lovecraftian Giger. I love that.
Fun to see this thread revived, especially since the next project after UA is in the works in Boston…
The most I can say is that the team will always pursue games that they’re interested in making, but of course there’s burnout from exploring the same themes and gameplay elements from a project you’ve worked on for nearly 4 years.
I think Shock3 has some hints of horror to it, but the isolation was always a big factor.
Meanwhile UA was meant to convey a sense of freedom to explore while also challenging the limitations imposed on you by the doom counter / Typhon / the faction expectations.
The next game… hmm…
Enochlophobia? Find a way to get to safety through smothering crowds of…not zombies. Create enticements to draw some not-zombies to one side, and slip through the space created. Use the world to push, pull, not zombies out of your way. With Grand Theft Rickshaw moments for relief.
I know you can’t give many details, but is it futuristic? Fantasy? Horror? Can you give us a non-spoilerific hint?
I think that’s the most I can say
One more thought:
We (and I!) have talked a lot about genres. That’s a convenient thing to hang a discussion on; it’s sort of the nature of genres that they exist because people have come to know them as a kind of convention.
But that’s also a defect of genres: they’re conventional! It’s the easiest thing in the world to say, “oh, let’s do a superhero game” or “zombie game” or even “eldritch horror game.” There’s some room to innovate in these, and the Marketing/Sales/VC folks find it helpful… but for a game designer, it’s kind of boring. BTDT!
An option is a genre mashup of some kind. “The Sims meets Populous,” or “Grand Theft Auto as a bullet hell shooter” or “System Shock but as turn-based strategy” or “FPS-RPG” (cough), and so on. These can be more interesting to design, and it still gives the money folks a shorthand way of pitching to investors, but you’re still focused on known genres. Again, that’s not entirely a bad thing given that many gamers are more comfortable playing a game where they know some of the conventions. But it’s just not that exciting when what you really enjoy is discovering new territories in gameplay.
So maybe instead of genre – the “Aesthetics” part of Mahk’s MDA model – we should be hoping OtherSide are thinking how to innovate in one of the other components of that model: Mechanics or Dynamics. (I think there’s also a “Kinesthetics” component, but that’s just me. )
What new mechanics are there that OtherSide could iterate on for a game? Sneaking was a great example of this, and the “rune-drawing” of Arx Fatalis was an interesting possibility – what else? First-person stomper?
How about dynamics? I personally think this is OtherSide’s strong suit, going back to the Looking Glass days – the world itself is complex and reactive in logically plausible ways. This area is not only catnip, I believe, to a lot of the gamers who enjoyed the Looking Glass / Ion Storm Austin games, it’s also an area where there hasn’t been a lot of emphasis (meaning there’s still plenty of room for innovation) and where the technology may finally be burly enough to try some new ideas.
For example, the “ecosystem” part had to be cut from the original vision for Underworld Ascendant. What if that notion got its own game? What if understanding and manipulating the living environment was the core gameplay concept? By focusing on the dynamics of ecosystem growth and interrelationships, some mechanics almost suggest themselves, and there’s enormous space for aesthetics/storytelling ideas that wrap the dynamics and mechanics together.
What about a game that emphasizes AI? Peter Molyneux’s Black and White let you train a creature in entertaining ways, and that was in 2001 – today we’ve got ray-tracing graphics cards at a consumer price point! Who else would like to see a genetics-based creature breeding game (remember Creatures?), or some other game in which you the player cooperate with an in-game actor that uses some form of AI to make interesting choices? This is a little trickier than a game that emphasizes world-dynamics because now you’re picking a technology and trying to wrap a game around it – this doesn’t always work. But who knows? Maybe the OtherSide team gets lucky (or has an insight) and picks a tech that’s ready to emerge as the enabler for a whole new kind of game.
From Sam’s comments, it sounds like planning is already well under way for the Next Thing. So we’re just swapping general thoughts in this thread… but that’s still fun. So what do y’all think about these notions? Would you rather see OtherSide explore a little-used genre? Or are there mechanics or dynamics you’d rather see them play with?
The whole history of the devs in their recent and previous incarnations has been in simulation, more or less; whether 1st person genre RPG, flight-sim, dino-sim, robo-sim etc. All have a few thing in common…a sense of world, responsiveness, and some story and consistency within that world. Oh, and imagination.
