Since we are now fully adopted into the next-generation of gaming, we also have to realize that it’s not all about the triple A developers anymore these days. More indie studios are delivering top-notch games and even Sony and Microsoft themselves are focusing on indie games and studios more so we here at Only SP figured that we should do the same. Introducing Cage Studio, a student group at Pulse Media College, Dublin, Ireland . The 4 student studio decided to take a project they had created for their course and make it go the extra mile “rather than just make, get it graded and leave it.” I had a brief discussion with the new studio about being a brand new studio as they develop their upcoming game “Ill of the Dead“.
Ill of the Dead is a noir themed psychological detective mystery game with a very distinct “pixel art” style similar to Canabalt. The game takes inspiration from modern games like LA Noir and Deus Ex but none more so than old school Lucasarts games and the incredibly poignant flash game “One Chance“. The game tells the story of a detective trying to solve the murder of an innocent woman and uses a mechanic where the player can interact with an object in a crime scene. From there, you piece together how a crime took place and retrace the steps to figure out what happened. The setup is similar to Batman: Arkham Origins where Batman can reconstruct a crime with his Detective Vision based on the evidence on the scene. The game certainly is a bubbling pot of ideas presented in an interesting an unique style.
Yet as a new studio, Cage Studio really had their work set out for them with this project. The plot of the game was the first the main writer had ever constructed and he had to write it in tandem with the gameplay mechanics the team had set.
“It was difficult to not only write a story, but to also have one that compliments gameplay. One thing that goes unnoticed in the industry is that you can’t just write a story and tack a game on, you absolutely have to design both at the same time. Plus, it’s a lot more fun designing a game that has the narrative and gameplay design coincide.”
The story uses a lot of typical “noir” tropes but they are all used to help nail down the atmosphere of the game. The cheesy dialogue of “mooks” and “dames in distress”? You can expect that typo of fast-paced lingo in the game to set the scene. The team revealed that the atmosphere and the art came first with this game. Having an atmospheric stage to present your story can help turn a good story into a great one. Cage Studio understands this and made sure that “the atmosphere was the top priority.”
“To me, atmosphere has always been about the combination of art, music and how your character interacts with the world. Everyone has taken their personal area of the game and made it their focus, as opposed to all of us centring on one particular aspect. We feel that art, gameplay and the story were all the focus!”
Like a lot of games, atmosphere can help make or break a game. From the chilling noises on the Ishimura’s corridors in Dead Space or the discovery of poignant, empty bottles of alcohol in Gone Home, atmosphere is the new way to tell the story of a game.
Show, don’t tell; that’s what Ill Of The Dead is all about.
You can’t just write a story and tack a game on, you absolutely have to design both at the same time.
Although the studio may be just a college project, the team stresses that they worked just as hard as any other indie studio, just on a shorter time-frame for a smaller game. One of the major points the studio wanted to make in the interview was that if they can make a game, any can do it. What with plenty of free resources out there, all you need is a little bit of dedication and intelligence and maybe a few friends to help make an idea you have come to reality. Games like Little Big Planet and Minecraft are also great tools for helping teach a younger generation of gamers the know how to make something out of a simple set of tools. Is the next-generation heading towards an ideal platform for independent studios to create and publish their games? I’m hopeful for this to happen but we still have a long ways to go before indie studios are recognized as equals to the big names in gaming.
As with all interviews with studios, we like to pose the question ” Where do you think single player games are headed in the next-generation?” Cage Studio believes that a lot of huge triple A developers are just trying to use multiplayer as a way to extend longevity. “This industry in particular has a lot of trading in, so when you have a single player game you’ve completed and a multiplayer game that your mates have, which are you more likely to trade in? They also added that they doubt “Single Player games will ever become fully integrated with Multiplayer, they both give such a different vibe and merging them completely would just waste both’s merits.”
Ill Of The Dead looks very exciting. For a first game from a new studio, it’s something fresh and has a lot of good ideas and we’re extremely excited to see them in action. You can like Ill of the Dead on Facebook for more updates and news and be sure to check back later in January where we will both review the game and provide a link to the game for you to play in your web browser for free.
We’d like to thank Cage Studio for the interview.