The episodic action adventure game comes from team members of Halo 4 and Metal Gear Solid 4.
With the advent of even more powerful smartphones and tablets being released at an accelerated rate, more console game developers are migrating to mobile. Start-up Camouflaj is one such example, as its first game, “Republique,” blends “AAA” gameplay in an original episodic storyline that incorporates hot button topics from today’s headlines.
“Players get an anonymous phone call from a mysterious woman named Hope who asks you to help her escape from this secret totalitarian nation,” said Ryan Payton, designer on the game. “From there, players get wrapped up in the world of Metamorphosis which has its own heroes and villains, much like those we see on the news every day. Through the five-part episodic experience, we touch on a number of topics ripped from the headlines like surveillance, control, censorship, media, big data, etc.
Payton, who previously worked on Microsoft’s “Halo 4” and Konami’s “Metal Gear Solid 4” console games, said the team at Camouflaj challenged itself to make a “AAA” mobile game with a story that is all about the device in your hand.
“We wanted to tell a true first-person story that makes the player the true hero of the game,” said Payton. “If you look at our game, it’s clear that we borrow from our favorite 32-bit genres like stealth action and survival horror, but we’ve translated those 17-button console controller experiences into a 3D action game you can play with one finger. That ended up being the largest challenge for us – it almost killed me.”
Hacking is a big part of the gameplay experience. Through simple touch gestures, players help Hope get the upper hand by remotely closing doors on pursuing guards, disabling their radios, and causing distractions throughout the gameplay space. Players can also scan pre-recorded conversations that they can then sell to the Data Broker, who will buy sensitive information in exchange for currency to buy more hacking abilities.
“In so many respects, we looked at common gameplay tropes and turned them on their head,” said Payton. “We really challenged ourselves to give players something unique and daring.”
Darci Morales, producer on Republique, said one of the most challenging aspects of building an episodic game is the ever-changing tech and platform landscape.
“With each episode, we update Unity and our plug-ins, add new features, and then retroactively add those improvements to previously released episodes,” said Morales. “The design, programming, and QA workload just seems to increase with each new release. We’re also expanding the game to new platforms, which is why we partnered with Darkwind Media to expand the franchise to Android this time around. On the creative side, we have to be very thoughtful in designing future content to make sure it’s aligned with what the dev and art team can transition to. I really like the episodic model, but it increases the pressure, as you want players to love every new release.”
Morales said the truly unique thing about ‘Republique’ is its ‘one touch’ controls. The game’s stealth action gameplay is accessible to all gamers.
“We’re leaving the world where games can only be experienced by players who can wrap their hands (and minds) around seventeen-button controllers,” said Morales. “I love where this is going and how the face of gaming is changing to be more inclusive for all gamers.”
At the same time, new processing power from companies like Nvidia are allowing developers to bring games on par with Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 titles.
“The astounding thing we marvel at is the graphical quality on par with console gaming,” said Morales. “This has been a huge development and we have been happy to push ourselves to bring this to our game. If you play “Republique” you are instantly brought into that world with the environments and animations. This is improving all the time and we look forward to evolving with it.”
The very essence of what a mobile game is has been evolving now for several years. The introduction of Google TV and other micro consoles will further blur that line.
“’Republique’is not what you typically see on mobile and we are really proud of that fact,” said Morales. “It is not a pick up and play for 5 to 10 minutes game. It’s more that you get transported into the world of Metamorphosis. We touch on today’s issues and topics in a way that I don’t see any other game doing while engaging players to understand some of the deeper side effects of apathy towards use of information, theirs and others. With République you don’t only get an entertaining game, you get to be part of a compelling story, which with any luck, will stay with you long after you finish the game. Not to mention that we are pushing the limits of what people think is possible to do on mobile.”
Matt Mikuszewski, founder at Darkwind Media, said new technology like Nvidia Tegra K1 gives more power and more battery to mobile gamers.
“Having hardware features such as Tessellation available on a mobile device is amazing,” said Mikuszewski. “Tegra K1 is going to push ‘AAA’ mobile gaming to the next level.”
Payton believes most game creators feel confined by technology and struggle with it every day.
“I see technology like the Tegra K1 and just want it to be in everybody’s hands immediately, so we can then focus on new experiences that shock and empower players instead of having to wrestle with limited hardware restrictions,” said Payton. “Sometimes I find myself wanting to just go into a decade-long hibernation so I can reemerge in a world where we have these great open digital marketplaces but also with much higher spec hardware to power the experiences we want to make.”
“Republique” is now available across iOS, Windows Phone and Android devices.