Pre-vision: Secrets of Raetikon

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Science Horizons Survival was a primitive ZX Spectrum game released in 1984. By assuming the role of a Fly, Mouse, Butterfly, Robin, Hawk or Lion, the principles of ecology could be sampled through the interdependence of their environment.

Diagrammatic images however failed to convey the hopelessness of scrambling in the lower echelons of the food chain. Chess-like square occupation was the only interaction; a blip signifying that your animal made a successful hunt or had in fact been hunted. This was in conflict with the instruction booklet that detailed greater ambitions. The software of course could not compute these nuances and like so many games of its time; your imagination had to generate the content missing from the context.

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Natures scramble for existence has been explored by contemporary developers of course; Might & Delight with Shelter, Krillbite’s; The Plan and Tokyo Jungle developed by Sony’s Japan studio.

But here, the Vienna based Broken Rules delivers the principles of ecology through an astonishing triangular aesthetic; powered by their in-house Ginkgo engine. The Secrets of Raetikon captures the insurmountable struggle of a bird that is not only bullied by predators but oppressed by its environment. In many ways it is about finding resolve in the bird’s fragility.

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Flight is the main allure and its playfulness accentuates the tranquillity of the Alpine setting. The amusement of darting through tree foliage and riding the wind radiates innocence through the forest. Danger however is prevalent; without warning you realise the birds place in the food chain is insubstantial; the fowl can be clawed out of the sky by marauding falcons, buzzards and crows. These can smash you into a nearby rock face or drag you into razor like thistles, attempting to break free is futile as you flap helplessly in the beak of a more formidable vertebrate. There are multiple ways of overcoming antagonists, many of which are faster, stronger and more resilient; malicious predators cannot be overpowered but can be distracted by luring another animal into its territory. Other ways are to instigate a chase, coercing them into thorn bushes or prompting landslides by tugging rocks away from ledges. A sense of empowerment comes from wielding nature itself; plant alga can be fished from waters. This barbed vine is lashed around like a medieval instrument and seeking refuge suddenly turns to incursion; visceral confrontations flow intuitively as you change tactics on the fly.

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The sprawling Alps exclude a map, whether it is added later on or not will have ramifications that change the experience. The layout of the world at present is extensive but map-less exploration feels fresh and captures the purity of adventuring. Looking for an undiscovered area on a diagram forgoes the revelations of curiosity but obviously the benefit is not getting lost.

Raetikon’s ecology is rich enough to endure as a study of an organic nature cycle but Broken Rules mixes a fountain of imagination with their triangular palatte. Ancient mechanisms lay dormant waiting to be revived, solid rock contains flickering glitches; suggesting the impenetrable are facades for hidden caches. Many of the Secrets in Raetikon should be discovered without illumination but highlights include the anxiety inducing Lynx which prowls with an imposingly brutal demeanour and the stoic forest; which becomes magically animated and adds another dynamic to the journey. Raetikon delivers ecology with equal ferocity and sedateness which can (and must) be used against itself and with experimentation you realize what can help or hinder.

This is an Alpha build so polish and fine tuning will not doubt enhance everything to a greater level of immersion as well as introducing more inventive ways of utilizing nature. Until then this is an exceptional piece of unique work that should be watched very carefully.

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Crown of Creation

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We have an opportunity that some perhaps are not aware of. It is always prevalent in our lives but emphasised more so over the holiday period, especially with the influx of videogames vying for our dollars. To fulfil this potential requires a different mindset; a flexibility within our own personal habits. This opportunity is the ability to shape the gaming landscape, long before we see the effects.

There are visionaries amongst us and they walk in directions none of us knew existed. These are the innovators who build with only a desire to imagine new spaces, to see what can be achieved. But the most poignant sense of insecurity comes from standing alone and when a man or woman is armed only with their ideas, it can be arduous to realize their ambitions. The risk of failure is overwhelming; the burden of achieving commercial success without diluting self-integrity verges on the insurmountable. Furthermore the prospect of a non-receptive audience could eat away at a creative soul, inflicting risk aversion; turning a fluid mind into a stagnant, cautious one. Despite all these obstacles however, they forge ahead; defiant with unwavering courage, tenacious in remaining self-motivated against any adversity, and all because of what? So the visionary can make what sometimes seems impossible…games that we have never dreamed of.

