Interregnum Chronicles: Signal
The game I talked about in the previous post? This is it!
It’s the story of an unstable AI, and the Operator locked with it on a space station above an Earth in turmoil. They try to decode an impossible signal from the depths of space. An unique mix of a walking simulator in which you actually float (because of zero-g in space) and an… idle game.
Right at the beginning of the concept phase we knew we wanted a story heavy experience so the choice of a walking simulator as the genre was obvious. The added benefit was that usually games like that can easily get away with shorter run times (even less than 2 hours) while being kind of light on complicated systems and mechanics. All good so far, but then we realized that walking simulators, while quite easy to develop in terms of features, usually rely on content to pace out the experience. Exploration of the game world can be even considered one of the main drives in these kinds of games besides the obvious enjoyment of the story.
The problem here was that we didn’t want to spend the next year producing huge locations to give the player enough space to explore and experience the story at a reasonable pace.
The solution? Make the space small to save time on producing content while introducing some kind of a mechanic to pace out the story and give the player a similar experience of exploration, but in the form of exploring mechanics instead of spaces. Sounds weird? It probably does because it is :)
An idle game with a story
Idle games are all about waiting, but also about exploration of mechanics and interacting with intricate systems you optimize and streamline to be as productive as possible. All of this fits really well with the story we wanted to tell while providing a much needed structure and pacing to the plot which unfolds throughout the game in conversation between the Operator and the AI. Telling original stories through the medium of an idle game is not new, but still there are only a handful of examples of games trying to combine this type of game with a more involved type of gameplay.
The inevitable for this genre alt-tabbing to do stuff outside of the game is replaced in our game with an actual space station to be explored and interacted with. In a way, the idle game itself is “inside” the game world - the space station that can be traversed and explored by the player. The fact that there are actually three separate idle games spread out around the station that the player “juggles” while frantically jumping around the station in zero-g only enhances this idea. One of the main goals behind the design was to keep the player inside the game even while waiting. We even added to the game a chapter of the book the whole series is inspired by - Interregnum by Przemysław Karda - in the form of an in-game ebook reader with the book’s sample in it.