Gamescom 2011: Adrift and the Power of Promise

From former Ubisoft Paris devs comes this surprisingly promising sci-fi game about what happens when memories become a commodity.

It's the biggest fear of any GameSpot editor to show up at an appointment and hear, "Well, we don't have any gameplay to show, but we do have this trailer." These are the meetings that inevitably involve dry discussions of a game's setting, some concept art of the main character looking grim and dour for no real reason, and very little else. We'll admit we were worried that our meeting with Dontnod Entertainment might turn out that way when we paid a visit to the upstart Parisian developer to see its newly announced action adventure game, Adrift. And in fairness, we only did wind up hearing about the game's premise, seeing a trailer, and looking at some concept art. But here's what surprised us: We walked away absolutely in love it.

Dontnod, which was founded by Ubisoft Paris veterans, describes Adrift as a narrative-driven sci-fi game set in Paris circa 2084. "We're dealing with science fiction, but it's not space opera," says art director and former Marvel artist Aleksi Briclot. "We're not using 15-kilometer-long spaceships or creatures with tentacles. Our main goal is to create a believable near future." Besides just Briclot's stunning concept art of this futuristic Paris, what grabbed us the most was how instantly relatable the game's story is for anyone remotely in tune with today's technological trends.

In the world of Adrift, memories have become a commodity. Everyone in Paris is equipped with a brain implant called the SensEn, which is a device that records every event, interaction, or thought the wearer experiences. A thriving market for these memories has developed over time, and now, it's to the point where people are buying the memories of strangers to achieve their own secondhand happiness, as well as a powerful minority stockpile for economic and political gain. It's a premise inspired by today's rapidly growing ecosystem of smartphones and social networks, where so much of what we do and see is recorded and uploaded instantly for the world to share. But in Adrift, our general compulsion to see and experience everything has all but eroded the personal connection to these snapshots. They're just memories, no longer ours, no longer anyone's but the person who holds the receipt.

Creative director Jean-Maxime Moris isn't beating around the bush when it comes to literary influences. "You saw that the game takes place in 2084 and that is, of course, a direct reference to George Orwell and 1984," he says. "2084 is the next step. This is a society of control. This is a much more horizontal society, where the control is much more diffused and blurry. Is it the government? Is it a corporation? We don't know."

A moveable feast.

What Moris does know, however, is that his team isn't trying to be heavy-handed with a moral lesson. "This is not a game that says, 'this is the way it is, and you should all be afraid, run for cover and burn your smartphones.' This is a game that presents you with some material and lets you decide for yourself," he says. "We just think that memories are actually the last things we have."

Clearly, this is a game that promises to have a lot of narrative character behind it. But the murky gray morality of the plot isn't something you should expect from this vision of neo-Paris: Briclot's city designs are works of art in and of themselves, showing the city's various arrondisements in a striking mix of vibrant colors and classical European architecture. The new and the old clash beautifully in this early art design, and if the graphics engine can come close to re-creating these pieces of concept art, Adrift should be a game with plenty of visual character as well.

Of course, one missing component to all of this--and it is a big one--is knowing how the game actually plays. Moris promises "our game will be extremely well anchored in known action adventure codes, so you'll have a lot of combat, some light exploration, platforming and puzzles" but also "some key gameplay innovations we'll talk about later." None of these vague promises instilled nearly as much confidence as the talk about the game's overall setting, but then again, they didn't cause much concern either. They just fluttered by the way vague promises do. One thing that was reassuring, however, was hearing the game's creative director use BioShock as a reference point for building a game that's both fun and intelligent, taking inspiration from the fact that Irrational's modern masterpiece "was an extremely good game and a visceral and immersive one. But you play it for a few hours, and you realize there's much more to it."

Hold on, I just have to upload this picture to Facebook.

