This year at Eurogamer being filled with numbered sequels and remakes (HD or otherwise) we saw some of the most exciting ideas coming from the indie area. Newly present this year was the grad show from the National Film and Television School’s new Games Design & Development degree. It says something that new blood graduates are being showcased in the same arena as Triple A franchise titles and it was exciting to experience some new ideas and share words with the creators/developers themselves.
This area of the show definitely stood out over the identical rows of monitors with guns hovering bottom-centre with its focus on narrative and largely non-violent gameplay.
4PM is a first-person narrative adventure, or interactive story, dropping players in the shoes of Caroline, a young woman having a bad run of things. There’s a good atmosphere in the current alpha build and the potential for some sensitive storytelling, implemented through time-skips covering the previous 24 hours in Caroline’s life, triggered by navigating the frame story set in the present. I wasn’t able to see too far into the story on my playthrough but hints of Caroline’s past and themes of obsession, compulsion and addiction beginning to rear their heads. Developer Bojan Brbora says he aims for Caroline’s story to be just the beginning of an episodic story spanning multiple characters and countries.
Keep track of development on the official website
Taking cues from folklore as well as greek myth, Albert Bentall’s Sandman has players embodying the titular spirit, ferrying sleeping children safely down the river of sleep, using rhythmic rowing controls. The randomly generated courses will eventually allow for a great deal of replayability, not simply through variety but because Sandman’s enigmatic narrative is sparingly dished out through snippets of dialogue from npcs but through the levels themselves. In the build I played the controls needed a lot of work but the game’s sense of place was very strong, with good sound design and Oculus Rift support adding to the immersion. It will be interesting to see where this one ends up further down the river.
Stay in the know on the Sandman website
The first of two mobile games in the NFTS show, Starr World is inspired by classic business management games like Harvest Moon and puts you in charge of restoring a dilapidated waterside themepark to working order with the added impetus of winning over Annie, one of the park’s employees. This is achieved through a series of minigames which can be tackled in an order of the player’s choosing. The romantic comedy inspired script could make this stand out from other games like it, though this is dependent on the strength of the writing as the game progresses. Thankfully microtransactions, at this point, have no part in the script.
Follow Starr World on the official facebook page.
Taking cues from so called ‘beautiful games’ like Shadow of the Collossus, Alexander Macleod’s, Voice of the Silent Land is a one-on-one combat game being developed for PC and mobile, which sees players using bow mechanics to battle giant monsters by targeting their weak spots. The rich artwork and allegorical story of a comatose woman’s subconscious struggle towards recovery could allow for some poignant moments as this title progresses.
Follow the game on twitter or the official facebook page.
This non-combat stealth game is the story of an office worker hoping to reclaim his abducted son after he is discovered to have downloaded a song illegally. With visible data trails some solid stealth gameplay and a wry take on digital espionage, Off Grid seems to be coming around at just the right time. Its bleak aesthetic suggests modern online paranoia, despite its having been in development some time before the NSA scandal.
Keep tabs on Off Grid on the dev blog or on twitter.
It will be interesting to see what comes out of this new course at the NFTS in coming years, if their very first show is anything to go by, the industry may have found a new first port of call for young development talent.
For more information on any of the games shown here or the course at NFTS, visit nfts-games.com
Words> Thom Haley