Indie Project “Gone Home” Looks to Push Your Idea of Mystery Games

“Bioshock 2” wasn’t a bad game at all, but overall it couldn’t escape that dreaded cash-in feeling it exuded by virtue of being a somewhat superfluous sequel to one of the greatest video games of all time.

Still, there were elements of it that showed hints of real potential, and even innovative design. We may soon know who to thank for that now as a few members of that development team have now formed an indie development team called The Fullbright Company, and their first announced project called “Gone Home” looks to be anything but cheap or a cash-in.

Instead it’s a mystery game, and while it’s set in the first person, don’t dare call it a shooter. It’s a story of a girl going to her families’ new home after some time abroad, only to find no one is home, and a note left by her sister pinned to the front door saying to go away and not to come looking for her. The entire game then looks to be the player (as the returning girl) exploring the home in order to discover just what happened while she was away.

The developers are touting that “Gone Home” will be entirely about environment, with one of the major aspects of this being the game’s setting of the mid 90’s which is supposed to give it a distant, yet oddly familiar feel. It’s a time that isn’t vastly different from our own, yet it still allows for an original vibe, and represents a time period which doesn’t specifically get mentioned much in gaming.

More than the when, or who, of the game though, it is the where that really matters, as the home itself is to be loaded with insane amount of details not necessarily relevant to the plot, but intricately designed all the same. Nearly everything in the house, from trash, to receipts, to old diaries is fully interactive and has something to tell the player about the virtual life of the people who inhabit this place. It’s the classic idea of sandbox gaming, but instead of a sprawling metropolitan area, or sweeping outdoor terrain, it takes place in a more intimate dwelling where the plot isn’t point A to point B, but rather a living, breathing idea that can be explored with little in the way of pre-determined objectives.

“Gone Home” looks to be a title that wants you to appreciate the little things in life, and how they make up the bigger ideas that we eventually use as landmarks in our personal history. A great example of this detail is a note written by the character’s mother that’s handwriting looks like the handwriting style one would have if they were a typical middle aged mom from around this time. Another might be how the players is able to define the entire father character by the books he keeps, and the gifts he gave his children more than anything directly, or even indirectly, said about him. They’re little things, but then again, this is to be a game of little things.

Also of interest at this point is the vague horror nature of the game. The whole “family missing” bit, along with some ominous warning signs about the house’s history and a vague suggestion to avoid the attic that have been mentioned, are all little hints that something indeed went seriously amiss here, and lends the game a sense of uncertainty, which can sometimes be something a great deal more terrifying than straight up horror.

Not a lot more is known about “Gone Home” at this point and it’s pretty clear that is how the developers want it. Level design is consistently the most unappreciated aspects of gaming, and “Gone Home” looks to be almost solely a well designed level. It’s the type of game then that might not be easy to judge by its eventual sales then, but rather measured on its success from a pure design standpoint. A game like “Gone Home” succeeds if it gets those who play it talking about it, and if it gets people in the industry considering it when making their next title. From the little shown so far, it looks like it could be well on the way to accomplishing just that.

Hitman Absolution’s New Multiplayer Mode Encourages Death by Design

I always love it when a franchise that you wouldn’t think is equipped for multiplayer introduces it in a surprising and innovative way that maintains the ideas and style of the single player experience. Examples would be the always brilliant, always fun Merc vs Spy gameplay from “Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory,” or the brilliant Assassins vs Assassins mode in “Assassins Creed: Brotherhood.” It’s a tough road to go down though, as it requires some real thought and commitment to making the mode work. The other option is to just go the candy bar route of games like “Max Payne 3,” “Uncharted,” or “Bioshock 2″ and just tack on a shanty deathmatch mode.

I say candy bar because it’s a route that’s often satisfying, but rarely filling (Snickers non-included).

