Feature Article

District 9 Director Is Working On A Cyberpunk Battle Royale, Coming In 2023

Off The Grid joins the ever-expanding list of narrative-driven service games, aiming to utilize the format of a battle royale to tell an evolving story.

In July 2021, District 9 and Elysium director Neill Blomkamp revealed he had joined developer Gunzilla Games as its chief visionary officer to work on an upcoming online multiplayer game. That game has now been revealed to be Off The Grid, a battle royale with a narrative-driven progression system that's set in a cyberpunk-inspired world.

"The approach is to try to inject the story in a way where players have the option of engaging straight up in the battle royale or have the option of diving into story and story missions, almost like a campaign that you would be playing to follow a story narrative," Blomkamp told GameSpot.

As Blomkamp explains it, Off The Grid sees you create your character before then asking you to join one of three possible in-game factions. "We're trying to decide the best way of doing [factions]," Blomkamp said. "But I think the idea of a larger story that is told from different points of view is definitely a key pillar."

The three different organizations--whose identities and mission statements are being kept hush-hush for now--are fighting over a space elevator located on an island. The elevator leads to an asteroid mining operation that's creating an immense amount of wealth, drawing the attention of a variety of interested parties from around the globe.

Within this narrative set-up, you're dropped into your traditional battle royale match, where the last player standing wins. However, within the context of each match, players can participate in challenges or missions that support their chosen faction's goals.

"And I think one of the things that's really interesting is creating a situation where you have 'mirror missions' where [different factions] are stacked against one another," Blomkamp said. "So players can choose to take missions where your faction may be directly opposed to the mission of an opposite faction, both of those tie into the narrative on a much bigger scale. And you're doing that in an environment where a straight-up battle royale is taking place. So, you're sort of like fending off attacks from two different directions and you're trying to fulfill, if you're interested, the narrative obligations that you have."

In the immediate sense, your actions net you more story, but they could potentially have long-term narrative effects as well, influencing how the story transpires going forward. When I posed the hypothetical of the game's story evolving based on the playerbase--such as reflecting one faction as the superior if it featured more players with wins than the other two--Blomkamp said, "That's exactly what we're trying to do--that's an idea of like this concept of battle royale 2.0. Your actions over a large amount of time having an effect over the story and the world and the environment."

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"I think with [script writer] Richard Morgan and I, one of the things that's really sort of bubbling to the surface is this idea of creating an incredibly deep narrative and sort of lore history of how this whole place came to be," Blomkamp added. "So on this island, you have corporate sabotage and espionage and things that are happening that result in the hiring of assassins--those are basically the players that you embody--and through doing that, you can see how this world of refugees and contractors and mercenaries-for-hire and corporate elites all create this really interesting bubbling powder keg of conflict and layers and layers and layers of characters and stories that you can go into in different ways in the future."

When asked, Blomkamp told GameSpot that the team isn't yet ready to talk about which narrative vehicles (traditional cutscenes, episodic radio plays, social media, etc) it plans to use to deliver the story for Off The Grid, nor do they want to reveal whether players will be able to switch sides or if you're locked into supporting whomever you pick. We'll just have to wait and see how this all shakes out.

Off The Grid is expected to launch in 2023.

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jordanramee

Jordan Ramée

Jordan Ramée has been covering video games and anime since 2016, cultivating a skill set that allows him to transform his unhealthy obsessions into what he would argue is compelling content (we won't tell him if you don't). Do not let him know that you're playing Hollow Knight--he will take that as a sign that you wish to talk about the lore for the next five hours.

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