Will Adrift live up to this initial promise? That's anyone's guess. A lot of games have featured a terrific setting only to fall flat once you actually pick up a controller, but few games combine such an enticing mix of stylized sci-fi and a central theme that manages to resonate so deeply with today's culture. There is promise here, but until we see the game up and running, that's all we've got. With Adrift not due out until 2012 (on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3), that may not happen anytime soon. But at least we can go on hoping for a while longer.

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Discussion

58 comments
troy1108
troy1108

@harrumble aw come on,you know better that is not just one instance. you see?now that why i had to be rude with you. and what risk are you talking about? to be banned from psn or live? but you must know that the gamers who play cracked games doesn't give a flyin' piece of extra cheese pizza about online playing.i am talking facts here,and the fact is that the pc gaming is dying not because of the pirates but maybe because people gave up on it. maybe is just not worth making pc games because no one is playing on the pc. maybe no one will play on consoles either. maybe we will just start reading books again. but then,again will be a fan war between kindle readers and paper books readers. i give you a cuddle if you need one but at least think twice before you start with the blaming,ok?

harrumble
harrumble

@Troy1108 Firstly, one instance does not prove a rule. Secondly, even if it is easier to crack a console release than a PC release, the fact remains that it's much less hassle (and much less risky) for gamers to actually download and play a cracked PC title than it is to get a console modded. Thirdly, even if this weren't the case, you were still needlessly rude, and you're still being so. Fourthly, "read very carefully there is a lot of logic in this comment of mine so it may seem hard at first to see what i am saying". Fifthly, give us a cuddle xoxoxox

Yasviele
Yasviele

Hmmmm alike Deux Ex human heheh, well let's wait for the gameplay! for now... *follow*

troy1108
troy1108

@harrumble i've read the whole comm,so i am asking you again why as we speak on trackers there is a certain game only for consoles no pc version(and it's a game for ps3,xbox and pc). we are not talking about what impossible and what not. the dude said the console games are a lot harder to crack,correct?if that so, why the pc version seem to be cracked last? read very carefully there is a lot of logic in this comment of mine so it may seem hard at first to see what i am saying. it seem that i have to explain to some kindergarden dudes here not a gaming community.oh and by the way i own an unmoded console(i am not saying wich one because i don't want to be seen as a fanboy),and a pretty modest pc.i almost forgot the console versions were uploaded before the game official release.

bags123
bags123

more cyberpunk? I'm game!!!!!!!! I wish they'd make some more adventure games in a cyberpunk world. They seem to be really out of fashion but you really can't beat Beneath a Steel Sky in the way of point and click. The story looks deep as well, I like a game that focuses on the story using gameplay to progress rather than the story progressing the gameplay. Either way it looks promising

Leafar87
Leafar87

On paper it's a great idea and i'm already following this one. Really hope the dev team can deliver a good game!!

Dgarl67
Dgarl67

I like the idea of more near-future but not space-age games. There are already tons of really good space-aged sci-fi games but there is a lack of good near-future stuff.

Rocker6
Rocker6

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

Reminds me a LOT of The Matrix. Want to learn something? Just upload it. My guess is it will revolve around that concept. Could be an epic success or an epic flop. Time will tell. p.s. 2084 is totally not believable, too soon :P

DespVand
DespVand

@Rocker6 maybe they are uploaded but are the actual consoles hacked into playing them? I know that xbox can be but then if you are discovered the console gets banned from xbox live forever so you lose much more than actually buying the thing and in the last 8 years if not more I have not seen a PC game that has not benn uploaded 1 hr after its release in many cases weeks before and in two cases 1-2 months before...

DespVand
DespVand

@troy1108 go and be arrogand elsewere plz... I said harder I didn't say impossible..

Sagacious_Tien
Sagacious_Tien

I hope for their sake its a good game. The premise and the art design are incredibly appealing, and should they create great gameplay - it could be something very special.

Vrygar777
Vrygar777

I hope this is a good game, its got a good subject and setting. A little Bladerunner is also a good thing. Also, for those MTG players out there, Briclot did a lot of the Planeswalker artwork. For those who don't know about MTG, just know this: It's awesome artwork.

