Stealth is fun. Action is fun. Shooting is fun. Wrap them all up together into a stealth action shooter and it should definitely be fun. Couple it with a sci-fi, post-apocalyptic world and a strong focus on story and player choice, and we’re looking at something with a great deal of potential. We’re looking at Wake Up Call. OnlySP recently had a chat with Millan Singh of Dark Synergy Studios about their upcoming stealth action shooter Wake Up Call, and found out just what kind of sneaky things we’ll be able to do.
Wake Up Call tells the story of Kyle Rogers, an ex-special forces soldier who, after waking from a hundred and fifty years of cryosleep, finds himself in a post-apocalyptic world of conflict. Caught between the tyrannical Kalders and a guerrilla group called The Scarred, it’s up to Kyle Rogers to discover the mysteries of the massive underground station full of humans in cryostasis and the potential disaster even worse than the one that caused The Collapse in the first place.
Wake Up Call’s approach to this story is focusing on “quality story-telling with maximum replay value.” The purely single player experience that will be on offer is a direct result of this, with Dark Synergy choosing not to sacrifice any development time to multiplayer or co-op in favour of delivering a game that is as “high-quality and replayable as possible.”
What enables this is the emphasis on choice. “Wake Up Call plays like a linear game, but several choices you make in the game will change the entire mission structure for the rest of the game.”
“Choices may manifest in story or gameplay altering decisions that change the large-scale experience, or they may appear in the small choices built into a stealth-action game, such as whether or not you wipe out an enemy squad or sneak around them. Every choice matters. Every choice you make, deliberate or organic, defines Kyle’s in-game personality, altering his dialogue to match your play-style 100% organically with no dialogue wheels to slow the game down.”
There will be NPCs with which to interact, although the exact nature of these characters is yet to be revealed. Their role will be to flesh out the backstory of the world, as well as provide junctions for choice.
It is this extensive array of choice that enables Wake Up Call’s replayability. “You will have to play the game at least 4 times to experience every available mission, and there are a total of five endings for the game.”
“We haven’t nailed down a game length yet, but average play-throughs are likely to take 6-8 hours. Considering that, players are looking at 20+ hours of gameplay just to play all the missions, and easily another 50 hours to play through every mission with different gameplay styles and guarantee you play through all the side objectives.”
Gameplay wise, Wake Up Call will be a science fiction stealth action first person shooter “with a heavy emphasis on choice-driven gameplay and story in a unique and atmospheric post-apocalyptic world.” That world will play an important part in the way the game plays. For example, Singh explained, there are two major types of locations in the game – the city and the forest. Each environment will implement the same core mechanics, while requiring a variety of different strategies to successfully navigate the two environments.
“[M]ost gameplay will happen on rooftops, in buildings, and in forests.” Singh told us. “As for how they play compared to each other, it mainly comes down to basics. City environments will typically be more intricate with more verticality to take advantage of, while forest environments will be flatter but have much more hiding places due to the larger foliage.”
That core gameplay itself revolves around stealth, with combat added for extra flavour. “Stealth is perhaps the most important aspect to Wake Up Call’s gameplay.” Singh told us. “It ultimately comes down to a few key principals: AI, organic hiding places, and tactics. Wake Up Call’s AI will be sophisticated enough to accommodate things like hiding in tall foliage and also to detect the player based on sight and sound. Additionally, different enemy types will have different abilities when it comes to sniffing out the player. Map design also takes stealth into account by providing hiding spots and shadows for the player which has come to be known as staples in the stealth genre.”
A tactical approach will play an important part in a stealthy approach, according to Singh. “One important distinction to Wake Up Call’s stealth though is the tactical side. At any time, the player can smoothly transition from stealth to combat, and the player can use distractions or traps to help push the tide of battle in their favour. Then there is always the choice to just run through it, similar to Mirror’s Edge for example.”
