May 28, 2014 11:00 PM | John Polson
At the edge of the universe, the research ship Xanadu rests in orbit around an unknown planet. That is how developers Lee Williams and Allen Trivette introduce to the rest of the world Spirits of Xanadu on Steam Greenlight: an atmospheric exploration game set on the starship in an alternate 1980s. Inspired once again by classic sci-fi films and games such as System Shock, Deus Ex, Tarkovsky's Solaris, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the team aims to create an immersive and highly interactive environment, featuring puzzles and FPS elements played within a multi-layered plot.
Developers Lee and Allen reached out to discuss their upcoming game in more detail, particularly the examples of choice and interactivity it will offer.
While the world has been watching this environmentally impressive trailer,
Allen shared this previous version of the trailer to show that nearly everything on the ship works and can be used:
"Toilets, urinals, showers, sinks can be used, you can push chairs, open every drawer, read every piece of paper, turn on the stove and boil water, drink beer and smoke cigarettes, eat all the food in the pantry, there's a basketball so you can shoot some hoops, there's an arcade cabinet with a playable game on it, a guitar you can play, a soda vending machine, and more," Allen listed. "I tried to make it an actual space that was lived in and the player can interact with, rather than just a place with a bunch of static props that just function as dressing."
As for choice, he said Xanadu will have two endings (and a third hidden ending). "You do have a choice on how the story plays out, but it's a lot more subtle compared to something like Deus Ex Human Revolution where you just choose which ending you want by pressing a button."
There's also choice in combat. "You can stealth around many areas of the ship and avoid enemies or disable them without killing them. Hide in lockers or vents to escape, and find ways to disable the ship's security system instead of just blowing it to pieces. You can also lure enemies into the showers where they'll short out and explode on contact."
Lee further commented on the elements of choice. "Firstly, the ship layout isn't linear and rooms can be explored in any order. There may be advantages to starting up certain systems before others but players will have to figure these out for themselves. Similarly, there is scope for different styles of play - the game allows for stealth and tactical thinking as well as shooting.
He said the story reveals itself haphazardly, similar to Gone Home. "Players can in fact choose to ignore it completely and will still be able to complete the game. There are other endings available, however, and players who delve into the story may figure out how to access them. In general, I've tried to tie the writing to the gameplay as much as possible so that it isn't purely incidental."
Spirits of Xanadu is slated for a "2014-ish" release on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Those interested in the devs' previous work should try out freeware cyborg retirement FPS called The King of the Wood, also inspired by sci-fi films and games (Deus Ex and Blade Runner).