HailHellfire
HailHellfire

this sounds f-ing awesome! i hope that the gameplay turns out being as excellent as the plot/foundation for this game...

Rocker6
Rocker6

@DespVand No,youre,wrong console games almost always get leaked on torrents before PC games,sometimes even weeks before.And cracking PC games is actually harder,especially when some strong DRM is involved,console games dont even NEED to be cracked while pirating.

jubdeidamasta
jubdeidamasta

Looks like how Paris would look in the "Blade Runner" universe. I like it.

NV916
NV916

@Unfallen_Satan: That's all good man I wasn't tryin to start an argument I was just bored and felt like engaging in conversation. Also to tell you the truth, I haven't even played Bioshock besides borrowing it from a friend, but I was still into playin Fallout 3 so I gave it back the next day. I thought it looked nice but like I said, I only played it for one day, lol I guess. No need to bash me back I apologize if I insinuated an argument. And I can understand your reasons for the name you chose to make, considering the truth has been distorted by all religions which are man made. But i am spiritual you could say, I just don't agree with the church image solely just to look good to people, me and my parents don't go to church because of that reason. So I actually feel bad that you had to experience the hypocrisy that goes on in the majority of those places. Would disliking God make sense if you thought that was true? though I can see why you feel like you do. Think about it, but also i am in no way trying to change your mind you have free will like everyone else it is just my opinion that I am sharing that's all.

hakkafixi
hakkafixi

Yeah we can only hope and imagine for now. At least we should be content that the intention of the developers is aiming towards a narrative driven game which explores interesting themes. Hopefully the game will also be as visually striking (artistic more so than technical) as the concept art suggest.

made_u_look
made_u_look

YES YES YESS! The game and the story idea is almost like the movie Renaissance with Daniel Craig. If you guys haven't seen it I suggest you check it out.

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

@hakkafixi I think there is nothing wrong with being won over by Bio Shock. :) Your reply got me thinking. Fleshing out Adrift's premise in retrospective could also make a great game, just of a different flavor than what I was thinking. When I heard of the game, I immediately thought how cool it would be to be immersed in a world where the ability to trade, manipulate, and perhaps implant dreams is causing great upheaval in society. I still think it's very interesting, but I was wrong to limit the premise to one kind of actualization. Let us hope whichever direction the devs take, it will be a good one.

cybrcatter
cybrcatter

Is the protagonist narrated by Robin Williams?

Joey2cool
Joey2cool

I've been waiting for a sci-fi game looking like this. Reminds me of Blade Runner.

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

@RetroSEAL When a good friend of mine brought me to church, I found myself questioning (usually only in the inquisitive sense) the beliefs and motivations of my fellows. I am against any self-perception of absolute righteousness, be it knowledge or morality. So I've taken a liking to the original accuser; the name is, of course, a homage only. You nailed the difference between BioShock and Deus Ex, where I was unclear. Bio Shock was great in its own right. I personally do not feel it's the right gameplay for Adrift based on what have been revealed so far. Even so, the game developers could prove me wrong, which is all the better.

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

@NV916 I definitely have a lot of hope for this game, so not bashing for sure; see my first comment. I also think highly of BioShock on its own; I just don't think its gameplay would be best for the premise announced in this news. I take exception to BioShock Infinite as that hasn't been released yet. That's just my thinking now, and I like surprises. If the devs make something that work great, I'd love it.

the22for4
the22for4

looks nice and its hard to make btw ive think it'll be Role playing or action Role playing or sth else.

skyvongola13
skyvongola13

what kind of gaming system its going to be

Davhut
Davhut

If I had to live in a world like that, I would be fine as long as I had my Xbox 360 or (720 or whatever ). A good salary so that I could purchase the obviously wonderful games that would be available by then and I wouldnt have to go outside into what obviously will be vile pollution and dangerous people. A dystopia by its very nature will drive everyone indoors to lock themselves away from other people. Oh its happening now. :D

marco1k1
marco1k1

This looks very interesting indeed. I'm liking the setting and style, Lets just hold out and see how the game plays however before judging if its good or not. All I'll say is they've grabbed my attention.

