It always excites us when a developer is doing something interesting with the first-person shooter genre, and Wake Up Call, a promising fusion of storytelling, shooting and puzzle-solving, is nothing if not interesting. As the first project by newcomer indie dev Leatharian Studios, the game certainly has a humble beginning, but thanks to a dedicated team and their unique vision, it might just have a chance at stacking up against some of the bigger shooter titles out there.
We recently contacted the game’s lead producer, Millan Singh, and asked him a few questions about the ambitious single-player title. Here what he had to say:
Q: Firstly, for those of our readers who are unaware of the game, could you describe it for us?
A: Wake Up Call is a single player, sci-fi first person shooter game that has a heavy emphasis on atmosphere, story, and immersive gameplay. The game is set in a post-post-apocalypse world, over 150 years after “The Collapse”, in the year 2257 CE. No one knows exactly what happened, beyond that it was a disease of some sort. This disease killed nearly 40% of the world’s population, causing massive destabilization of governments and the ensuing mess of violence and conflict whittled down the world’s population to only 5% of the population before “The Collapse”. 75% of those who weren’t killed were mutated and the rest were immune.
The mutated people, known as mutations, had suffered partial skin necrosis, loss of hair color, and other small physical changes, but the main mutation was in their mind. Mutations had an increased vulnerability to insanity, paranoia, and extremely short temper. Despite these differences, mutations were still similar enough to humans that they could interbreed and produce offspring of both the human and mutation genome.
Eventually, society grew again in places all over the world as the world stabilized and anarchy ceded to order. Flash forward to 2254, in the old capital city of the USA. A powerful and disturbed dictator, Davos Kaledin, has taken control of The Kalders, the only big organized nation-state in the area. Davos instituted policy to make humans second-class to mutations. The Scarred, a self-proclaimed resistance group, launched a failed revolution against Davos, incurring massive losses on both sides. Now, in 2257, The Scarred lives in the less-traveled areas of the city and in the forests, utilizing guerrilla tactics to try to keep Davos on his toes.
Kyle Rogers, an ex-special ops soldier from before The Collapse, has been woken up from cryostasis by a young human woman named Tori. He quickly learns of a massive underground Cryostation which holds thousands of humans from before “The Collapse” in cryostasis, and he has to power up a series of three relays before opening the station himself.
But, it won’t be long before Kyle realizes there is more to this world than his mission and that the secrets of this world are more dangerous than the bacteria that caused “The Collapse” in the first place.
Wake Up Call will focus on bringing the world to life, portraying strong characters in a realistic post-apocalyptic scenario, and teleporting the player into the shoes of Kyle Rogers. It will truly be an epic adventure that any and all sci-fi fans will just need to have.
Q: When did work begin on Wake Up Call, and what ultimately inspired you to start it?
A: Work technically began in the summer of 2011. Back then, it was just me writing some ideas for story and gameplay. Eventually, I recruited some concept artists and started trying to build some of the world of the game, like backstory, mood boards, etc. It took until the end of the summer of 2012 for pre-production to be considered complete for me. But, between the beginning and 2013, there were many story changes, complete re-writings, huge evolutions, etc. From that point until today and the end of production, the only changes to story we have been making have been fleshing out details of the game rather than massively changing it.
As for my inspiration, I don’t really know. I just wanted to make a game and wanted to try something at least remotely feasible. I had a game idea before Wake Up Call, but it was much too big for me to handle, and so I decided to move on to a smaller project (believe it or not, Wake Up Call is significantly smaller than my other ideas). I chose single-player because I love single-player games, and I think there are far too little good single-player FPS games in the world now.
Q: Is Kyle going to be a silent protagonist? If so, how are you going to handle his character development? Will it be up to the player to shape his personality?
A: Kyle will not be a silent protagonist. The point of our main character is to let the player’s actions and decision-making actually influence Kyle’s personality. Since Kyle woke up with amnesia, we are able to let the player shape Kyle’s personality with the way they play, allowing the player’s style to mesh with their version of Kyle. There are no dialogue wheels, however, and all dialogue modification is completely organic and reflected in the characters that Kyle talks to.
Q: Wake Up Call will supposedly never break away from the first-person viewpoint. Does this create some challenges in terms of telling your story?
A: Ultimately, this does make production slightly more difficult, but storytelling itself is not as affected. Wake Up Call is a game of few quick-time events or places where the player loses control, and the story mostly progresses naturally between Kyle and Tori while running on rooftops and through warehouses, etc. So, storytelling is just as easy, in my opinion. That said, I think that immersion is definitely easier with a fully first-person game, since the player never breaks that.
Q: Without wishing to dig up any spoilers or top-secret plot details, could you tell us a bit about Tori’s role in the storyline?
A: Tori is one of the two main characters in the game. She is very much invested in killing Davos, but you don’t really know why, at least not until you are in the middle of the game. She is a very interesting character and, in many ways, completes Kyle; she is like Kyle’s Cortana or a female version of Mercury from Mirror’s Edge (for those of you who played Mirror’s Edge like me). She helps Kyle in his missions, but, the way the script is written, it is clear that Kyle is not being pushed around and he has his reasons for completing his mission that are different than Tori’s. Beyond this, there is not much more I want to divulge just yet.
