May 9, 2014 4:04 PM | John Polson
Detective work is taxing; trying to gather and piece together clues in a setting as strange as a damaged Zeppelin only exacerbates the job. Such is Unbound Creations' upcoming who's-going-to-sabotage-the-airship adventure, tentatively titled Karaski.
Here, lead developer Jakub Kasztalski (Postmortem: One Must Die) speaks about his research and design for his first-person detective game being made with Unity for PC, where he hopes to convey "believable and multi-dimensional non-playable characters" (NPCs), offer challenging stealth and hack sequences, and set it all in an early 1900s Eastern Europe.
"The gameplay is a mix between Deus Ex/System Shock, Gone Home, and dialogue-focused RPGs like Fallout," Jakub says, as a comparison. "Some areas will have you sneak and infiltrate avoiding guards and using various tools to pick locks or 'hack' some machinery. Others will focus on talking to the NPCs, learning about them and getting information, or perhaps breaking into their rooms to investigate. There will also be some choices and guesses you will have to make along the way that will affect how the gameplay and story plays out."
The story will be told, in part, through the NPCs, which Jakub wants to avoid as just "walking signposts," opting instead for people with personalities you have to think about. "Some like flattery, some don't. Some may be reluctant to talk to you if you were caught acting suspicious, others might find it intriguing. Some may get offended and refuse to speak to you again. And in some cases you can offer them a drink and see how it affects their disposition."
The setting for the story is fictional, Jakub says, loosely based on early 1900s Eastern Europe with a slightly difference technology path, hence the Slavic-Steampunk moniker.
"I've been doing a lot of background research both visually and historically into the architecture, decor, key events, and Slavic folklore, which are the basis for setting and style. Lots of reference photos from that era, looking at the actual layouts of Zeppelins (like the first Graf), and similarly themed games. I always browse through several photos before I start on level designing, modeling or texturing, though make some alterations to align with my vision."
Jakub hopes he can convey all these references effectively in the final game. He says he is also crafting a "Bigger World" to give the game a backbone to allude to, which ties into his previously released Postmortem in some ways, too.
Jakub tells me he's done research into several real world Zeppelins and their layouts, as well as cruise liners for authentic and logical level design. "You will find yourself going between different decks and areas, each with a distinct feel and purpose. Being on an airship is integral to certain parts of the plot and the overall narrative, affecting what happens in the game. It's also a basis for a few side quests, but I do not want to reveal too many spoilers just yet!"
He is still experimenting with some mechanics unique to that setting, too. "One example is letting the player mess with an area's pressure controls, which could cause the guards to become light-headed or faint. I'm also experimenting with having some outside areas that are too low on oxygen or cold for the player, unless they obtain special gear or warm themselves up with alcohol, for instance. But all of this is still up in the air (pun not intended)."
[Karaski is early in its development and much is, as Jakub says, "up in the air." To watch as things settle, follow the game here]