harrumble
harrumble

This looks bloody amazing, by the way. A little Blade Runner, a little Coruscant, a lot beautiful.

harrumble
harrumble

troy1108 He said "much harder to crack," not "impossible." If you're not going to take the time to actually read and think about the comments that you're needlessly rude about, then maybe you "should keep quiet."

troy1108
troy1108

@DespVand Then tell me why as we are speaking the deus ex for xbox and ps3 is uploaded on trackers?(no pc version) If you don't know what you're talking about you should keep quiet.

AlphaWolF_J
AlphaWolF_J

well its official cyberpunk is back:) , dues ex, now this it seems to be borrowing elements from both syndicate & bladerunner. but my only question is where the hell is the EA starbreeze anouncment of project redlime AKA syndicate remake!!!.. there were loads of articals floating around the web all pointing to it because of that tweet that starbreeze made but so far nothing :((((((((((( ,

DespVand
DespVand

@Neil_Clancy For the simple reason that console games are much much harder to crack, in some PC games the game is cracked and on the internet days before the official release - I am not condoning it or approving it only mentioning it - , so it is only natural that game devs want to secure their profits as much as they can, which might mean no PC games or fewer...

DespVand
DespVand

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

kakashi552
kakashi552

the concept seems inspired (a bit much?) by ghost in the shell. cyberbrains, external memory, anyone?

Busy_Man123
Busy_Man123

@Neil_Clancy It's to make people buy a console. Consoles hardware are old indeed, but that doesn't mean you cannot make games on them. Variety is the spice of life so yeah, I don't see what's wrong with it.

Neil_Clancy
Neil_Clancy

No PC version? *shakes head* Developing for PC is actually easier than for either console. Why limit your consumer base by not releasing a PC version?

Black_Id_Jenova
Black_Id_Jenova

can't comment too much just a concept dude.. nothing else can be seen and i don't like empty promises they had to prove it in 2012

bramterris
bramterris

yeah, it still could be a fps or something of the sort, just goinna have until they release more info on gameplay, but for now the story has a very interesting premise.

hakkafixi
hakkafixi

@Unfallen_Satan You make good points about Bioshock and maybe its atmosphere won me too easily. Still, I believe that the narrative focus was there but just a lote more subtle. The player is still exploring the downfall of both the physical city and the ideology behind it. Definitely agree that the Adrift team shoult not strive to emulate but to create.

Scianix-Black
Scianix-Black

Sweet baby Jesus, it's about time we got a cyberpunk game that wasn't a first person shooter. This has the potential to flip sci-fi on its head.

tgchan
tgchan

Damn I love CYBERPUNK!!!

lullabysuicide
lullabysuicide

@AiGeeEn1: Exactly what I was thinking while watching the trailer!

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

@RetroSEAL i think its to do with how Lucifer (Satan) was cast from heaven (a fallen angel). but his name doesn't make sense, unless he is suggesting that Satan is actually good therefore had not been exiled and is in heaven...or it could just be a random name he chose...hmm @Unfallen_Satan answer please :)

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

sounds awesome and that concept art is beautiful, i wish i had that talent...im hoping they will really work hard on this, it could be amazing if they get the formula right.

RetroSEAL
RetroSEAL

@Unfallen_Satan first off, what does your name mean? Second, I agree, to a point, because I think that Bioshock's plot and the way it was told was superb. It worked well for the game that it was. Uncharted and Deus Ex's work for their style, its all about how its told, and in what atmosphere and context, and the feel the directors are going for.

CptRexKramer
CptRexKramer

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

NV916
NV916

@Unfallen_Satan: dude it's just an announcement calm down there, an opinion should be based on near completion of the build not just concept art. Sorry it just seemed like you were bashing the game just because they mentioned Bioshock when it actually seems like a good game to inspire from I think.