Welcome to another recap of Revving the Engine. In case you missed the first one, Unwinnable has been unearthing personal stories of the challenges and inspirations of developers working on intriguing projects using Unreal Engine. This time, we’ve got tales of extinction, exploration, and reality-bending doorways. It’s exciting stuff! Let’s jump in.
Image courtesy of Jonas Manke
Omno: In Search of Awe
Omno is an atmospheric exploration game full of puzzles and platforming obstacles, developed solo by Jonas Manke. In our full interview, I spoke to Jonas about the challenges of solo development, the stress and triumph of running a successful Kickstarter campaign, the loneliness of exploring a strange world, and the melancholy art of Caspar David Friedrich:
Manke is busy building two worlds, an imaginary one for people to play in and a real one that he’d like to inhabit as a game developer. But, given the chance (and a magic door), would he slip out of this world to explore the one in Omno?
“The world I’m trying to create in Omno is definitely a world that I would want to explore, because of the animals and the landscape, but the temples are abandoned; you wander through ruins and lost places that would make me feel pretty lonely, probably,” he says. “I’m not sure if that would be joyful for many people in the real world. But I feel as though that sense of solitude offers you an experience you barely have in your real life full of families, busy places, and jobs. That is what I want to achieve with Omno, I think.
Endling by Herobeat Studios is a survival game with a twist: you play the last adult fox on earth caring for her cubs, teaching them the skills to survive in a world that has become almost impossibly hostile:
I can’t help but wonder if Endling will be too heart-wrenching. After all, even if the player is successful and shepherds the fox cubs to maturity and independence, what kind of world are they inheriting? Can the mother’s efforts amount to more than a nurturing delay of the inevitable? Perhaps that is the lesson.
Herobeat’s Javier Ramello is ambiguous. “Well, it’s definitely not a Disney movie. Endling’s world, our world, is harsh and players will have to work hard in order to reach the best ending. The truth is that a simple vixen can’t change what we are doing to the planet. She is just a spectator and we all are going to suffer the consequences.
This one was a surprise. I went in expecting to talk about the ins and outs of Mini Goliath’s Dropship, a glitchy homage to the old Lunar Lander game. When we got to talking though, I learned about Mini Goliath’s novel approach to developing smaller games in the service of sustaining development on a larger one, the beautiful and enigmatic Revoider:
Revoider looks to be a gorgeous dreamscape of a game about a boy wandering a surreal landscape dotted with strange ruins and reality-bending doorways. In some ways, it makes me think of several obscure European cartoons from the 80s that probably only exist in my own mind.
Revoider is Mini Goliath’s end goal, a game on a larger scale that challenges their abilities. “Revoider really just started with the two of us wanting to make something pretty and push ourselves artistically,” says Paul. “From there, it’s all been organic. At the heart of it, it’s about exploration. We want to encourage playfulness and evoke a sense of childlike wonder and curiosity in the player. It’s quite serene right now but we’d definitely like to explore some darker elements in future.”
Judging from the development demos they’ve released so far, they’ve definitely succeeded at nailing pretty. There are huge desert vistas punctuated by mysterious monoliths. Clouds take on the shapes of bears and dinosaurs. Kaleidoscopes dance. For me, it's the portals that really get my synapses firing – through the arch of a doorway, you can see locations that are different from your current surroundings; walk through and you’re in an entirely new place. It is one of those things that you can only really do with videogames, when aesthetics and mechanics combine to give you that “Eureka!” moment of understanding.
Keep your eyes peeled for another batch of features. If you’d like to read them as they come out, consider subscribing to Unwinnable Monthly – we’re an independent publication devoted to thoughtful cultural criticism and we’d love for you to check out what we do.
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