Greetings and salutations, OnlySP readers! Today marks the halfway point through the month of October, and that means now is the time for another round of the Indie Highlight Reel. Today the spotlight shines on two different narrative-focused games—one an exploration of human interaction and relationships, the other a gripping mystery-adventure set within the fog-shrouded streets of 19th-century London.
Humans have a long history of finding inspiration within their dreams. Some consist of flashing, fleeting images fuzzily recalled, while others play out behind closed eyes with the crystalline clarity of a motion picture and are later remembered in their entirety. For as long as humanity has possessed a consciousness capable of imagination, dreams have left their indelible impressions upon the minds that conjure them.
With dreams giving rise to the creation of everything from music to mythology, their ability to also inspire the plot and narrative of video games should come as no surprise. In 2015, Ahmet Koctar was hard at work on his third project as founder of RisingLane Games when he dreamt one night of a man whose daughter was on the cusp of marriage. “There were pink cherry blossoms coming through the window,” Koctar recalls of his vision. “And his daughter was wearing a beautiful red dress. When I woke up, I had to write something down, and I wrote: ‘Father, Daughter, Red, Pink.'”
For two years that note lay to the side as Koctar worked. His third project failed, as did the next. Undaunted, he began his fifth project at the beginning of 2017, when he was searching through a notebook and rediscovered those four words he had written after a dream. Galvanized by his find, Koctar started Project Red & Pink with the intention of creating a narrative-focused game that explored the relationship between a father and his daughter. Over time this idea evolved into Project Mirela, and then finally became Aleron’s Lie.
A lot has changed in the ten months since the project began. “It’s not about a father and daughter relationship anymore,” Koctar explains. “It’s about Aleron and Nora.”
“Aleron is a man who has been through a lot. His daughter Mirela became a paraplegic at the age of five, and only a little while after that, his pregnant wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. She died a year later.”
Alone together for ten years, Aleron and Mirela grew close, and now find they cannot live apart from each other. Their co-dependence has proven a problem, as a 16-year-old Mirela wants to enter into marriage as soon as she is able. To clear his head, Aleron leaves his daughter, traveling to a remote cabin within Montana’s Glacier National Park. After a phone call from a frightened Mirela is cut off, he tries to leave the cabin and return to her, but discovers he cannot find any way to exit the place. The phone rings again—this time a woman named Nora is on the other end of the line, claiming to be in the same situation as Aleron. To escape their respective cabins, they must work together.
More than just a game with focus on environmental storytelling, Aleron’s Lie is meant to explore human relationships and the interaction between characters. “We believe in ‘simple plot, complex characters’,” Koctar says. “This game is very dialogue focused, similar to Firewatch. The only way to contact Nora is by using your Smartphone, which is the most important gameplay element.”
Aleron’s Lie will contain seven puzzles, the first of which will be available for play in the game’s demo, planned for a December 2017 release, alongside the start of its Kickstarter campaign. “The puzzles will force the player to trust Nora,” reveals Koctar. “You will not be able to solve the puzzles alone. You could try but you would fail. We want the player to communicate, trust, and build a relationship with a person by overcoming obstacles together, and we want that person to feel real.”
“We want the player to think: “Should I do what she says? What if she is wrong?”
Under development for PC, Aleron’s Lie will hit Kickstarter in December 2017 with a playable demo, and the full version is planned for release sometime in 2018.
DU LAC & FEY: DANCE OF DEATH
While video games allow for the realization of dreams, they also provide a means for their creators to bring to life various ideas and scenarios which are impossible outside the realm of imagination. Such is the case with Du Lac & Fey: Dance of Death, a mystery-steeped adventure set in Victorian London, and the debut title from developer Salix Games.
In Du Lac & Fey, players will step into the shoes of immortal knight Sir Lancelot du Lac and the cursed sorceress Morgana Le Fey as they explore the dangerous corners of the 19th-century London slums. The game takes place at the same time as the infamous Whitechapel murders of 1888, the heinous nature of which gave rise to the legendary figure of Jack the Ripper. Together, Lancelot and Morgana hunt the brutal killer, searching for clues and discovering the truth behind his bloody rampage.
“We wanted to explore the origins of legends and how they shape our culture,” says Salix creative director Jessica Saunders. “Perhaps the most notorious of modern British legends is that of Jack the Ripper. What did the Whitechapel murders mean to those who lived there? And how do they still impact us today?”
While some might balk at the idea of placing medieval figures Lancelot and Morgana Le Fey in a Victorian setting, Saunders pointed out that Arthurian legends were particularly prolific in 19th century Britain. The presence of the knight and sorceress within the story help provide what Saunders calls “a lens through which to explore how society was changing, and also how some of those same issues are relevant today.”
“The ruling classes were trying to bring back ideas of chivalry, honour, and chastity,” she explains. “It is through our lead characters that we get to explore these concepts and how they fit within a society that was rapidly changing along lines of class, gender, and race.”
Those who hold the legends of King Arthur and his knights close to their hearts need not worry—the Salix team has done its research. “When it comes to Arthurian lore we’ve discovered there is no one story,” Saunders says. “We’ve looked at the Mabinogion, Morte d’Arthur, Idylls of the King, and they all differ. It allows you a certain freedom to put your own spin on things, making Lancelot and Morgana immortal for one.” As for more details, Saunders remains tight-lipped. “There are other Arthurian characters that play a part in the narrative. But you’ll have to play the game to find out who.”
Providing the voices of Lancelot and Morgana are actors Gareth David-Lloyd and Perdita Weeks. David-Lloyd is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Ianto Jones in the BBC series Torchwood, and provided the voice of Solas for Dragon Age: Inquisition. Weeks has appeared as Mary Boleyn in The Tudors, and most recently played the role of Catriona Hartdegan in season three of Penny Dreadful. In the next few weeks, Salix Games plans to announce more of the cast of Du Lac & Fey, including talent such as Alexandra Roach (Utopia), Rupert Vansittart (Game of Thrones), and more.
In addition to quality voice acting and a strong narrative of mystery and adventure, Du Lac & Fey bears a unique artistic style inspired by works of 19th-century painters John Atkinson Grimshaw and James Abbot McNeill Whistler. Using new techniques, Salix aims to bring gamers the “beauty of traditional art and the power of modern technology by seamlessly integrating 2D and 3D assets to create a world akin to a living painting.”
Interested gamers should keep an eye out for Du Lac & Fey: Dance of Death to reveal a third player character alongside the start of its Kickstarter campaign at the end of October.
Thus concludes this edition of OnlySP’s Indie Highlight Reel. If either of these games fascinated or interested you, please let us know in the comments! Alternatively, if you are an indie developer and you would like to see your game featured in a future reel, feel free to get in touch!