Anyone who's ever tried to balance artistic inspiration with the realities of everyday life will be familiar with The Novelist's central question: "Can you achieve your dreams without pushing away the people you love?" The game's designer, Kent Hudson is intimately familiar with this question; after more than ten years working on action games including Deus Ex: Invisible War and BioShock 2, he recently quit his day job to focus on the self-funded indie he bills as "a game about life, family, and the choices we make."
This first-person game will offer up a voyeuristic peek into the Kaplan family's summer vacation in a sprawling house overlooking the ocean. The father, Dan, is under pressure to finish his novel, but his desire to satisfy the needs of his wife and son are often at odds with this personal goal. Playing as a ghost who occupies the vacation house with the Kaplans, you'll try to stay out of sight while eavesdropping on their conversations, reading their thoughts, and jumping into their memories—all with the goal of figuring out what these characters truly want.
Chapter by chapter, players will decide which goals Dan should pursue and which to let go. Each choice will have consequences on the family members' relationships and change how the story unfolds. According to Hudson, "With a different sequence of events in every playthrough, The Novelist gives life to a unique experience each time you play. The decisions you make will define the Kaplans’ lives, but they may also tell you something about yourself."
While not a traditional point-and-click game, The Novelist's focus on story and character and its lite stealth gameplay seems well suited for fans of dramatic adventures. Hudson originally conceived the game as part of a 2011 GDC lecture entitled "Player-Driven Stories: How Do We Get There?", in which he explored new ways for game designers to draw players into a narrative.
The Novelist can be preordered for $14.99 (a 25% discount over the $19.99 launch price) from the official website. DRM-free PC and Mac downloads are planned for release sometime this summer. The game is also up for voting on Steam Greenlight.