Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Indie Spotlight: Sir, You Are Being Hunted

Science fiction is a large catch-all term for a number of different subgenrés, all with their own tropes and tendencies. You have hard sci-fi (think Battlestar Galactica), science fantasy (Star Wars), cyberpunk (Blade Runner), steampunk (a subgenré with more of a cult following), space opera (Star Trek) and the much beloved space western (Firefly), amongst many others. By and large, people recognize these genrés by name and can easily give an example of them without much thought.

But what do you think of when I say 'tweedpunk'? I bet most of you would be hard-pressed to come up with an example -- and for good reason! As far as I'm aware, it's a brand-new subgenré with only one universe that falls within its confines.

In the broadest terms possible, Sir, You Are Being Hunted is a game where you are being hunted across what looks like the Scottish countryside. You spend the majority of the game avoiding hunting parties as you try to scavenge supplies to survive for as long as possible. The level of technology appears to be consistent with that of Victorian England, with one important exception: the hunting parties? Yeah, they are definitely killer robots.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted has been an indie project on my radar for quite some time, though for the life of me I can't remember how I stumbled across the Bad Robot website. However it happened, SYABH looks to be an entertaining little game that seems to defy categorization; not only did the developers coin the term 'tweedpunk' to explain their mix of English culture and robots (because all of the robots are clad in outfits similar to what you'd see in Sherlock Holmes movies), but the game seems to belong to a category of game that is only just coming into its own.

The massive sandbox-style of game, where the players set their own objectives, is perhaps not brand-new; that being said, in the past few years, some truly impressive titles have been released that fall into that category. Take DayZ, for example; the recent cult phenomenon forces you to wander a deserted map, scavenging supplies and avoiding enemies, with the only objectives being those that you deem important. The only difference between DayZ and SYABH is that, in the latter, the enemies are actively hunting you.

A different, but just as apt, comparison would be between Sir, You Are Being Hunted and Minecraft; both games feature procedurally generated landscapes, meaning no two playthroughs will ever be the same. In Minecraft, that means discovering new biomes to build on and underground caverns to explore, and basing your objectives on what you discover. In SYABH, the procedurally generated maps mean new hiding places to take advantage of, new towns to explore and scavenge materials from and even new locales out in the wilderness that might mean your end.

Every hunter worth his salt knows it's always better to take
a hound with you. Even (especially!) if it's a robotic hound.
So SYABH is an ingenious combination between Minecraft and DayZ, but that doesn't fully encapsulate the experience Big Robot is going for. Yes, the maps are procedurally generated, and yes, you have to scavenge for supplies while avoiding enemies but, because the enemies are actively hunting you, Big Robot added a stealth mechanic that gives the player a fighting chance as they try to lose their pursuers in the wilderness. In a lot of ways, the stealth seems reminiscent of Thief; you have a stealth meter that allows you to gauge whether the robots can see you. You must use this to your advantage, whether you are trying to escape or if you want to turn the tables on the robots and meet them head-on.

Even beyond those comparisons, the developers themselves have admitted to being influenced by the cult classic S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, which features an open-world sandbox where, again, you must scavenge for items in order to survive. Both feature dark foreboding worlds that you must explore, whether you want to or not, and both games feature random events that take place due to the nature of the enemy's AI.

An abandoned chapel and graveyard, set against an overcast sky? Yep, dark
and foreboding just about covers it...
As I said, Sir, You Are Being Hunted is a project that has been on my radar for quite some time -- the game is still in prototype phase and will most likely not see an official release until sometime next year. However, I decided this was the best time to make everyone aware of its existence because the developers recently started a Kickstarter campaign to fund their development. Even more exciting, the project has already surpassed its funding goal, meaning that the game will definitely be developed and released as an official game in 2013.

Even though it has already reached its funding mark, however, I believe that this is a game that people should support. Sir, You Are Being Hunted is a combination of Minecraft, DayZ, Thief and S.T.A.L.K.E.R., four games that have huge followings, and should definitely be recognized for the ingenuity and innovation that the Big Robot team have showcased. So head over to their Kickstarter page and pledge them some cash -- the more they get, the bigger and better the things they will add to the game upon release. And if you want some more information on the game, or if you would like to keep up with the development of the project, head over to their official website and read their blog. They seem like a hilarious group of chaps and always give sneak peeks of additions to the project.

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