Gamescom 2013 round-up: Part 3

Gamescom 2012
Gamescom 2012

See Part 1 and Part 2 of our gamescom round-up for the show's first two days' events.

Senscape – Asylum

On Friday, Agustín Cordes took time to show me what progress the Senscape team has been making with Asylum since their successful Kickstarter campaign. As a backer myself, I had already seen an early version of the game but the engine has now been improved with regards to performance and stability. The crowdfunding money has allowed them to rent a small office so they can be in the same room while working, which has been very productive, the more personal team dynamics really ramping up the progress. The plot is already wrapped up, so they're currently implementing game logic, stringing events together and establishing what a player must have done in order to progress beyond certain points. They'll soon hire a programmer to finish Agustín's work so far, as at the moment he's the only programmer on the team. They're aiming for a release early next year.

Asylum's Hanwell Mental Institute

Agustín still doesn't want to tell much about the story, instead focussing on the game's mood. The recently completed intro shows us the nameless protagonist driving up to the asylum where he was once a patient to spend one night there. When he arrives he's greeted by the receptionist Julia, which surprises him as he did not expect anyone to be there; the asylum was supposed to be abandoned. As he does not want her to think he's mad, he acts like it is completely normal to find her there, which introduces a tension that will be present throughout the whole game: is this real or a figment of the protagonist's imagination? Like the bottle of pills many players missed in Agustín's previous game Scratches, there is also a duality in the strange things you experience in Asylum – could there be a scientific explanation or is it supernatural?

The Hanwell Mental Institute is huge, but to avoid making the player feel too overwhelmed, initially there will be only a few locations to be explored. Only after solving some puzzles will the rest of the floor be unlocked, while the other floors will still remain off-limits, opening up after solving some more. Asylum has a dynamic hint system, and if you look at an object or visit rooms several times without accomplishing anything, there will be different responses, not only reflecting the protagonist's mood but also gradually introducing small hints as to where to go or what to do next. He will never say "it's a window", but rather will comment on the state of disrepair or what he remembers happened when he was last there.

Agustín mugs for the camera flanked by Phoenix Online's Vitek Goyel and former House of Tales designer Martin Ganteföhr

Agustín also showed footage of the 'unique inmate', shaped after the $10,000 backer. He is on the loose in the cafeteria, wreaking havoc, and players will have to find a way to calm him down in order to gain access as part of a puzzle. The backer is reportedly very happy with his resemblance.

The story operates on different levels, and each character you encounter represents something. Agustín also believes that each puzzle should be there for a specific reason, and solving it should reveal something about the story. At the end of the game, there will be full closure of the main theme (why are you returning to the asylum?), but there are many subplots that will be open-ended, leaving players to fill in the gaps with their own theories.


CBE Software - J.U.L.I.A. Enhanced Edition, Pearl-handled Gun

Jan Kavan and Lukáš Medek from CBE Software were next with their latest build of the Indiegogo-financed J.U.L.I.A. Enhanced Edition. So much has been done to change the look and feel of the game, and so much has been added to the story and interactivity that the subtitle "Enhanced Edition" no longer does it credit. The prologue alone, which used to take players about eight minutes to play through in the 'old' version, now takes about an hour. In the crowdfunding backer forums, the developers are asking for suggestions for a brand new title to reflect the 'new' game better. They are also trying to get it accepted on Steam Greenlight.

New scene from the radically overhauled J.U.L.I.A. Enhanced Edition

Playing as Rachel Manners, you spend your time trying to discover what became of your crew. Every other member was mysteriously roused from their cryo chambers long before you and have since disappeared, leaving you behind on a space probe far from home with only a pair of artificial companions. The backstory is partially told through datapads you find lying around. The six crew members each had their own view on what was happening around them, and because of their paranoia they didn't talk to each other. Only by piecing these disparate tales together are you able to connect it all and figure out what happened. Based on the security access of each crew member, the datapads are either unprotected, encrypted with a hackable password or securely encrypted. You can analyze the datapads in several ways to find information, such as looking for chemical composition, spectral analysis, biological residue such as DNA or fingerprints and examining the data itself.

CBE have done a lot to make the backgrounds look animated, for instance with blinking panels and dust particles. The interface has received a huge overhaul as well. In each of the screen corners, a collapsible menu is hidden so as not to clutter up the gorgeous artwork of the new backgrounds. There is a logbook that keeps track of information so you are never left feeling clueless. If you find a keycode somewhere, you don't need to write it down as you can always check it there later. Tasks you haven't done are clearly distinguishable from those you have by the tense in which they are written, which makes it easy to pick up the game if you haven't played for a while. Entering numbers or passwords can be done with the keyboard, or by mouse using an onscreen representation of a keypad or keyboard, accommodating as many players' preferences as possible.

Jan Kavan and Lukáš Medek pose in front of the majestic Cologne Cathedral

The game has optional sidequests, and you will be rewarded for being thorough in your explorations with more backgrounds to encounter and more puzzles. If you are extremely observant, you will get access to a 'mind-o-matic' that will allow you to sort through dozens of keywords and put them in the right place on a huge deduction board or delete them if they aren't relevant. This completely optional feature will allow you to figure out what happened by combining names, verbs and words (i.e. x died from y, a murdered b, etc.) in the right chronological order.

