So, now that The Closer: Game of the Year Edition is out (go play it!!!), and I’ve patched up all the major bugs that have been reported so far, what’s next? That’s a good question and, fortunately, I already have an answer for you. My next game is in a very early state, but far enough along that I plan to live demo it in a couple weeks and think it’s fair time to announce it, so here goes.
First off, this is not a follow-up to The Closer. I am going in a completely different direction with this project, eschewing wacky comedy for atmosphere and horror. But if you like the silly stuff and have no interest in anything else, don’t worry! I’ll still be doing dumb single-day projects like The Ascension of Randy Choate too. But that’s enough in the way of disclaimers.
Now I’m going to talk about 26 gy.
If you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably heard me sing the praises of Final Fantasy VIII, relative to the Final Fantasy series and even jRPGs in general. I’ll write an overlong, in-depth post about this eventually but what I love about VIII is how it plays with the most fundamental gameplay loops of the RPG–earning experience points and leveling up. Killing monsters for XP is secretly counter-productive and grinding for levels can make the game almost unbeatable. It’s entirely bizarre and works with the (equally bizarre) themes of the game.
I wanted to do something similar.
26 gy is a horror/RPG in which you do not gain levels. You lose them. At the beginning of your game, your character suffers a lethal dose of neutron radiation which leaves them in the “walking ghost” phase of acute poisoning. She is going to die and cannot be saved, but for the moment she feels just fine.
Your character (there will be three options to start) is recruited to explore a mysterious labyrinth beneath the military base where the radiation accident occurred. You believe that this labyrinth is somehow connected to the accident and the experiments you were running when it occurred, so you agree to investigate. After all, you have nothing left to lose.
With every hour you are in the labyrinth (represented by one game minute) you lose a level. Your stats are decreased in kind, and you are one hour/minute closer to death. There is no extending the time limit, there is only descending deeper into the labyrinth so that you will learn as many of its secrets as possible before the radiation poisoning runs its course.
There’s more to the story–a lot more, and I hope to make the narrative the major draw, since the gameplay systems are (intentionally) oppressive–but that’s all I’m going to say about it since I want players to discover the mysteries of the labyrinth and its monsters for themselves.
Monsters? Yes, unlike The Closer, this is an RPG. Right now, it uses the standard RPG Maker battle system (which is the early Dragon Quest battle system FWIW) but in the coming months I’ll be playing around with other options. Killing monsters earns currency, which can be exchanged for items or indulgences from the mysterious stranger who appears throughout the labyrinth. These will serve to offset the stats lost by the slow level drain.
26 gy is, though, above all a horror game. But not the kind full of jump scares and gore. The monster that is going to kill you isn’t hiding behind a corner, in a closet, or even really in the next random battle. It is the poison inside of you; there’s no finding it but there’s also no escaping it. The clock in the corner will always tell you how much time you have in the winding, unnatural dark hallways of the labyrinth.
Again, all of this is in a fairly nebulous stage. The art style–which I hope invokes the stark abstract nature of C64 and black-and-white PC games–is probably the only thing set in stone. I’m not much of an artist, so I gotta go as simple and abstract as possible.
Despite that, I wanted to get it out there. I work fast, and I expect 26 gy to be done by the holidays (what a cheerful holiday title) though I’m not sure when I’ll release it. But for now, if you happen to be in St. Louis and want to attend a video game convention, I’ll be demoing the early build of 26 gy at Pixelpop Fest.
And if you want to see my other stab at horror, check out my novella, Room 127 for an idea of how I handle more serious and grim subjects. I’d like to think I can do more than tell dumb jokes!