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Who are these people? They are the great minds who formulate diversity while others rehash more of the same. The craftsmen who construct the unique and neoteric. Most incredulously, theirs are the concepts that you might avoid because they may appear obtuse next to other videogames.

Look at these images, and ask yourself; are these designs from people who sought the safety of bankable concepts, or are they from fantasists who want to know what is in the void of the medium? Our opportunity is that at any given time we can choose to indulge in this genius, simply by interacting with it.

As users of this instrument shouldn’t we all want to know what else is out there, to fulfill our curiosities? But as much as we say we want innovation, do we really support it?

I am under no illusions that people like what they like and there really is nothing wrong with that; nostalgia, sequels and annual updates of franchises have their place in the market. But know this; the future is not conceived from regurgitation or plagiarism, it is in something that you didn’t know you wanted, when people thought and not copied, when imagination manifested into something tangible. The artist who dares to bring outlandish ideas into fruition not only changes the medium, but also our lives.

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It is naïve to think that the masses will suddenly leave their comfort in search of some obscure game they do not understand or enjoy. But it is also naïve to think that progress comes from repeating what we already have, that an imitator should be held in higher regard than a thinker.

I feel the real barrier that consumers face is that they are failing to see what they are really playing? If this is true I would like to make a suggestion:

Play everything, all that you love but also play anything that you can get your hands on. Sample those, for whatever reason, you would normally avoid. Find the cause of your ignorance. How do you really know what you relate to if you only play the same games? The more you sample different content, the more you will start to notice patterns of repeated ideas in most games. You will start to understand what real innovation is rather than the incremental updates that are repackaged and sold to you as new. Your opportunity is to disregard your inhibitions and jump into what you are unsure about, because in every unusual screenshot or atypical idea might contain the sustenance you crave.

What does it feel like to explore conversations inspired by Marguerite Duras?

How do you use a reconstruction tool to navigate a fragmented landscape?

Where would you walk in your last hour of an impending apocalypse?

These are questions from minds which are more important to them than remaking what we already have. Arent there questions we want to know the answers to as well, outside of what we have seen?

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This is not a pretentious ploy to hold the games you see here as superior to others, I do not feel quality can be accurately measured, it is just a personal opinion. These opinions unfortunately, suppress most of the ingenuity of unique games; and by only comparing graphics, sound and gameplay, what happens to the themes that do not fit into these categories, how are they evaluated?

What I care about is that those who try to show us something different are not damned for having the courage to do so. If that means nothing to you then maybe the videogame will remain as a disposable plaything. For many however, the medium is the most unique tool of expression available to us and we want to see where and how far it can go.

If you want to support an innovative future there are an abundance of tools at our disposal; Steam, PSN, XBL, all have free demos. To sample unique content visit Free indie games and the experimental gameplay project. To support developers directly back Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight projects and perhaps the most important; for those who want to question what a videogame is, visit Notgames.

Our opportunity as consumers is that we can shape the mediums landscape every time we purchase a game. We give consent to keep it in the past or we allow it to grow into the future. I along with a handful of developers would like to see and feel things we never have before and we hope you do to.

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Images:

Everybody’s gone to the rapture, Memory of a broken dimension, Bientôt l’été, Proteus, Tengami, The last guardian, Bioshock Infinite, Amnesia: A machine for pigs, The Unfinished swan, Trip, Stanley parable, Hotline Miami, The Witness, Journey, Antichamber, Fotonica, POP: Methodology experiment one, Flower, At a distance, Among the sleep, Sound Shapes, Dear Esther, Sports friends, Noby noby boy, New untitled Keita Takahashi game

Prevision: Among the sleep

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In Hamar Norway, Krillbite studio quietly works on evolving the first person space. Among the sleep is a unique vision that ventures into the hallucinatory depths of the imagination. Touching on Achluophobia (fear of the dark) and hinting at Automatonophobia (fear of anything that falsely represents a sentient being) Krillbite wants to bring you to your hands and knees. Literally; because Among the sleep is entirely viewed through the eyes of a two-year old child; from the struggles of scaling household obstacles to the manifestations of childhood fears.

