Former BioShock Devs to Launch "Metaphysical Thriller" The Black Glove in 2015
The Black Glove is coming to PC, Mac, and Linux from a group of Boston-area developers at the new studio Day For Night Games.
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Check out the bottom of this post for an in-depth interview with The Black Glove developer Day For Night Games co-founder Joe Fielder. Fielder is a former GameSpot site director. You'll also find a gallery of screenshots below, as well as music tracks from the game.
The Black Glove, the "surreal" game announced back in June by a team of former BioShock designers, aims to launch in 2015. The studio, Day For Night Games, is shooting to release the "metaphysical thriller" for PC, Mac, Linux, and "other platforms," but it won't happen unless its just-launched Kickstarter campaign is a hit.
The Kickstarter drive went up today with a goal of $550,000--pledging $20 or more gets you a digital copy of the game. The campaign comes to a close on November 7.
What's The Black Glove all about? The game aims to push the narrative-focused genre forward by tying story directly into gameplay (more on that below). It is set in The Equinox, a place similar to the extradimensional Black Lodge from Twin Peaks, where the player isn't sure if what's happening to them is occurring in a real place, in their mind, or in another dimension.
"This may all sound very weird, but that’s intentional" -- Day For Night Games co-founder Joe Fielder
Inside The Equinox are three creators: an artist, a filmmaker, and a musical act. The player's job is to change the creators' past to alter their work in the present. To do this, you'll need to accomplish game "feats." Day For Night Games explains, "The theatre's hosts explain that there are 'certain games of skill and chance that allow us to interact with... what you might call 'fourth-dimensional space.'"
One of the games is called The Maze of the Space Minotaur. It combines retro visuals and sounds with modern gameplay ideas, the developer says, and is a throwback to classic '80s arcade games. Defeat the Space Minotaur and you'll be able to perform feats. Doing this will in turn summon The Black Glove, a "weird artifact that can change aspects of the creator's past."
"Alter one and everything changes," Day For Night Games says. "A somber art gallery may change to a kaiju autopsy scene where giant monster parts glow like scorpions under black light. A warbling country act in The Music Club may become a group of lounge singers decked out smoking jackets. The trailer to a poorly-conceived '70s disaster film in The Cinema may turn into a silent movie sci-fi gem once thought lost in a fire."
Day For Night Games says The Black Glove was purposefully designed to be fun to play again and again and again. It may take you a few hours to complete your initial playthrough, but you'll want to keep coming back to discover everything it has to offer.
Who is Day For Night Games? They're an independent team of veteran developers, who most recently worked together on BioShock Infinite at Irrational Games. Since the studio effectively shut down in February, the team has been funding The Black Glove on their own, all while also taking on freelance assignments. The video and images embedded in this post represent what the studio created during their off-hours. "Just think about what we could accomplish with your Kickstarter backing," the developer writes.
"One of the reasons I think we play games in the first place is that they transport us to places that capture our imagination" -- Joe Fielder
In addition to Fielder, who worked as a writer on BioShock Infinite, the Day For Night Games team is composed of 20-year concept artist Robb Waters (System Shock's Shodan, Thief's Garrett, BioShock's Andrew Ryan and Little Sisters); BioShock Infinite senior artist Chad King; BioShock Infinite technical designer Justin Sonnekalb; and animation veteran Pete Paquette (BioShock Infinite, Rio, Book Of Life, Ice Age series), among others.
To go deeper into The Black Glove, we spoke with Fielder at length about the project. Our interview touches on the game's origins, its musical influences, and lots more. Check out the full interview, edited for length and fluency, below. You can also stream music from the game through the embeds in this post.
GameSpot: Cutting through the noise today, especially on Kickstarter, is more important than ever; what do you think The Black Glove offers that will set it apart and make it stand out?
Joe Fielder: Okay, let me try to answer that in a slightly roundabout way. One of the comments we've consistently seen from reviewers and gamers over the last year has been that they'd love a chance to explore beautiful, immersive game worlds and enjoy engaging narrative without having to constantly kill or be killed. That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want gameplay elements, but they want to be able to take it all in.
