With the first episode out now on the Epic Games Store, this game development satire focuses on the absurdist adventures of an awful game studio trying to make a hit.
Epic Games is taking another big step forward with its online marketplace with the release of an exclusive new free-to-play "interactive-sitcom" called 3 out of 10. Blending the gameplay of a classic 2D adventure game with the style and presentation of a late-night animated series, 3 out of 10 is the next unusual experiment coming to Epic Game Store on PC. With the first episode of 3 out of 10 out now, and new entries for the five-episode first season releasing weekly till September 3, the game focuses on one of the industry's worst game developers seeking to make it big with their next game.
Just before the reveal, GameSpot got to play 3 out of 10 and had a chat with members from developer and publisher Terrible Posture Games about the making of this "experimental" game for the Epic Games Store. The first episode focuses on the fictional Shovelworks Studios' new hire, Midge Potter, a replacement for an animator who unexpectedly combusted at his desk. Within minutes of joining the team, she's thrust into the bizarre world of game development at a C-level studio that's struggling to make a hit and avoid the ire of angry fans picketing their building.
Game director Joe Mirabello told GameSpot the developer is trying something different with the adventure series. Its previous credits include titles like Tower of Guns and Mothergunship, two FPS games that parodied the genre, and 3 out of 10 carries a similar awareness of the genre and the setting it inhabits. Mirabello stated during our interview that he has had his share of odd experiences working at game studios like Curt Schilling's 38 Studios, the ill-fated developer that released Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Yet, Mirabello stressed that 3 out of 10 isn't "punching down" on the industry, but rather highlighting the absurdity within it.
"A lot of people grow up wanting to be a game developer, and the media that's out there presents it like things shown in movies like Grandma's Boy, which is not very accurate. It very much tried to take the medium and shove it into another container," said Mirabello. "That said, there are movies out there that very accurately portray what, for instance, being a journalist is like, and it's not all roses, even showing a comedic side to it. You feel like you've learned a little bit about what the day-to-day life would be, even if it is abstracted, silly, or even just a bit different. To me, I felt you could have something that pokes fun at the gaming industry in an absurdist way, yet at the same time, not be inaccurate. It also felt that something like was a good fit for being an actual game too."
3 out of 10 presents itself as an animated sitcom, with many gags and non-sequitur humor that would feel right at home in a show from Adult Swim or a Comedy Central cartoon circa the 2000s. Yet, it takes many of its gameplay cues from classic 2D adventure games such as Grim Fandango and The Secret of Monkey Island, with the various hijinks that the Shovelworks devs find themselves in culminating in set-piece encounters. When you're not exploring the office and talking with the team, you'll engage in different mini-games and optional activities that jump into different genres, which was cool to see play out. Completing tasks efficiently and with accuracy will earn you collectable stars, which will be tallied up and placed on a leaderboard by the episode's end.
In our playthrough of Episode 1, Welcome To Shovelworks, Midge tries to fit into her new job. After meeting her new co-workers, she's tasked with helping the floundering, yet stable developer overcome the latest controversy following the reveal of their next game, Surfing with Sharks--an endless runner that unexpectedly has an end. The first episode does a pretty solid job of offering an accessible and comedic look at the internal conflict of game development, and how minor issues lead to big problems. It dabbles in the familiar tropes of office sitcoms, which at some points can feel a bit crass with jokes poking fun at underpaid interns, but the absurdist approach still makes it enjoyable and it is largely in good-taste.
What sets 3 out of 10 apart from other adventure games is that it embraces the Netflix-style approach of having control of your content. As an interactive animated show, you're free to follow the flow of the episode. However, you can also skip scenes and rewind to previous moments. This accessible approach can be handy when trying to score enough stars during each episode's key scenes or if you get stuck during a particular mini-game and want to proceed with the plot. Each episode is also around 30 minutes, to ensure that they maintain a decent pace and are easily digestible.
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According to Mirabello, Terrible Posture's pitch for a new adventure game series was enough for Epic Games to get interested--So much so that work has already begun on the second season, which might address the absurdity of the current climate with COVID-19 and the push for a work-from-home lifestyle.
"This game is kind of an experiment in how you can tell a story in a game," Mirabello said. "But when it comes to the current pandemic, I won't say there hasn't been an impact on us [despite us already working remotely]. Compared to some other studios where they changed their entire way they do things, that has not been the case with us. It's mostly just been managing our own personal health. I almost felt like it's been a blessing for us that we've been able to continue on with this game. There's a lot of things in society that have completely changed overnight. We don't know how the game industry is going to look on the other side of this. So in the future, that might be something that we have to make a comment on, but if we do so, I want to make sure that it's something that we can address in a lighthearted way so that we're not punching down on anybody, but still in a way that's in jest. We want to make sure that we have the authority to speak in that kind of tone on whatever we are commenting on."
The Epic Games Store has employed a somewhat unorthodox approach to building its market, leveraging heavy hitters like Fortnite while also expanding a suite of exclusives. 3 out of 10 looks to be one of those games that does things differently with its approach to the adventure genre, but also in how players can experience the entire story throughout its season. The entire five-episode first season will be free-to-play on the Epic Games Store, and aside from the option to purchase the game's soundtrack, there will be no microtransactions or other paid content with the game. It'll be interesting to see how 3 out of 10 grows following its first season, and what new experiments it could yield for the Epic Games Store in the future.