“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.
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