From Metal Gear to Big Brother: the story of République
Ambitious is the word that best describes République. It’s a dark, Orwellian adventure game from Camouflaj, a new studio based in Washington State, USA. Its team consists of veterans from high-profile console titles like Halo, Metal Gear Solid series, Uncharted and FEAR, and the project itself is Kickstarter funded – so its future players are bankrolling the creators. And in case you haven’t noticed, it’s a beautiful-looking iPad game.
This alone doesn’t mark République out as something truly special or overly ambitious – it’s the team’s plans for the game which strike us as different. “I decided that I didn’t want to make a console game that impacts eight million people in North America and the UK – I want to make a game that’s truly international that touches tens of millions of people.”
So says Ryan Payton, director at Camouflaj, a man who has worked directly with Hideo Kojima on the Metal Gear series before moving on to lend his expertise to the Halo brand. “A few years back I started to notice a sea change in the industry: more games were being played than ever before, and it wasn’t because Xboxes and PlayStations were flying off the shelves – smartphones and iPads were becoming Trojan Horse devices and making gamers out of hundreds of millions of people.”
Payton and his team aren’t the only ex-console alumni looking to bring their creativity to iPad and iPhone, though. Right now iOS games have a poor reputation amongst those who consider themselves ‘serious gamers’ – that’s something Payton and his team are looking to change with République. “Yes, there’s absolutely a negative reception of iOS games amongst gamers, but that’s changing,” he tells us. “Hardcore gamers want to proven that iOS is a platform for great games, and it’s going to take more than Infinity Blade and Sword & Sworcery to do that. We hope that République is one of many games that prove to our console and PC brethren that iOS can offer truly great gaming experiences.”
How is Camouflaj planning to achieve this? Well, République is a futuristic adventure game with a distinctly Orwellian feel. Players assume control of a Big Brother style figure, who remotely manipulates the world to assist the central character, Hope. As the game progresses, the player’s symbiotic relationship with Hope strengthens and both grow in power, providing an increasing threat to the main villain of the game, The Overseer.
République’s themes of paranoia and constant surveillance are played out in a fictional world, but they have roots in our own society. “République’s themes are highly driven by my own personal paranoia and frustration with living in modern society,” explains Payton. “While I’m not intending to use République as my own political soapbox, I hope the game wakes players up to how subversive our governments and how untouchable internet providers are. Unless we get more aggressive in our opposition to these people, they will take control of the Internet and subsequently modern society. This also speaks to our decision to release on the App Store (and hopefully on Steam later) – I want République to exist on more open platforms, I want us to have true creative freedom, I want us to be able to speak our minds…”
The game is controlled via touch, with the player assisting Hope from behind an all-seeing camera set-up. Camouflaj are aware that typical console style adventure games don’t usually translate well to iOS – you have to keep controls simple – which is why they’ve taken this approach to interaction. “Initially, we thought we could create an intuitive touch-based action game that only relied on established iOS gestures like tap, double tap, hold, pinch zoom, swipe, two-finger pitch and so on,” says Payton. “We quickly realized that building a game that supports all those touch inputs is still too difficult for many of our playtesters, so we’ve now shifted entirely to ‘one touch’ gameplay. Ultimately, our approach with the gameplay is to build a game, fiction, and input system that’s completely designed around the strengths of the iOS device. That probably seems like common sense, but it’s amazing how many games come out on iOS that don’t play nice with touch.”