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GLaDOS Meets IRIS in This First Person Sci-Fi Adventure, Vigil

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Previously we talked to Martin Wheeler, creative director and founder of Recluse Industries, who are developing Vigil, a first person adventure game that draws from sci-fi classics such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Moon.

“In Vigil, the player wakes from hibernation to find themselves alone inside a huge building, with no memory of their past. Their only companion is the computer system, IRIS, constantly watching the player, yet hiding a sinister secret,” says Wheeler.

There hasn’t been a lot of footage released of Vigil, but with the teaser trailer that is out, players may see some parallels to Portal: First person, waking up in a strange large, generally abandoned facility with no recollection of the past, being told what to do by a robot with a female voice. And while Vigil won’t have you interacting with a portal gun or dysfunctional personality cores, each game’s world is centered around a female computer AI whether it be GLaDOS or IRIS.

“The computer’s voice was a recording of my neighbor, Lynn, a lovely lady in her fifties who has never played Portal, or any video game for that matter. I didn’t treat the recording with any kind of post-effects – it’s pretty much exactly as recorded, aside from boosting the loudness,” explains Wheeler. “Nevertheless, several people have commented that the voice reminded them of GLaDOS. Lynn is a psychoanalyst and does have an eerily calming voice, just what you’d imagine a female version of HAL to sound like, which is probably why people made the connection.”

Story wise the game focuses on finding out just what IRIS has been hiding from you, which starts hallucinations of a child that are seen in the teaser trailer. Naturally, suspicions about what IRIS has been telling you lead you down a fairly linear path in search for the truth.

“We wanted to make a game with the feel of a Sci-fi movie, with a story arc. It’s linear, but there could be branches here and there,” he adds.

The other big takeaways from Vigil’s teaser trailer are the game’s sound and art design. Much of the game involves the player exploring a large building by themselves, and as such sound and atmosphere play a crucial role in the player experience.

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“The audio is all about creating atmosphere and adding immersion,” notes Wheeler. “That extends to ambient effects, such as the reverb, which is procedurally attenuated according to the size of the space you are in, so there’s always an audible sense of the space around you changing as you move through it.”

Despite walking around what appears to be a massive deserted building, there is always some presence of diegetic sound. Whether it is the hum of machinery in the distance, the sounds of lights flickering, the audible proximity of laser beams, proximity detectors that change pitch according to position, or just own players footsteps, the sound effects are meant to create a sense of realism. Sound also comes into play during gameplay, particularly during stealth segments where noise can potentially give away the player’s location.

Many of the sound effects were recorded by Wheeler himself. The ladder climbing sounds are actually him sliding and bumping up against a metal filing cabinet. Footsteps in water were recorded simply by filling the bathtub and walking in it. Other sounds were generated using Reason and Ableton Live, or acquired from sites such as freesound.org.

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Vigil also takes on a rather unique art style that is generally lacking in color. Rather, Recluse Industries has decided to go a more black and white color pallet that focuses on lighting.

“We knew we couldn’t achieve a photo-realistic look easily with such a small team, and that it wasn’t so desirable anyway, from an artistic viewpoint. So from the outset we made the decision to opt for a more stylized, monochrome look, with an emphasis on light and shadow,” explains Wheeler. “I was particularly influenced by Hiversaires by Devine Lu Linvega, as well as Manga by Tsutomu Nihei, and by the film Renaissance. So the general theme is monochrome environments, but colored, dynamic lighting.”

From a gameplay perspective, players can expect a combination of exploration, stealth, and puzzles. There are no traditional enemies or combat as one would expect in a conventional game. Rather, players will have to make their way around the facility, solving puzzles in order to advance in certain areas. According to Wheeler, these puzzles will be “both spatial puzzles (of the “how do I get there?” type) and abstract or logical puzzles, based on switches”. Players will also have to avoid plunging to their deaths on mistimed jumps, laser beams that will quickly dispose of them, and being detected by the ever watchful IRIS.

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Currently, Recluse Industries is in the midst of transitioning to Unity 5, having previously used Unity 4 to build Vigil. Additionally, the developer’s next step is to seek out a publisher for the game. Unlike a lot of independently made games, Vigil will not be receiving a crowdfunding campaign anytime soon.

“The amount we’d need to raise to complete development of Vigil is around $300,000, which is a big ask unless you have the social media presence to back up your campaign,” says Wheeler. “To complicate things, Vigil was incubated with funding from a third party, and we would have to negotiate payment for the IP, if we wished to self-publish.”

“We have a 30 minute playable demo now and most of the framework is in place. Before we can continue to full production, we’ll need to find a publisher who believes in the game enough to invest in another 12 months of development, which should take us to Alpha.”

There is no timetable for Vigil’s release and any future platforms largely depend on which publisher decides to fund the IP. You can learn more about Vigil and Recluse Industries here, and be sure to stick with OnlySP for any future updates.

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