The Devil’s Men
The year is 1871, and a sleepy English seaside town is rocked by a bizarre series of murders. The trail appears to lead back to the old exhibition grounds, home to the notorious gang of waifs, strays, misfits and tramps known as “The Colony”. Adelaide Spektor, daughter of famous detective Karol Spector, has feared ending up part of the colony’s life of crime ever since her father abandoned her. After witnessing the murder of her father’s friend, she sees a chance to locate her father and restore her place in society. But in this quest, she will need the help of a notorious colonist and double-murderer named Emily. As the two unlikely partners investigate further, they come across a mysterious group of men who have pushed the boundaries of science beyond all reason. Who are these Devil’s Men and why are they dying one by one?
The scene demonstrated by The Devil’s Men writer/designer Kevin Mentz showed off the fine art style that we’ve come to expect from Daedalic. The protagonist at the time was Emily, one of the two playable characters. Given her criminal past, it's not surprising that we meet her hiding from the police in an abandoned clock tower. She is not alone in this trap, however, as she’s accompanied by Will, who seeks to take her position in the gang. Whilst the player's main goal is to escape the clock tower, how they do so and the way they handle Will is intended to have a lasting effect on the way events play out. Will has his own plan for escape, which he will loudly declaim if given the chance. If Emily puts up with him and follows his plan, Will becomes emboldened, becoming a keen rival for the remainder of the game. If Emily intimidates him and finds the less obvious means of escape, then her position is secured. She can even make an ally of Will should she save him from a life-threatening injury he receives as a result of following orders. With a couple of puzzles in a single location having such a radical effect on character relationships, I look forward to seeing what Daedalic will achieve in the final game.
Captain Disaster in Death Has a Million Stomping Boots
Troll Song wasn’t the only adventure Team Disaster had on display this year. Already in development for 2½ years, Captain Disaster in Death Has a Million Stomping Boots is well advanced, with two of the three acts mostly done. Using a standard point-and-click interface, the titular captain finds a simple package delivery job turning into a quest to save the galaxy. With the questionable aid of an inept computer in this quest, our hero will be party to a series of unlikely events, including inadvertently becoming a famous rock star for a time. The game has a family-friendly approach with a retro cartoon style. Naturally, given a hero who’s a hapless spaceman, comparisons to the Space Quest series are almost inevitable. One thing that has definitely not carried over from Sierra’s classic series, however, is the tendency to find sudden violent death around every corner. In fact, the game only contains one death scene, and that involves putting on an item of clothing no sci-fi savvy player would wear.
Ben Chandler is to do the graphics for the third act of the game (breaking news mere moments later: No he won't. Unless they all change their minds again.), which will result in a noticeable shift in appearance. In keeping with the fourth-wall-breaking nature of the game, this change won’t go unnoticed by the game characters. To bring the world to life, a variety of background elements have been brought into the mix as well. Some of these are additional facts and interactions that players can come across themselves. Others are conversations that happen around the protagonist, allowing you to pause for a moment to eavesdrop on the goings-on of the locals. Whilst none of these are vital for completing the game, they will often provide hints for puzzles. In cooperation with Screen 7, all three acts are scheduled to be released as a single game around July or August 2015.
In September 2010, Absent: Part 1 - Innocent Until Proven Guilty was released as the first chapter in a proposed trilogy. Fast forward to October 2013, and the complete Absent was released as a standalone freeware adventure, a tale of college students investigating a series of mysterious disappearances on campus that took a supernatural turn. Fully voiced with well-rounded characters, the game proved to be a satisfyingly full adventure. Now fentonfilmgames are creating a sequel to this story that expands on the otherworldly elements of the original.
Absent II's James Fenton
The new game is a direct follow-up to its predecessor. You once more get the chance to play Murray, the student who stumbled across more than he bargained for when searching for his missing girlfriend. You are now also able to play Eve, another recurring character from the original. Players can freely switch between the two with the use of on-screen buttons. To maintain continuity with the original, the low-res retro look remains largely unchanged, and the same voice actors have been used for all the returning characters. Dialogue selection has been changed to an icon-based system, where you select a picture of the subject you want to talk about, and the inventory has also been streamlined, now made up of a bar across the top of the screen.
The demo on display at the convention was fairly short, including a handful of relatively simple puzzles. These included a quest to borrow a tenner, and the beginning of a larger side quest to be included in the full game, involving helping a friend run for student office by putting up campaign posters. If you find all the available locations for placing these posters in the finished game, then a new ending is unlocked.
Absent II Kickstarter pitch video
Further information can be found on the fentonfilmgames website, where you can download the first episode for free. If you like what you see, you've got until January 4th to visit the game's Kickstarter campaign and support its development.
Cargo's Florian Mehm
Young Vala Byrd wants nothing more than to be a spaceship pilot. Unfortunately, enrolling in the academy is not cheap, so she has taken a job at a cargo handling facility to raise the funds she needs. Unfortunately, when she tries to use the electronic grapples to move the latest delivery, something strange happens. The grapples suffer an inexplicable failure, dropping the crates and even cracking one open. This broken crate mysteriously causes Vala to experience peculiar emotions of fear and hurt. Suddenly she realises that this is a form of telepathy, and an alien entity has been mistakenly trapped inside. Feeling its sorrow, Vala determines to find a way to send the creature back to its home planet.
As a first-time developer, Florian Mehm choosing to exhibit at the convention alongside several established colleagues was a brave move, but a deserving one. The game uses a traditional third-person view and standard AGS icons and inventory setup. The graphics for Cargo are relatively simple, but effectively convey the locations and characters. Still mostly trapped inside the crate, the alien appears solely as a red mist emanating from the box. With no common language to work with, Vala’s interactions with the unknown creature mainly revolve around sensing the creature’s reaction to various stimuli. These include spoken words on her part, along with showing items to the trapped beast. The ship that brought the creature to Vala’s facility is headed back there, but security protocols make returning the creature to said ship no easy task. Florian admits that the game is not large, but the opening section I saw shows some promise for the future.
There is no firm release date scheduled for what Mehm describes as a “hobbyist” project, but further information can be found while you wait on the game’s website.
Hungry Whispers' JDWasabi Studios
Having exhibited Hungry Whispers at AdventureX 2013, it has been an interesting year for JDWasabi studios. Taking on board feedback from last year’s convention as well others they have attended, the developers have given the game a bit of a redesign. The emotional look of the characters had been genuinely well received, but many felt that the sprites were unclear and did not fit the backgrounds well. This has been addressed by switching from the original Flash platform and rendering the new version in Ren’Py instead. This change has not been without its own problems, as the team have found it difficult to implement puzzles into an engine primarily designed for simple choice-based visual novels. Ultimately they might end up using a combination of engines, if a suitable blend can be found. Whilst still very much a work in progress, they feel that they have more of a sense of direction than before, and can hopefully now move forward.
To learn more about this "open game project", visit the developer's blog for additional information.
That's it for the games, but there's plenty more to come. With such an eclectic guest list, our final AdventureX wrap-up will focus on the people who made the convention as memorable as it was, whether on stage or the infamous Hot Seat. Stay tuned.