Game Chang­ers: Another World

A cin­e­matic world in an age be­fore it be­came the vogue, a nar­ra­tive-driven ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore story re­ally mat­tered in games, we take a closer look at eric Chahi’s master­piece

Games TM - - CONTENTS - De­vel­oper: del­phine soft­ware Pub­lisher: del­phine soft­ware, Us Gold, In­ter­play Re­leased: 1991 Sys­tem: amiga, atari st

One of the first games to truly mix a cin­e­matic sen­si­bil­ity into its videogame ac­tion, we delve into the de­sign of Eric Chahi’s pas­sion pro­ject

We ask de­vel­op­ers a sim­ple, but chal­leng­ing ques­tion at the end of ev­ery in­ter­view: “Which game do you love and why do you love it?” It’s the ba­sis of our Why I love spreads ev­ery is­sue and it’s al­ways a fun way to end a con­ver­sa­tion. But, there are a hand­ful of games that we can of­ten pre­dict will come up ev­ery few in­ter­views and one of the most fre­quent and pas­sion­ately sup­ported is eric Chahi’s Another World.

We’ve al­ways had a deep ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Another World but, frankly, hav­ing so many de­vel­op­ers tell us that it’s a game they love has made us re-ex­am­ine the atari st and amiga re­lease. per­haps its most im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to the fu­ture of gam­ing was how cin­e­mat­i­cally minded it was. There’s a sense of scene and place in the game un­like any­thing you would typ­i­cally ex­pect to find in an ac­tion ad­ven­ture of this type. But this wasn’t an in­ter­ac­tive story with mild player par­tic­i­pa­tion. Another World is a fully fea­tured, chal­leng­ing and some­times com­plex plat­former and shooter. Its cin­e­matic sen­si­bil­ity comes through its struc­tur­ing and scene set­ting, rather than heavy-handed nar­ra­tive or cut scenes. There’s only enough story here to make sure you have mo­ti­va­tion to move on to the next chal­lenge and even then none of it is spo­ken or writ­ten in words you could un­der­stand.

One of the great ex­am­ples of this movie in­spi­ra­tion is how Chahi used the dif­fer­ent planes

PART OF THE REA­SON FOR THE GAME’S BREVITY IS THAT IT WAS A LARGELY IM­PRO­VISED DE­VEL­OP­MENT PROCESS

of the 2d game to cre­ate depth. There are sev­eral se­quences in which you see things mov­ing in the back­ground and fore­ground that help to es­tab­lish this alien planet as a liv­ing place with ac­tion and en­ti­ties all around you. You may only be able to move for­ward and back­ward, but the planet ex­ists in 360 de­grees.

and then it will play with you a lit­tle, giv­ing you ac­cess to those planes of ex­is­tence, such as sneak­ing be­hind a guard house when Buddy gets stopped by alien en­forcers and tak­ing them out from be­hind. even some­thing as sim­ple as be­ing able to walk up slopes and stair­cases that ap­pear to be set be­hind your 2d plane added depth to the ex­pe­ri­ence.

struc­turally, also, Another World feels more like it’s con­structed into acts rather than into lev­els. The ex­pe­ri­ence is con­tin­u­ous for a start, with­out level breaks or ti­tle cards, so you move from one area to the next, and of­ten back and forth, with­out in­ter­rup­tion. each part of the game has its own feel and tone too as you search aim­lessly and de­fence­less in the early stages of a strange and in­tim­i­dat­ing world, then you sneak and stealth your way around once you’re armed and you close out the game in an all-out rush try­ing to es­cape. Another World was a game about story and ex­pe­ri­ence, tone and mood, but not about scores, like so many games of its type from the era be­fore.

In fact, Another World is com­pletely with­out a HUD, which is pretty ex­tra­or­di­nary even to­day. Not that it has a lot that it needs to tell you about ex­actly, but there’s no map to the over­world, no in­di­ca­tor for your weapon when you fi­nally get one and no health to speak of. Another World is in­cred­i­bly chal­leng­ing thanks to its sin­gle hit kill and threats all around you. Thank­fully, the check­point­ing was rel­a­tively gen­er­ous so you wouldn’t lose too much progress. and the game wasn’t ter­ri­bly long to play through ei­ther, which at the time of its re­lease was a point of some crit­i­cism, but in the mod­ern con­text seems rel­a­tively rea­son­able.

part of the rea­son for the game’s brevity is that it was a largely im­pro­vised de­vel­op­ment

process for Chahi, who pro­grammed and de­signed the game on his own for the most part. He has since ex­plained that in many ways the struc­ture of the game be­gan to re­flect his own personal ex­pe­ri­ence as each chrono­log­i­cal piece was built based on what he felt was the right di­rec­tion to go in next. lester Chaykin be­gins the game alone, much as Chahi was alone in de­vel­op­ment, then he meets Buddy and works with him as Chahi be­gan to de­sire some com­pan­ion­ship from the ex­pe­ri­ence. Fi­nally, lester is ex­hausted, drag­ging him­self to the fi­nal mo­ments of the game, much as Chahi felt fin­ish­ing the game work­ing 16-hour days for the last three months of de­vel­op­ment to get it all done in time.

This freeform style of game-mak­ing goes some way to also ex­plain why it took two years to make, some­thing that to­day would sound pretty fast for a game these days. Chahi took the game where he thought it should go as and when he reached a new im­passe, build­ing up the pace and ten­sion of the ex­pe­ri­ence as he went.

so, where would we ul­ti­mately be with­out Another World? Well, the more cin­e­mat­i­cally-in­flu­enced games that would fol­low would have likely taken a lit­tle longer to come along, out­side of ad­ven­ture games at least. The qual­ity of the an­i­ma­tion achieved through ro­to­scop­ing wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily prove very in­flu­en­tial, but the fi­nal qual­ity of it was some­thing many strived for through other an­i­ma­tion tech­niques. We’re not sure that the games of play­dead like Limbo and In­side would be what they are if Chahi’s re­lease hadn’t come first. and, tonally, it was just more ma­ture and con­sid­ered than many games had at­tempted be­fore and hit play­ers in a way that many had never ex­pe­ri­enced. Another World showed that you could bring nar­ra­tive, ac­tion, puz­zling and drama to a game ex­pe­ri­ence and still hand over most of the con­trol to the player. That’s some­thing that should never be un­der­es­ti­mated.

When pitch­ing the game for a pub­lisher Virgin In­ter­ac­tive said it would take it, but only if it was adapted into a point-and-click ad­ven­ture

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