They made a video game in 5 months during a pandemic
Hi everyone, this is Jason Schreier. Have you ever wondered, pushing your husband over the rail of a cruise ship, how best to frame one of the other passengers? I have the video game for you.
Overboard, a new game from a small independent company called Inkle Ltd., puts players in the shoes of a woman who just murdered her cheating spouse and now must find a way out. You have an eight-hour day to explore the ship and talk to other passengers. You can convince the rest of the boat that your husband committed suicide, trap his mistress, or just kill everyone on board. It sounds suitably dark for our current times, but I swear it’s not as dark as it looks.
The global pandemic has led to a boom time for the video game industry, inspiring all kinds of people to take on controllers to avoid the boredom of quarantine. It also left game makers in disarray. Countless titles from major publishers have been delayed this year due to production issues caused by the pandemic, including new games in big series like God of War and Harry Potter.
Overboard, however, is an example of how limitations can breed creativity instead of sinking it. A team of less than 10 people created the game in barely five months– during the pandemic. The small scale allowed them to take the kinds of creative and storytelling risks that might not have been possible with a more expensive project. This follows in the tradition of independent upstarts who inject new ideas into the video game industry, allowing developers to test new forms of gameplay that would not be possible in mass productions.
In contrast, video games created by major publishers can take thousands of people and years to develop. When a game costs hundreds of millions of dollars, it has to sell millions of copies, leading big companies to take a checklist approach to game development. The best graphics possible? Check. Huge cards? Check. Skill trees, levels and branching dialogue? Check, check, check.
At the sea is something very different. It’s a brilliant, mostly text-based game in which even the most minor decisions can lead to unexpected results. Everyone on the boat follows their own routine, whether it’s crying in their bedroom or taking a walk on the deck, and each new day offers opportunities to interact with these people.
As you play, you will be given new objectives to learn more about your fellow travelers and manage them in specific ways. The game-available on PC, Mac, smartphones and Nintendo Switch — iIt’s basically a big puzzle in which you are called upon to figure out how to align all the pieces. And if everything goes wrong, you can just start over from the beginning.
This kind of small-scale development isn’t a new trend, but it’s welcome, especially when it leads to games as beautiful as Overboard. –Jason schreier
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