The next big game from Inkle, creator of 80 Days and this year's magnificent Overboard, has no name yet. The studio calls it simply a "highland game", a beautiful platform game with narrative elements set in the Scottish Highlands.
The developer has posted updates about creating the game on its website, in an attempt to be more transparent about the development cycle than ever before. It's fascinating to see the team discuss the first prototypes and delve deeper into their process.
I recently spoke with Jon Ingold and Joseph Humfrey, co-founders of Inkle, about the creation of Overboard, and it took me a while to ask them about the Highland game and how they think it’s being set up.
“That’s complicated,” Humfrey says. "What's interesting about this game is that it's exactly the opposite of Overboard, as we try to take a more open development approach. Since we finished Overboard, everything has started to go much faster, because everyone is back writing and development are accelerating now, which is exciting. "
A platform game is a novelty for Inkle, whose games are usually more driven by dialogue. "It's unusual for an Inkle game to have very playful mechanics," says Humfrey. "It's a platform game reminiscent of the old 2D Prince of Persia games in some way. This is something we're spending a lot of time on, just trying to make sure it feels fluid."
“We don’t want him to feel like Celeste or anything like that, where he’s super punishing and you have to keep trying,” he adds. "We want it to be a challenge and take some risk, but not that kind of endless death loop. Finding our own space is one of our biggest challenges right now."
Of course, being an Inkle game, the narrative will remain an important part of everything that ends up being the Highland game. “It’s part of our broader project to make the narrative good and perfect among games in general,” says Ingold. "What has always driven us is to look at the games and see how they often allude to the narratives, but do not participate in them.
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7ctAMtRyL4 (/ embed)
"They're abstracted from the game or separate. It's explained to them a lot by association. And the only thing we try to do, whatever genre we're in, is make sure that the what happens in the story is what the player is playing.
"If Inkle makes platforming platforms, what kind of platforms would it perform? And it won't be punishing or inaccessible, or an abstract journey of pain and loss through a surreal landscape, because we don't. It's not a solid narrative. "That's how you allude to a narrative."
These are the first few days of Inkle's Highland game, but you can follow their creation in the developer's official development block. As someone who has spent a lot of time wandering the Scottish Highlands IRL, I am intrigued to see how Inkle translates this experience into a video game.