One of the reasons I think we play games in the first place is that they transport us to places that capture our imagination, whether it’s another dimension, a post-apocalyptic world, or a strange, 1920s theatre where patrons are bathed in x-ray light and appear as skeletons.
"The Black Glove gives us an incredibly broad palette for making a wide variety of weird, engaging environments that you’d never be able to visit in real life" -- Joe Fielder
We have a team of developers who helped bring BioShock Infinite’s Columbia to life, some of them even had a hand in creating Rapture in the original BioShock. It's a crew with experience making incredibly lush game worlds with a unique sense of time and place. And The Black Glove gives us an incredibly broad palette for making a wide variety of weird, engaging environments that you'd never be able to visit in real life.
Another reason I think we play games is because they challenge us. In The Black Glove, you have to accomplish Feats in our game-within-a-game The Maze of the Space Minotaur in order to earn the ability to alter the past. These Feats push you to develop key strategies and learn in-game skills in an arcade game that takes everything we love about early 80s arcade coin-ops and combines it with modern gameplay sensibilities.
So, by having fun playing the game, you earn the opportunity to unlock new environments to explore and added layers of narrative. You have an active hand in altering both the world and story.
This may all sound very weird, but that's intentional. The Equinox is an eerie place governed by rules that seem like dream logic. But once you get a chance to immerse yourself in this surreal world, it all begins to make a curious kind of sense. There's an underlying narrative behind it all that players will learn about over time. It's not just bizarre for the sake of being bizarre, I swear.
Will all of that make The Black Glove stand out from other games? Possibly… We can only try our best and hope like hell that people like it.
You originally said the Kickstarter would go live in July, but now it's September; what caused you to push the date out two months?
Since Irrational wound down earlier this year, we've tapped a number of game industry friends who managed successful Kickstarter campaigns for advice. Their feedback made us realize that showing concept art for certain key sequences -- like using The Black Glove to change the past and playing The Maze of the Space Minotaur -- just wasn’t going to cut it. That meant we had to build those assets and polish them to shipping quality. So, we jumped in and did that.
We've also been self-funding this game and working on it in our spare time, while juggling freelance assignments. Sometimes paid work had to take priority, which is an issue that would disappear with Kickstarter funding.
Ultimately, we felt like taking extra time to show potential backers more of the game would help both make them excited about the game and see it as a worthwhile investment. We hope everyone will be able look at what we’ve done so far in our off-hours and not only see how dedicated we are, but imagine what we can accomplish once we're fully funded and able to make the game our main focus.
In your original announcement of The Black Glove, one word you repeated and the one that stuck with me was "surreal." What does that mean to you in the context of this game?
Our screenshots and video footage may answer that, at least partially. The exact definition is "having the quality of a dream." To me, surreality works best when it evokes a feeling of curiosity or unease, whether it's a mentally engaging concept or a visually compelling scene. It's a difficult challenge to nail that, but a fun one.
What were some of your inspirations outside of gaming for The Black Glove? To me, the key art gives off a Stanley Kubrick vibe...
I've mentioned David Lynch a few times because his work is a nice shorthand for surreality and dream logic, but we're also inspired by directors like Kubrick and Jean Cocteau, films like Last Year at Marienbad, La Jetee, and Eyes Without a Face, and the non-linear narrative of William S. Burroughs. That all works its way into the DNA of The Equinox.
Before that starts sounding too incredibly pretentious, I should also mention that The Black Glove is also hugely influenced by B-movies, black velvet paintings, sad clown art, and the like. The failure states in the game absolutely need to have a "so-bad-it's-good" element so that they're equally or more fun to experience.
It's hard to make a game that's partially about helping artists make better art without coming off fairly pretentiously at some point, but I promise that we make fun of it as much as we can. That sense of humor ideally comes across in the Kickstarter video footage of the x-ray scene.
