You never quite know what's going to pick up momentum on social media - ihobo founder Chris Bateman's tweet about the advice he gives to people wanting to improve their game writing and narrative design skills was just an offhand remark, but it seemed to resonate with a lot of people working in the games industry!
Over at Only a Game, ihobo founder Chris Bateman continues his intermittent correspondence with US critic Jed Pressgrove, this time sparring over the 'walking simulator' in a two-part blog letter entitled A Tale of Two Walking Simulators. The two parts discuss the 2016 game Firewatch and the 2015 game Everybody's Gone to the Rapture. Here's an extract:
If we put side to side the artgame achievements of the walking simulator, broadly construed, it marks bold new possibilities for the media that share the name ‘videogame’, new paths that in no way invalidate (and indeed, help illuminate) our more familiar player practices. 2005’s The Endless Forest – Tale of Tales’ landmark ‘massively multiplayer screensaver’ – not only led to thatgamecompany’s Journey but revealed new potential for the encounter play that had been inherent in table top-role playing games but had struggled to find expression in any visual form. Ed Key and David Kanaga’s Proteus, perhaps my favourite game of this century, turns walking into a magical experience using only the tricks of the nature documentary and a cunning alliance of sound and vision. But it is perhaps The Chinese Room’s Dear Esther that especially helps shed light on contemporary games by being built upon the skeleton of an FPS yet stripped of its guns and violence. It delivers a wondrous ghost story whose thin play seemed to open the door to new narrative possibilities in videogames by denying the necessity of challenge – for which it had to be ostracized as ‘not a game’ by legions of aesthetically conservative players.
The letter is mostly concerned with videogames as an aesthetic and artistic medium, and not as a commercial medium, but if you have an interest in the walking simulator genre, or either of the two games discussed, you should definitely check it out!
The tenacious videogame print magazine, Retro Gamer, has a special 200th issue this month, with a fantastic set of articles covering the history of games. International Hobo's founder Chris Bateman was interviewed for a piece on the origins and legacy of the open world genre, a topic Chris has extensively researched. Here's an extract:
"The genesis of the open world happens entirely in the United Kingdom in two key years, 1984 and 1985," explains Chris Bateman, founder of ihobo, the studio behind Silk, an open world game inspired by games like The Lords of Midnight, Eye of the Beholder, and The Bards Tale. "Elite, The Lords of Midnight, Paradroid, and Mercenary all laid out ways of giving the player maximum agency with the relatively minimal resources of the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, and Amstrad." Chris points out that Elite "directly inspired DMA in making the GTA franchise.".
Retro Gamer #200 is in all good newsagents now.
International Hobo is proud to announce the release of its game Silk on Switch and Steam today. In development for fourteen months, backed by a successful Kickstarter, and published by the Kings of Neo-Retro at Huey Games, Silk is the first game from new developer ihobo games, a spin off from the award-winning consultancy, which is celebrating its twentieth year of trading.
Enter the biggest handcrafted open world of all time, fifty times larger than Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall! Explore three million square miles of uncharted terrain from Roman Damascus to Three Kingdoms China in an exploration RPG that transports you onto the Ancient Silk Road of 200AD.
Over on Eurogamer today, a retrospective called The Making of Discworld Noir looking at how this classic point and click adventure came about, and also talking about its connection with Silk. Great to see Noir getting attention in its twentieth anniversary year. You can read the full article over at Eurogamer.