Q: We noticed in some concept art that there’s a distinct contrast between technological cityscapes and organic forests. Will this somehow play into the theme of the story?
A: I don’t know if I would say it plays into the theme, but the contrast is definitely important in the game’s world. Both environments, however, have some similar qualities. These include the heavy use of emissive lighting where objects in the world are lit up, an eerie emptiness (especially in the city), and a sense of life in the environment. The city is supposed to be a partially self-sustaining city where parts of it are getting repaired and others are getting degraded. But I will touch more on this in the next question as I am getting a little off topic.
Q: Is there any specific art style/aesthetic that you have in mind for the game? Also, are you finding that the Unreal Engine 3 is well suited for the game?
A: The Unreal Engine 3 is a very versatile engine, and, while not perfect, it allows us to do most of what we want to do fairly easily, even without the full source code license. As for the art style we are going for with the game, there is definitely an apocalyptic feeling to the art, often in a nuanced way. We wanted to go for an eerie emptiness (like I said above) that is constantly contrasted to the ‘life’ of the environments. The environments are all tailored to enhance that apocalyptic feel, the feeling that you are basically alone in this world; there is no air support or tanks to back you up. The aesthetic we are going for in both the city and the forest help to enhance that feeling. In addition, we did not want to skimp out on scale, so there will be plenty of vistas and huge expanses in both environments.
As for the specific art style of the forest and city, the forest is like a normal forest infused with a bit of Avatar (the movie with the blue people, or N’avi), while the city holds an almost Halo/Mass Effect style. With the city though, there are two main distinctions: the newer side of the city and the old city. The new city looks almost like Mirror’s Edge but with a more sci-fi Halo-y theme, while the old city is composed of smaller buildings, is more run-down, and has less emissive elements or sci-fi elements.
I also wanted to make a quick note that, because we are using UE3, we are finding that we have a lot of potential in varying environments and things like realistic rain, atmospheric fog, and wide-open vistas.
Q: What kind of shooting can we expect to see in Wake Up Call? Will it be more realistic or old-school?
A: The shooting in Wake Up Call is more of a tactical experience. I would say it bears some semblance to Splinter Cell Conviction/Blacklist, in that you (usually) have the opportunity to be stealthy and stay in the shadows. But, if you mess up trying to be stealthy or you simply don’t want to be stealthy, you are more than capable of pulling out your machine gun and blasting your way through enemies. I wouldn’t say the shooting is old-school, but I will say that it won’t be the “press ‘X’ to win” gameplay found in campaigns like BF3, the MW series, etc. Not that I want to hate on those games, but their gameplay often was too scripted, and we want to stray from that where we can.
I should also mention that the shooting will have cinematic moments in and of itself. Things like destructible props, breaking through damaged walls, etc. But these moments will be organic and optional maneuvers that the player does not have to utilize.
Q: We heard that a significant part of gameplay will involve puzzles. Could you tell us a bit about how they factor into the game?
A: Puzzles are divided into two main categories: the relay puzzles and the ‘jumping puzzles’ found throughout the gunfights. Relay puzzles are more intricate and involve a mix of ‘jumping puzzles’ and puzzles based on ‘circuits’ that the player must manipulate in specific ways. I don’t want to say too much more, since we haven’t done a whole lot of design work on puzzles yet, as we are focused on combat/stealth for the gameplay demo.
Q: Were there any notable highs and lows during development so far? How do you feel about indie development in general?
A: There were certainly some highs and lows, although I can’t personally remember many of them. I feel like indie development is fun and that people enjoy it, but the lack of funding can be really hampering to your goals. Of course, our goal right now is to complete our gameplay demo and get some funding, so hopefully that won’t be as much of an issue after that. The other big thing is that you have to get to a certain point before things start to snowball and the game gets built, but getting to that magic point is very difficult. Overall, I think Wake Up Call has bright days ahead, but, it’s a LOT of work.
Q: When do you expect Wake Up Call to ultimately release? Are you looking for any volunteer/help positions at the moment?
A: Ultimately, Wake Up Call will release in two episodes, and the first is likely to release in 2014, but beyond that I really can’t predict anything. As for volunteers, we are definitely looking for some. We are really looking for experienced Unrealscript Programmers who are familiar with UE3, but we also could use a couple 3D Artists as well. If you want to help on the game for any position, send an application to email@example.com.
Q: Are there any other details you’d like to share with our readers before we depart?
A: Well, I suppose now would be a good time to tell them that they should like us on Facebook and make an account on our website where they can join the discussion. We are trying to build some awareness before we eventually go to get funding through Kickstarter, so the more people that we can get to like the page, the better. Thanks for having me, and I hope I can come back sometime soon!
As mentioned above, be sure to follow the game’s official site and Facebook page for more tantalizing details to come. What are your thoughts on Wake Up Call? Let us know!
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