Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Go for the eyes, starveling cat! Go for the eyes!

First, something that resembles news: I was shocked and delighted to read that Failbetter Games has been working on a SECRET PROJECT for BioWare! Their official announcement is very cagey, but of course I’m bursting at the seams with curiosity. BioWare is my favorite current RPG creator, and I’ve been a devoted Fallen London player for nearly two years (despite my lack of recent posts on the game, it continues to occupy a large amount of my attention).

In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have been too surprised. I remember reading a series of tweets a while back from Alexis Kennedy and Chris Gardiner about a trip they’d taken to Edmonton to meet with BioWare. I’d thought at the time that it was a little unusual, and wondered if BioWare made a habit of flying developers from tiny European studios to North America to chat. I’ve thought in the past that Failbetter could potentially be an acquisition target for BioWare; in the absolute worst case for FBG, I imagine they would be able to find jobs as writers. A collaboration is a much cooler outcome, though!

So, what are they working on? I have zero proof, but some hunches. The next big announced project on BioWare’s schedule is Dragon Age Inquisition, so it’s very possible that the project is linked to that. Before both Origins and DA2 were released, BioWare released fun little free Flash games as marketing tools. These were surprisingly deep in gameplay (capturing many of the final games’ abilities, monsters, etc.), but narratively rather thin (Kill All Monsters, more or less). I’m tremendously excited by the idea of FBG creating a narratively-rich game that will help fill in the backstory between DA2 and Inquisition, introduce new characters, and help us start to experience the politics that will help drive the game’s action.

The one semi-concrete bit of information in the post about the project says “it’s a Failbettery one, down to its bones.” I’m very curious what that means. “Down to its bones” could mean that it’s a project running on the StoryNexus platform; or that (contrary to my earlier supposition) it’s set in Fallen London. If it is a SN game, then I think that could be a really good match for the DAI pre-game I’m imagining. The thing that’s cool about SN and Fallen London is that it’s much better suited to world-building than many other narrative platforms. You’re not just pursuing a single plot, but exploring a virtual space, pursuing a whole set of different stories that interest you, with the pacing and direction of each left up to you. It’s much more RPG-y and less linear than just about any other text-heavy game system out there. All that to say, it could be a really fantastic game for fans to explore in the run-up to launch.

Another much more remote possibility is that Fallen London is the new IP that the old Mass Effect team is developing. I’m much more skeptical of this: BioWare seems much more likely to develop its own IP in-house; while FL certainly has its devoted fans, it’s hardly an established franchise on the scale of Star Wars or D&D; and given the team's background, another sci-fi project seems more likely. Still, that would be cool, and also a nice thematic area for BioWare to move into… in addition to DA’s fantasy and Mass Effect’s sci-fi they could have Fallen London’s alternate-history, almost-a-bit-steampunky quality.

So, we’ll see! Bottom line, I don’t know what’s coming, but I’m enthusiastic to see those companies working together.

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