But things inevitably go awry, and it is in these situations where the combat aspect comes in. “Combat in the game comprises two main pillars: weight and fluidity.” Players will be given plenty of freedom of movement, allowing you to quickly traverse the terrain and get a melee kill. The weight concept comes in to the feel of the motion. Characters’ actions will feel weighty, carrying over to the shooting mechanics. “Shooting will feel heavy and realistic, making the spray and pray tactic only useful for suppressing your enemies”. Singh expanded, saying “AI will be proactive in trying to flank you or get out of the line of fire; try lighting up their position, and they will run for cover. This is great for creating distractions to give yourself that extra second that you need to get back into the shadows, escape, or drop in from behind them.”
It isn’t just the two human factions standing in Kyle Rogers’ way. Dark Synergy are promising a few other enemy types, such as “mother-nature and some very creepy beasts that we have not yet revealed.”
Wake Up Call is being developed on Unreal Engine 4, the next-gen focused upgrade to one of the most influential and widely used engines of last generation. While Dark Synergy couldn’t give us any particulars on the ins and outs of working with Unreal Engine 4, Singh did praise its ease of use. “Unreal Engine 4 is a fantastic toolset in many ways.” he told us. “I can tell you that development with Unreal Engine 4 is much easier than Unreal Engine 3… I think Unreal Engine 4 will provide a great way for serious up-coming indie developers to create magical experiences.” Singh added, “Unreal Engine 4 is truly a tool set designed to make development much easier, not just to allow for prettier graphics.”
Release specifics such as format and release timeframes aren’t available just yet, but Wake Up Call will definitely be coming to PC. Singh did state a desire to bring the game to “as many platforms as possible”, but nothing has yet been confirmed. Singh did promise that there will be a gameplay reveal as soon as possible, “hopefully within the next two or three months”. They are also promising to post work-in-progress footage when possible.
Thanks to Millan Singh at Dark Synergy Studios for his time. We’ll keep our eyes on Wake Up Call, and bring you all the details we can as soon as we know them.
The Occupation Designer Reveals Game Length, Talks Design, Inspiration, and More
After a protracted development period, fixed-time thriller The Occupation is set to release in one month’s time. Between its retro aesthetic and immersive sim-inspired gameplay, the game is shaping up as one of 2019’s most unique titles.
In light of that, OnlySP recently spoke to Pete Bottomley, designer of The Occupation and co-founder of developer White Paper Games to find out more about the promising project.
OnlySP: I thought I’d start off with a fairly obvious question. Given the real-time nature of The Occupation, how long can players expect a single run through to last, and by how much can that time be shortened or prolonged by the player’s actions?
Bottomley: The core gameplay is designed around 4 hours of play. There are some sections that are untimed, whether it be for narrative impact or tutorialisation for the player. As we’re playing through the game as a team, it’s taking us around 6.5 hours to play through the game.
OnlySP: How many endings does the game have?
Bottomley: The game’s outcome is a reflection of the steps the player took through the game. I think when playing games, you always want the outcomes to reflect your approach and we’re massively inspired by how games such as Dishonored can tackle that. Our hope is that the ending you experience feels like it reflects their approach and actions.
OnlySP: Tied to that, approximately how many playthroughs would be required to see everything that the game has to offer?
Bottomley: Our intention wasn’t to design a game that required multiple playthroughs. I’m personally the type of player that plays through a narrative, gets an outcome, and that’s my story. That being said, we’ve tried to fill the world with a lot of content, and because of the real-time character simulating actions, hopefully with second and third playthroughs, players will uncover different ways to solve challenges or narrative threads they hadn’t picked up on before.
OnlySP: How did you come to settle on the politicised premise of an Act robbing citizens of civil liberties?
Bottomley: Since we invest so much of our lives into making games, you have to work on something you feel is meaningful and rewarding of your time. At the time of concepting The Occupation, there was a lot of friction between what was happening in the UK and abroad. It affects us all and we wanted to work on something that may put people’s views into perspective.
Our previous game Ether One dealt with the difficulties of seeing a family member suffering with dementia and our aim is to continue these important themes throughout all of our games.
OnlySP: Also, issues surrounding privacy and freedom of speech, among other civil liberties, are pertinent right now. How close to your mind were the modern concerns about the topic while you were concepting the game? And have real-world events impacted the story of The Occupation across the development period?
