It really is as unique and exciting as it sounds, effectively placing you right in the chair of Gorman in the movie Aliens. The entire game evokes the feeling of Cameron’s 1986 classic, throwing you into the camera feeds of dark and murky deserted ships for you to explore, salvage, and escape before being eaten alive by screaming alien beasties.
I recently visited Opposable Games at the Bristol Games Hub, to sample their new tactical creation ‘Salvaged’ and spoke to the team about the game’s development and the Kickstarter project they’ve just launched to fund it. Opposable Games is a small development team based in the South West, created out of love for PC games and device connectivity.
The passion of these developers is infectious, and it’s obvious from every one of them that they are hungry to push the gaming experience into new realms not yet chartered by existing studios and commercial publishers. They grew from a community of developers who gravitated towards each other out of personal interest, creating groups and distributing newsletters to those who were interested enough to want to be involved.
The continued communications eventually led to the organisation and involvement of South West Game Jams, a chance for hobbyists and coders both professional and amateur to come together and share their skills by developing a complete game over one weekend.
Through this community networking they realised they had the combined skills and more than enough passion and enthusiasm to go professional and create something to rival other established titles. Out of pure collaboration, enthusiasm, and personal interest, Opposable Games was born.
One of the core ideals of this team is interconnectivity, and as a closely knit group of passionate gamers they initially set about to implement a system which would use the currently available generation of gaming technology but take a risk most larger companies wouldn’t dare do. Rather than aim their sights at cashing in on the mobile craze and creating a generic game any and everybody can play, they have chosen instead to focus on gamers like themselves. ‘These gamers’ being the sorts that enjoy depth of game mechanics and strategy; the apparently lost generation of PC gamers publishers and larger game studios seem to have forgotten about (or don’t make enough money from).
Smaller indie studios have, in recent years, become the ones to watch, as they are the ones now pushing the platforms and game concepts to their limits to create interesting experiences for gamers. Real genuine innovation is hard to come across in much commercial these days, and it’s refreshing to see this recent breed of developers breaking the mould.
The first challenge for Opposable Games was to build the platform upon which these interesting new concepts could be realised, so they took it upon themselves to develop a piece of middleware to enable seamless connectivity of mobile devices. The team realised that most people have smartphones or tablet these days, and so set about developing software for Android/iOS/Windows mobile which enabled them to deploy connected game interfaces across these platforms.
Taking a device which most of us already have in our pockets and turning it into a control surface that actually makes sense to real gamers is genius. Most controls implemented via touch screens that I have come into contact with so far have been modelled on console controllers, clumsily implementing virtual analogue sticks and tiny squashed buttons. The seriously underwhelming Wii U is about the only interesting step any major games company has made towards a well implemented surface control, and it relies heavily on streamed HD content as a feature to attract potential customers.
Here we have a system which uses existing technology we all own and presents it in a manner that real gamers can adopt and understand easily. There are no tilt-control gimmicks or tricky thumb d-pads to get in the way; instead we are presented with a real-time tactical map which immediately feels familiar and functional. Something at last on a tablet or phone we can get our teeth into.
The game itself is unique in the way that you control your troop’s position and view via swiping and tapping on your tablet, watching them play out these commands via your camera relays. It allows for both instant action and incredibly strategic missions, as you slowly sweep down corridors and plan your next move by tapping into video feeds and keeping your troops alert and covering each other. Not only this but the salvage that you recover from each ship enables different entry points and methods of success, providing you with different weapons and customisable abilities and skills for each team member.
Permadeath was a phrase mentioned to me by the development team, and they intend for Salvaged to contain net-connected leaderboards and updated content via new ships and contracts issued to your team. This adds another level of challenge, as you strive to keep your team alive in order to compete with your friends online.
On my first experience of the Alpha play through it felt unfamiliar, as a completely new control system should, but very soon strategies which had been at the back of my mind in FPS games suddenly became functional and possible. I quickly adjusted to sweeping across the map with my team, each one covering the next as they shuffled through the claustrophobic corridors of beautifully-rendered abandoned spaceships reminiscent of any good 80’s sci-fi film. Here is where the game really shines, as without any fuss I was implementing strategy I had only previously been exposed to in films and books. It felt fun.
One will obviously draw comparisons to the recent X-COM reboot, which was largely well-received even amongst fans of the older title. But what Opposable Games has done, is take the concept back to the drawing board and refocused the output into a bit more of a directed challenge. It works well, and I can see this concept of single player contracts entered onto an internet leaderboard taking off and flying well.
The game is currently still in pre-alpha, and obviously many features are still yet to be implemented. However, I congratulate Opposable Games for having the innovation and passion to create something so unique, and not only in their brand new control system, but also the way the game is tied together.
Already in this pre-alpha stage Salvaged shows a lot of promise and room to grow as both a game and IP. Speaking to their team leaves me with no doubt the title will end up as something not only spectacular but as something that will have put a gaming moment on the map; the birth of a new subgenre of game.
I wish Opposable Games well in this mammoth task, and look forward to the outcome. Needless to say I will be backing their Kickstarter project ASAP.