Crowdfunding campaigns can be like buses. You can wait ages for a good one to come along, then suddenly several appear at once. This is what happened to me at the end of March when I found myself making pledges to two Kickstarter projects on the same day.
I’ve mentioned before that I really like detective releases so I couldn’t resist becoming a backer for these video games. First was General Interactive Co.’s campaign for Chinatown Detective Agency, a mystery adventure inspired by the classic Carmen Sandiago titles that will take us across Singapore and the world in hot pursuit of criminals, witnesses and clues. More about the project later this week once I’ve finally had a chance to play the demo and gather my thoughts.
The second was Anshar Studios’ campaign for Gamedec, an addition to my wishlist in August last year and part of my list of 20 games for 2020 back in January. The promise of being able to solve crimes inside virtual worlds and discover the relationship between them and their inhabitants has made it an upcoming game I’ve been keeping a close eye on. There was no way I was going to miss out on becoming a backer, and I was lucky enough to do so quickly enough to snag the Kickstarter Special tier.
The title takes place in Warsaw City at the end of the 22nd century. While the technology of the future is incredibly advanced, the world’s natural environment has mutated and become hostile to humanity. Many people choose to escape into virtual games that enable them to forget the horrors surrounding them and fulfil their fantasies. These digital worlds have therefore given rise to the problems of human nature and their residents need specialist private investigators to aid them.
You take on the role of one such Gamedec. Answering a series of questions at the start of the game enables it to choose the most fitting aspects and backgrounds for your character, so you can then get on with solving crimes in both the real and virtual worlds. But no case has a simple solution. Your clients could be working alone or they might be just a corrupt as your suspects – and in some cases, they could even be the puppets of something far more sinister.
This is just the sort of broad storyline that appeals to me. Seeing the rise of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) in the IT industry over the past few years has made me interested in the ‘people’ aspect and how technological advances impact our society, both positively and negatively. I’m curious to find out how such factors have affected the world depicted through Gamedec’s plot; and looking at the promotional video, it seems like we’re going to be asked to make some difficult choices.
It’s a similar narrative that persuaded me to join in with my first tabletop RPG recently (check out Shadowrun on the TheLawfulGeek Twitch channel every other Thursday) and I think this is going to come in handy when understanding Gamedec’s mechanics. It focuses on choice-dependent character-building scenarios and adapts to your playstyle. You begin with a handful of Aspects which reflect your experience and choices, influenced by things such as personality traits and knowledge.
Aspect points can be used to unlock Professions and there are currently 30 to open, all of which have consequences. You could choose to become a hacker and make your life easier in the virtual world by exploiting bugs or programs; but it could make non-player characters (NPCs) who know about your actions less likely to trust you. Be a successful e-Sports player and you’ll be treated like a celebrity or become spy if you prefer to stay under the radar.
This is one example of how Gamedec gives you the freedom to approach situations from multiple angles. I’ve written before that putting myself under huge pressure to make the ‘best choices’ in video games has led to some unenjoyable gaming experiences and I guess this could be a possibility here. But one of the reasons I became a backer for this project was the information provided on the Kickstarter page: ‘The game never judges your actions.’
The Deduction screen aggregates all clues collected during your investigations and helps you navigate towards a conclusion. The thing I like about it is that there’s no fail state and it’s up to the player to decide how they want to end each case. Revelations you find can present moral dilemmas and characters in the story respond to your decisions according to their own beliefs, causing paths to be opened or locked as a result and creating the possibility for multiple playthroughs.
Gamedec has proven incredibly popular with backers, hitting its £40,508 target just days after the start of the crowdfunding campaign. Two stretch-goals have already been reached at the time of writing and the title will now benefit from a ‘true detective’ mode (where you won’t get a chance to revise your actions by reloading) and additional interactions. I wouldn’t be surprised if further goals are met by the time this post goes out for publishing.
There’s still time to make a pledge if you’d like to give the developer a hand with that: you’ve got until 28 April 2020 to show your support. Head over to the Kickstarter campaign for all the details, and give Anshar Studios’ a follow on Twitter to stay up-to-date on their progress.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.