Jan and Lukáš also told me about a quick game they built during gamescom using the Wintermute Engine called Boredom of Agustín Cordes, which tells the story of how Agustín is waiting for his friends in his hotel room in Cologne (now available to download). More seriously, they showed me some scenes from their upcoming 2D adventure game Pearl-handled Gun. Its protagonist, Victor Lustig, is a scam artist who sneaks onto a luxury cruise during the 'roaring twenties' to try to trick people into trusting him with lots of money. He can, for example, steal someone's wallet, then pretend he found it and give it back to the owner, gaining his trust. Later during the cruise, he can then sell shares to this person that look valuable but are worthless. It's an old-school adventure with contextual interaction menus and a cartoony style. The game has been more or less finished but because of funding issues it may not be published any time soon.

Continued on the next page...

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Dag Dag
Sep 13, 2013

Oh no, Lost Horizon 2, what have you done? Frown I used to be so excited about you! Why are you no longer charming, beautiful and handpainted? WASD keyboard controls? Frown Jumping, platforming and sneaking? Frown Frown NOOOooooo please….. don’t…. Frown
**eyes watering**
Only a bag of fluffy, dead puppies could make me sadder now Confused

Majsan Majsan
Sep 13, 2013

I completely agree with you Dag! No longer looking forward to it… Frown  I’m gonna go and cry in my pillow now…

gray pierce gray pierce
Sep 14, 2013

This was definitely the most interesting of the GC round ups so far. I for one am still very much looking forward to Lost Horizon 2. Yes it sounds different from the original but I think a bit more modern day gameplay is good for the genre, This isn’t the 90s anymore and the genre should move along as well if it wishes to continue it’s existence. And I think a high adventure title such as Lost Horizon 2 is perfect to try out these new mechanics.

As for Secret Files: Sam Peters: it sounds reasonably interesting. I might give it a go but I’m not over the moon about it.

And finally Dreamfall Chapters: the story sounds a bit confusing to me but I’ll play it regardless. It’s my most anticipated title at the moment. Even more than BS5.

lewuz lewuz
Sep 14, 2013

Gimme Secret Files: Sam Peters! Smile

But Lost Horizon 2 in 3D? Direct control? Dag and Majsan - I join your weeping choir.

I’m slightly surprised that no word on Columbus 4. Did AnimationArts canned it?

Caliburn Caliburn
Sep 14, 2013

A minor point, but bear in mind the image of Lost Horizon 2 above seems to be from a camera pointed at a screen on the show floor. This affects color palette and visible detail, so those curious about the game may want to check out the screenshot gallery for another impression of how the game looks:

I’m not saying this will or should change the mind of anyone who prefers 2D backgrounds; I just want to give random passerby a chance to see the game presented in a different light.

Sep 15, 2013

“Yes it sounds different from the original but I think a bit more modern day gameplay is good for the genre, This isn’t the 90s anymore and the genre should move along as well if it wishes to continue it’s existence.”

Charles Cecil said that 10 years ago and look what he is doing right now

lewuz lewuz
Sep 15, 2013

I’m convinced Charles Cecil said for BS3 marketing reasons. Some old ex-LucasArters have said similar things. It’s tricky to know when developers say what they feel and when they quote their marketing department.

Back to LH2 - In my case it’s obvious I prefer 2D and 2.5D adventures. But there is also a fact that I don’t approve making drastic changes in series (not that sequels are necessery anyway) when proven formula works. I admit its thin line between too much and not enough (like Call of Duty) evolution, and it often personal, but my opinion today is that Animation Arts tries to jump over its own shadow. They have no full 3D games released and they risk to ruin good name what Lost Horizon so far is.

That said - I fully understand what you mean “the genre should move along”. After all - I love all kind of indie games. Independent devs are not afraid (or are, but do it anyway) to make something new and different, experiment, push the borders. They are keeping gaming world from stagnating while ones like EA and Activision seem (I don’t say they do, but often looks like that) to anchor it.

So, please, Animation Arts, go nuts with 3D and direct control, make an action adventure clone “Uncharted Tomb” if you feel like it. But big part why some love LH1 is because its perfect gameplay and graphical presentation. Changing integral parts in a series means loose-loose - old fans are reluctant to return; potential newcomers are reluctant to pick it up as they don’t know the first part of the story (as they don’t play point n click).

Sep 15, 2013

“But big part why some love LH1 is because its perfect gameplay and graphical presentation. Changing integral parts in a series means loose-loose…”

couldnt agree more. Animation Arts messed up with Secret files 3 first and now Lost Horizon 2 is on the way. i know not the same team but…

Niclas Niclas
Sep 15, 2013

Man, I agree as well. I was also super stoked about LH2, but now I am not. LH1 is one of my favourite adventure games that have been released quiet recently.

Sep 17, 2013

Lost Hoeizon 1 was surprisingly good. Looking forward to the next one, but I too am a bit concerned about the new direction they seem to have chosen for the sequel. Not because I don’t like 3D or more action oriented games per se, but because such elements takes some skills to put together in order not to just frustrate the gamer. Hope they know what They’re doing.

JULIA was another game I was surprised about how much I enjoyed (in its original form). Will be interesting to play the enhanced version.

MoonBird MoonBird
Nov 26, 2013

To gray pierce: You really think that keyboard contolled is more modern day than mouse controlled gameplay….? yeah, whatever! I’ll have you know that mouse is newer invention than keyboard. Besides: The genre doesn’t need any changes. They only chase away the original fans and new possible likers are too risky business for game studios.

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