Bottomley: The world around us always inspires us, but we don’t really rely on specific events to drive any part of the game’s narrative. When you’re developing a game that tries to get its own narrative across but ground it in the real world, you have to try to distil them to focus on the story you’re trying to tell. In a sense, real world stories inspire us but it’s more of an observational thing rather than a particular event we want to depict faithfully. We tend to focus on the emotional and societal impact of the event itself.
OnlySP: How present will those sorts of themes be within the average player’s experience? Or should players expect to be able to lose themselves entirely in the investigation without really leaning on the context?
Bottomley: We aim to put context on all of your actions in the world otherwise there’s not much meaning behind the choices being made. That being said, you can choose to follow certain narrative threads over others, which allows the player to follow the most interesting lead they come across.
OnlySP: Players take the role of a journalist in the game; how accurate would you say your portrayal is of the technologies and general aesthetic of late ‘80s Britain? How much research went into getting the language and atmosphere of the era right?
Bottomley: It’s interesting you raise that point as we’ve just been speaking about the world limitations in this game. In our previous game, Ether One, we aimed to deliver a grounded narrative that had certain sci-fi elements. With The Occupation, we wanted to go even more grounded and aim to deliver a world that belongs in the ’80s so any aesthetic and technological choices were always taken into consideration. Surrounding yourself with these limitations can create really cool gameplay mechanics such as our pager as a message delivery system, public payphones to update your objectives, and fax machines to deliver information.
OnlySP: The game has been delayed twice now, both times quite close to the scheduled release. Is there any chance you could shed some light on the causes of the delays?
Bottomley: Delaying a game is a gut wrenching decision. You’ve put a promise out there and you push yourself to deliver. We’ve aimed incredibly high on this game both technologically and in the game’s design. On top of this, we wanted to deliver the game in as many languages as we could along with sim-shipping on PC, XB1, & PS4 and doing a retail disc submission so that people could pick up the game in stores if they wanted to hold a physical representation of the game. Because of these platforms, the game has to be ready a couple of months in advance to help distribution and all the different regions to have the version of the game you intend for them. With complexity always come more bugs and since our last game shipped in a buggy state, we didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. We’ve QA’d the game for months and had support from our publishers in helping to identify the issues. As with any game, we’ll no doubt spot some issues on launch, but we’ve already put processes in place to address these as quickly as we can and hopefully the execution of the game will immerse people and keep players engaged so that nothing disrupts the experience.
OnlySP: I recall on Twitter that you once wrote that you were testing the possibility of a Switch port. How seriously have you looked at that possibility and what’s the likelihood?
Bottomley: Right now we have a Switch development kit frustratingly gathering dust in our studio. Since we’re a small team, it can be a tough choice trying to figure out where to best use your resources. We’d absolutely love to get the game onto Switch but we’ve not tested a build yet. It’s the first thing we’ll be moving onto in March so we should be able to update people as soon as we know how The Occupation runs on it. Thankfully using Unreal Engine makes this process a lot more straightforward and we’ve seen a lot of developer friends find success on the Switch so it’s a great opportunity to reach a larger audience.
OnlySP: How does it feel for you and the team to be just about ready to wrap development after four years of work?
Bottomley: It’s not quite set in yet. Although we’re done with the game and excited to see the reception it gets from people, it’s really only 50% of the work, especially when you’re in a small team. We’re currently planning all the marketing and PR opportunities along with reflecting on the development cycle and figuring out what we can do better (to hopefully not spend another 4 years on a game!).
OnlySP: Finally, do you have any closing comments for our readers or anything else you’d like to say about The Occupation?
Bottomley: The whole team has put an incredible amount of energy into The Occupation. If you look at our previous game compared to The Occupation, you can see how far we’ve come. It’s been a huge learning curve for the studio both technically and in production and we’re excited to move onto another game to push ourselves. We’re unable to do that without game sales. It sounds corny, but we really can’t develop games without our community’s support. We value each purchase and we want to grow and keep pushing to create more interesting games. We have a lot of goals and drive and we’re focusing on growing and creating more experiences for the player. If you’re reading this and have purchased any of our games, thank you. It absolutely means the world to be able to wake up in the morning and be excited to develop games. Thank you.
The Occupation is set to release on March 5, 2019 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
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