#2 In Other Wa­ters

Soak­ing in the aquatic am­bi­ence

Games Master - - Indiemaster -

Game ideas can come at the un­like­li­est of times. For Gareth Damian Martin, in­spi­ra­tion struck dur­ing a long hol­i­day, while he was swim­ming in the Aegean Sea. It was the sum­mer be­fore his 30th birth­day, and as the clear Gre­cian wa­ters washed over him, Martin vowed to make a game as a present to him­self. But In Other Wa­ters is not that game. “I worked on a game called Salt that I built in Twine, which was about swim­ming and think­ing,” Martin tells us. “You have to keep press­ing the space­bar to keep swim­ming to keep the nar­ra­tive go­ing – if you stop press­ing it and let the stamina bar de­crease, then you sur­face.”

While mak­ing Salt, Martin started to think about com­bin­ing a text-based game with the kind of me­chan­i­cal in­ter­ac­tions you’d find in a more con­ven­tional videogame. “I be­came re­ally in­ter­ested in this re­la­tion­ship be­tween those two things and started to think about how it could ex­pand into a big­ger game.” He hit upon the no­tion of an ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence driv­ing the mech­a­nisms of a div­ing suit.

This way he could fea­ture more in­volv­ing in­ter­ac­tions, such as mon­i­tor­ing the suit’s oxy­gen and run­ning its in­ter­nal pro­cesses, while main­tain­ing the text el­e­ment as a nar­ra­tion of sorts from an ac­tive char­ac­ter. So while In Other Wa­ters is about xeno­bi­ol­o­gist Ellery Vas, who’s look­ing for her part­ner, Mi­nae No­mura, within an alien ocean, the player takes the role of the suit’s AI, which must scan the lo­cal area for signs of life, grab bi­o­log­i­cal sam­ples, and more.

Metroid Prime is a big in­flu­ence. “I think a lot of games set in alien worlds want to be about ex­plo­ration but in the end they’re re­ally about com­bat or re­source man­age­ment,” Martin says. “I just didn’t want to make that com­pro­mise. I wanted to make a game that was ac­tu­ally about study­ing alien life in a real sense, rather than be­ing about study­ing it a lit­tle bit and then shoot­ing it and us­ing its body parts to fuel some kind of en­gine.” Though that’s not to say that the ocean won’t be hos­tile. You’ll need to up­grade the suit to pass through toxic re­gions, and not all the aquatic life will wel­come you.

The min­i­mal­ism and tac­tile shapes in the el­e­gant in­ter­face – which in it­self feels slightly alien – have led some to sug­gest it would be per­fect for smart­phones. While Martin says he’s keen to bring In Other Wa­ters to mo­bile, it feels par­tic­u­larly at home on PC with the ex­tra screen space that af­fords. “The idea of soli­tude and the un­knowa­bil­ity of the ocean is some­thing that’s re­ally im­por­tant to the game,” he says. As things stand, you’re just a tiny dot in a huge ocean. We can’t wait to feel the im­pact of the full game.

Martin is pro­duc­ing an il­lus­trated book too, con­tain­ing pictures and bi­o­log­i­cal de­tails of the fic­tional crea­tures.

Se­lect­ing a tar­get be­fore ro­tat­ing the cen­tral dial lets you de­ter­mine Ellery’s head­ing. Some des­ti­na­tions are off-lim­its with­out suit up­grades.

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