We’ve had this discussion before. Niche hybrid mash-ups don’t do anything for me, personally. They’re just one step removed from the genre-cliches that gave rise to them before they were combined.
Or you can leapfrog the worry about genres entirely. Choose one and build something new within it (as UU and SS did, sort of, then latterly Thief).
There is no shame in revisting an existing property (with a large installed sales base). Well, unless you make a hash of it…
I imagine there’s some temptation to take on something a bit more lighthearted or off at a tangent, or whatever (the rebound) but I think that would ultimately work out badly, even if it feels good or liberating at the time.
I’m not a huge fan of hybridization, either. It tends to combine existing elements, rather than innovating something new.
In answer to your question, FlatFingers, one mechanic I suggested was a shapeshifting game. For instance, you come across a crack in the wall, and shapeshift into a mouse to crawl inside it. Or a boulder is blocking a passage, so you morph into a bear to move the boulder. As you go, you gain new forms from enemies you encounter, either by stealing their DNA, or casting a spell on them (depending on whether we are talking sci-fi or fantasy.) This is the type of game mechanic I’d like to see a game revolve around.
Someone suggested a vampire-stealth game (sounds like horror!) where you can morph into a bat, a wolf, or a mist–all for different purposes. This is exactly what I’m talking about.
I wanted to add one more thought. One of the most compelling plots you see in movies is the revenge motive. We’re talking movies like Django, Kill Bill, Oldboy, and John Wick. Yet you never see this in a game. I think it would be neat if the main character was an Everyman, thrust into extraordinary circumstances by loss. This is a compelling enough reason to complete a game, and more relateable than the meathead protaganist whose biceps are as big as his rocket launcher. I wasn’t sure where else to post this, but a plot must have a hook, and we can all relate to perceived injustice.
Also, not to detour too far, but time travel is another mechanic that rarely makes it’s way into games. Well, some. But it’s treated more as a plot point than a mechanic. Enough said.
The vampire-stealth game sounds really cool…
The longer I think about vengeance in games, I think most of them do have an element of seeking justice… but it’s not always the forefront.
For time travel mechanics, my first thoughts were Remember Me and Life is Strange, which were both developed by DontNod, lol. Rewind was really interesting to use, and when I was reading an interview about LiS’ powers never being explained, I thought it was nice that the writers just wanted to emphasize the character’s insecurities and giving her MORE choices by allowing her to rewind time and do-over a lot of situations.
To Flatfingers’ point, I do think it’s evident from our team that we’re interested in working with a freedom of expression in some way. Freedom to puzzle solve, for example. It’s been interesting for us to consider what kind of game we’ll make based on timeline and budget, and focusing on what core gameplay should be like before anything else.
I forgot to ask, will the new game have a Kickstarter, or are you financing it yourselves?
No plans for any more Kickstarters! We’ve realized it doesn’t work very well with our style of iterative game development, and if we HAD to run a Kickstarter, perhaps only to gather funding once we had a nearly finished beta or something fairly late-stage. That way it’s clear to backers what sort of game it is, we should be able to raise enough for the final product, and we SHOULD have a clearer idea of what’s easier to coordinate and implement for. (A lot of KS items for UA, for example, have had to change over the course of development as the scope changed…)
Hopefully it company will play to the company strengths (and that will be ‘modern strengths’ not necessarily just ‘past strengths’ as remembered. People change, strengths change).
The KS-but late-on idea is a good one. It’s not the platform per se, it’s how it is used that is the issue, and was here.
I still think that much of the learned experience centes around physical simulation, with some fidelity to real-world states (even if imaginative) and that first-person RPG/immersive sim is the way to go. Vampires and shape-shift and super-powers, not so much (maybe it’s just me that has zero interest in these).
Actually, the best game-play is often conservative in outlook, even if the setting is new (UU, SS etc etc).
Baby and bathwater. I hope to god you don’t branch out too much, to be honest. First, show you can do what got you known in the first place, one way or another.
Also, iterative development is one of those weird terms that can be left open to mean a whole bunch of things. Flarechess is correct in his post on the Steam forum (poor bugger having to firefight endlessly) when he stresses the need for good management. Incidentally, it’s the first time I’ve seen an overt admission of the poor management that (obviously) dogged UA…although I’m not sure he should have had to be the one to make it, having joined later.