Adrian Tingstad Husby vehemently discusses why it is important to challenge conventions. He and the team at Krillbite stand poised to offer something we genuinely have not experienced before.

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Among the sleep delivers a great hypothesis especially next to traditional First person experiences. How are you approaching user interaction, will the environment generate emotional content similar to what Dear Esther did?

The environment will definitely follow the surreal nature of dreams and imagination, constantly mixing the real world with mental elements. But our interaction is more similar to Amnesia for example rather than Dear Esther, because we want people to interact with the environment not only analytically, but also very physically – with actions like push, pull, climbing, open and closing doors and drawers. We really want to get players immersed and feel part of the world, so we are working hard at optimizing all these mechanics so they don’t break immersion.

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How will the child’s perception manifest into something unsettling? Will it be through the unseen or through everyday objects that exhibit sinister nuances?

A combination of both! You will definitely encounter familiar objects that take an unsettling form, as well as creatures and environments where the imagination has twisted it into something completely unrecognizable. Some things will be clearly visible, and others might depend on you to fill in some gaps.

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Everyone has these ambiguous memories of being scared when they were a child, but are any of the team parents? As a father I had this paternalistic feeling when I watched the gameplay trailer.

Unfortunately, no one on the team has their own children yet, so our firsthand experience is mainly with our nieces and nephews. But we are consulting people with both academic and practical competence on the field of young children’s development and psychology, which we hope will provide some valuable insight into these topics. I guess the paternalistic feeling is inevitable in many cases, but we hope most players will be able to fully immerse themselves and think “I should avoid this danger” as opposed to “I should help the child to avoid this danger”.

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How significant is the teddy bear as a gameplay element or is it more of a companion?

Teddy will have a significant role as a story-driving companion, mostly hanging on your back and occasionally talking. But at times he will also factor into the gameplay to a certain degree. We are still playing around with these elements though, so we don’t want to be too specific on this point yet.

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Please talk about your design philosophy. Why is this medium important to you and why are you exploring ideas unfamiliar to the conversant?

I’ll speak for me personally, but I think most of this reflects the rest of the team as well.

We all grew up glorifying the entertainment video games provided, and over the years it became an important and really substantial part of our childhood and personality. If we ask our parents about their childhood they light up, and I think it might be hard for many to imagine us having the same feelings towards video games. Strangely though, because I find it the most interesting form of communication ever devised by humans. Action is our basis, and the interactive nature of video games really has the potential to reflect the human mind. In other words, if I think I have something important to say, if I want to drive a change in attitude, if I want to inspire and engage, and in the end (at the risk of sounding pompous) if I want to change the world – games is an important and effective place to be!

Unfortunately, a lot is sacrificed on the altar of the industry mindset. Future civilisations will analyse our culture to decipher what we were thinking about, what was important to us, and what problems we faced – what will they find? 600 versions of Medal of Dutyfield and Angry’ville?

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I think it is easy to rebuke mainstream developers for their lack of innovation. Do you feel that maybe it is the consumers who should have a responsibility to support iconoclastic ideas, after all, isn’t the mainstream just supplying consumer demands? How can we enlighten them?

I think this is kind of a “chicken and the egg” problem. The responsibility comes with power, and it’s debatable who’s got the most power in a consumer/business relationship. If consumers organized in groups with a potential for substantial impact, we could absolutely be able to change a few things. We’ve seen a number of fascinating examples of this recently, especially regarding the symbiosis of social networks and financial alternatives like Kickstarter. But big business possesses great power as well, and should not be able to cynically disclaim all responsibility without resistance. The people screaming the loudest while milking their annual cash-ins will probably continue to reach their market. But as long as the diversity of games continue to grow I’m satisfied, and we are already starting to see signs of the indie scene influencing the direction of the mainstream.

The team at Krillbite are passionate about creating for the advancement of the medium. Please follow their blog to see how they intend to do it.

For further insight into Among the sleep view some of the early concept images

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