It’s the most wonderful time of the year again. No, not Christmas, but AdventureX, the only convention dedicated to narrative gaming. On the weekend of 11th and 12th November, a horde of developers and gamers descended on the Professor Stuart Hall Building of Goldsmiths University, London. With a bright and friendly atmosphere, it was a weekend packed to overflowing with adventure gaming goodness. Early arrivals engaged in an impromptu game of Pub Quest on the Friday evening when our first choice of drinking spot proved less than accommodating. The MMORPG Live! event proved surreal from the start, with a spider's elbow and a spider with ice cream organs going on a quest to defeat a creature that was half-rat, half-avocado. The Ratvocado. In what may become a yearly tradition, I also took a cake along for the after-show drinks. But the most important thing was the games, and there was a wide selection of excellent adventures on offer. Here is just the first sampling of those on show this year.
It was supposed to be a standard three-day assignment on a remote space station. Unfortunately, an accident has brought your ship to a stop in remote space. Awakened from stasis, you will have to improvise repairs if you are going to survive, let alone reach your destination. This accident will have even longer-term consequences too, as you will soon find yourself taking refuge on a nearby planet, and seeking to unlock the mysteries there before they destroy you.
Michael Stein and Nikola Vetnic
Svarun Games’ K’NOSSOS aims to be a classic science-fiction point-and-click adventure with a decidedly unique presentation. The graphics are done in a distinctive expressionist style, with walls and panels made up of almost abstractly-placed rectangular panels. The colour scheme in the demo was also limited, with shades of green predominant and just some hints of other colours. Whilst the design aesthetic is unusual, the overall look in realistic in tone. The soundtrack playing was a haunting tonal piece that would not be out of place in a high sci-fi movie.
Those of us playing the demo were faced with an immediate problem, as the main ship transport system has been blocked by falling debris. Getting past this initial obstacle required locating a key code that proved challenging for some. Once the debris was cleared, it was possible to travel to other areas of the ship, including the bridge and the power plant. Both of these were out of action, requiring us to jury-rig repairs with some less-than-ideal material. Whilst there was some back and forth between locations, most puzzles I encountered could be solved in a single location. Experimentation with machinery to get an understanding of how things worked, and hence learn what was required to make it work properly, was key to advancement.
More information can be found on the developer's website, including a link to a downloadable demo.
Du Lac & Fey: Dance of Death
Arthurian immortals Sir Lancelot Du Lac and Morgana Le Fey have been travelling together for centuries. The chivalric code has led to them facing monsters and helping others over the years, not always for reward. Now the year is 1888, and their journey has brought them to London on the trail of the notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper. With the city under threat, will this famous pair be able to bring down the legendary murder? In doing so, will they be able to lift the curse that has left Morgana trapped in the form of a dog?
Jessica Saunders and Philip Huxley
Salix Games was formed by industry veterans who have worked previously on AAA franchises such as Batman, Assassin’s Creed and BioShock, and that experience is now being applied to creating Du Lac & Fey: Dance of Death independently. The Victorian London setting on show at the convention was a highly detailed realistic depiction, with dynamic lighting and locations displayed both day and night. The fully 3D modelled characters are also well produced and animated already, though the lip-syncing to spoken dialogue still needs to be done. Some renowned talent has been recruited for the voice work, with the leads played by Gareth David-Lloyd (Solas from Dragon Age) and Perdita Weeks (Catriona Hartdegen from Penny Dreadful). The demo’s action was accompanied by dramatic strings and piano.
A scene I observed involving a conversation between Lancelot and Morgana served well in setting up the dynamic between the two. Lancelot’s noble refusal of a cash reward was much derided by the more practical Morgana asking how they were to live without those funds. Including many character close-ups, this exchange nicely demonstrated the character modelling as well. Another scene took place on the docks, with a much wider view. Control is point-and-click, with actions for hotspots appearing when you near them. The final version is to include a character swap mechanic, activated by use of an on-screen button. As the canine-shaped Morgana, you will be able to converse with animals, opening up new avenues of investigation.
The aim is for the game to be released in summer 2018. More information can be found on the developer’s website, and until December 9th you can contribute to the game’s Kickstarter campaign, which still needs a fair bit of support if it’s to meet its target goal.
Whispers of a Machine
For a while, artificial intelligence was creeping into every part of our lives. It was in our homes, it was in our cars, it was even in our bodies. But fear of what AI could do resulted in it being brought to an end. With the resulting social collapse from ending a technology so heavily relied upon, however, mankind has struggled. Now, in a world without AI, federal homicide detective Vera has been called to investigate a series of murders. When evidence of an AI-worshipping cult surfaces, she soon finds this case larger than it first appears.
Joel Staaf Hasto and Petter Ljungqvist
Whispers of a Machine, by Clifftop Games (Kathy Rain) and Faravid Interactive (The Samaritan Paradox), features graphics done in a pleasant pixel art style depicting a realistic world. The demo mostly took place in the dark locker room of a mill, with some broken concrete and a generally run-down condition. In the corner of this room, the victim lay covered in blood and watched over by an ordinary constable. Vera dressed smartly and with neat short blonde hair, strolled around the scene smoothly. Her activities were backed by a tune that would not have been out of place in a tense TV detective drama.
Using simple point-and-click controls, from the outset players can choose how they wish to approach other characters, and this will have an effect on later parts of the game. Vera can exert her authority, attempt to engage with others, or simply adopt a sterile analytical approach. Whilst AI has been banned, augmentation has not, and Vera also has abilities beyond the human norm. The most important of these is a Forensic Scanner, which allows you to search for hidden evidence. In Smart Scan mode, it simply seaches for evidence generally. Once you find something, such as the DNA and fingerprints of the murder victim, you can switch to scanning for that, allowing you to identify things he touched. The demo ended with finding a key to another location and evidence of the AI cult, teasing more of the greater story to come.
The developers’ goal is to release Whispers of a Machine by the end of 2018. More information can be found on the game’s website.Continued on the next page...