As a fan of the “Hitman” series, I was thrilled then to read about the new multiplayer mode in “Hitman Absolution,” which puts players in a dungeon master type role by allowing them to design a contract assassination challenge for other players. The creator can take one of the game’s single player levels, and modify it to include the targets (of which they can set the number) and other parameters that may include things like no disguises, or a limited number of kills, or even a rough guideline of certain NPC actions.

Touting their own cleverness, though, the developers have assured everyone that even the most seemingly complex and limiting contracts will have several ways to be completed, even if some are better than others, just as in the main game. Even better is the expansive leaderboard system which keeps track of three different rankings (richest assassin, most skillful assassin, and a running ranking of the most popular contracts).

“Assassin’s Creed” may be the darling silent killer franchise at the moment (and “Assassin’s Creed 3″ is looking to do nothing to tarnish that reputation) but the de facto assassin series will always be “Hitman.” It’s encouraging then to see that the flag bearer of the genre is working on creating the definitive multiplayer mode as well (even if it isn’t PvP style).

Between that and the previously announced “Crysis 3″ multiplayer mode, it’s also promising that the new trend in even the most established of franchises seems to be thinking outside of the box when it comes to multiplayer expansion, instead of slapping a deathmatch option on said box, and calling it a sequel.

I guess that’s my awkward way of saying, hint, hint Rockstar and “GTA: V.” Hint, hint.

Get Bioshock free when you pre-order Bioshock 2 at Direct2Drive

Big Daddy comin at ya. I can’t imagine why this would ever be the case. I mean, the original Bioshock is like $15 most places, often less. Why you still wouldn’t have the game, or haven’t played through the game, is totally beyond me. I suppose it is possible, though, so this deal is still worth mentioning.

When you pre-order Bioshock 2 from Direct2Drive they’ll throw in a copy of the original for free. You can get the same deal on Steam if you prefer the Valve method. Hell, even if you have the first this is still a great deal. Install the original on a friend’s machine who just refused to buy it.

Bioshock 2 releases Tuesday, along with Dante’s Inferno.

Bioshock 2 Gets A Date

Bioshock 2 logo.It looks like Take Two is going to make good on the promise of delivering Bioshock 2 in the early months of 2010. The sequel to the developer’s smash hit got a global release date of February 9, 2010.

For those who have forgotten, Bioshock 2 puts you in the boots of Big Daddy some ten years after the first game ended. Now there’s a monster roaming the Atlantic coast snatching up little girls and dragging them down to Rapture. It’s your job to stop him.

Bioshock 2 will also feature a multiplayer system that works as a prequel. From the press release:

Multiplayer in BioShock 2 will provide a rich prequel experience that expands the origins of the BioShock fiction. Set during the fall of Rapture, players assume the role of a Plasmid test subject for Sinclair Solutions, a premier provider of Plasmids and Tonics in the underwater city of Rapture that was first explored in the original BioShock. Players will need to use all the elements of the BioShock toolset to survive, as the full depth of the BioShock experience is refined and transformed into a unique multiplayer experience that can only be found in Rapture.

I would have loved to see this game come out this year, but at least there’s a little something to look forward to in the wee months after the holidays.

The Best Big Daddy Cosplay

Harrison Krix in his Bioshock costume.I’m not into cosplay, but I love all the Flickr galleries dedicated to this kind of stuff. I found this one from the Reddit front page today and found myself overwhelmed with the outcome. The model, as you can see, is a near -perfect replica of Big Daddy from Bioshock, but there’s a living breathing human inside.

His name is Harrison Krix. His name is Harrison Krix. His name is…well yeah, it’s Harrsion Krix. Krix is a graphic designer from Atlanta who designs props for a living and also takes commission work. This project, though, was just for fun. You should give his blog a lengthy look-see. He fully details the method for making this monstrosity, and you can also see his other projects. The Portal gun is particularly cool. So is the weathered Kraken club. Harrison is the type of guy that makes me wish I was a whole lot more artistically inclined. Did I mention the drill arm (on Big Daddy) actually drills?

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