The Black Glove and BioShock look like very different games, and mechanically, they are quite different; no shooting in The Black Glove. Do you think The Black Glove will appeal to BioShock fans?
Our team spent years at Irrational learning how to create immersive game worlds and compelling narrative. If those are elements that fans appreciated about BioShock and BioShock Infinite, then hopefully they'll also enjoy The Black Glove.
The Black Glove has a number of seemingly disparate elements; music, puzzles, exploration, etc; how do they all tie together?
The difficult part about describing a game that's meant to be mysterious and strange is that, hey, it's a game, so people need to know how things function. One of our challenges is to ensure that the player never has to wonder what to do next, while keeping the whys and wherefores--beyond that it's fun to play, explore, and change the story and environments--a bit enigmatic at first.
What is the Maze of the Space Minotaur all about (it sounds like an awesome metal band)?
The Maze of the Space Minotaur is an ode to our favorite early 80s arcade games, both real and fictional. In it, the player is trapped in a maze full of fearsome creatures who hunt by sight or sound and he can collect energy to power shields, teleport, or leave traps.
The Space Minotaur is the boss of the maze and also The Equinox's boogeyman. He's meant to be kind of like if Jack Kirby created The Micronauts. That over-the-top nihilistic satire of The New Gods, mixed with a design sense that says, "Hey, so sometimes we're going give a character six arms, but make them all weapon-ended with no actual functional hands. Or have everyone turn into robot centaurs. That's alright, right? Maybe a glow-in-the-dark brain or two? Several inexplicable missiles? Sure…"
His taunts are especially fun to write, so we'll likely pack in a lot of them.
I know you and Robb Waters are working on The Black Glove; but how many people are working on the game now and what are their backgrounds?
We’re really lucky to have about a dozen extremely-talented, former Irrational developers working with us. That list includes senior animator Pete Paquette, senior artist Chad King, VFX/tech head Justin Sonnekalb, environment artists Hung Nguyen and Paul Presley, and more. It's amazing working with all of them. Whenever a new asset comes in, it's invariably better than you even expected it to be. It really inspires you to do your absolute best when others are clearly doing the same.
I should also add that Robb Waters is an incredible artist and collaborator. I mean, he's the guy who designed Shodan for System Shock, Garrett from Thief, the Splicers, Andrew Ryan, and Sander Cohen in BioShock, The Handyman, Boys of Silence, and Motorized Patriot in BioShock Infinite, and Marisol, Cribbage, and cast of The Maze of the Space Minotaur for The Black Glove. He's an idea machine.
I agree with your thought that games have gotten quite dark lately; what do you think could be the consequence of an industry that's saturated in "dark" and violent games?
Don't get me wrong. I'm a huge horror movie fan. I'm not against darker stories or games and The Equinox is definitely going to be an incredibly eerie place at times. I just think while it's important to make players feel a connection to the world and characters in a game, it's become a bit of an over-used shortcut to make them feel awful.
But games are constantly evolving. Whenever we notice we're falling into a rut, it pushes us to try new things. In my case, after playing a few games that were back-to-back downers, I started thinking, "Wouldn't it be fun to try to make the player instead feel complicit in the act of creating something?"
The process of making games can be incredibly fun when you start to see all the different elements start coalescing together. In The Black Glove, we wanted to give players a glimpse of what that’s like.
You're funding The Black Glove through Kickstarter, but did you try to seek out funding from a major publisher or a venture capital firm before going that route?
We spent a few months doing research into all of our options and decided that remaining independent was the best way to ensure that we remained true to what we wanted to accomplish with The Black Glove.
We've seen Kickstarter act as an excellent way for new and original games, films, music, and more to find their markets. I personally have had a very positive experience as a backer of games like Shadowrun Returns, Wasteland 2, The Long Dark, and more, as well as being really grateful for being able to play FTL and see films like Blue Ruin.
Do you have any fallback plans if the Kickstarter campaign comes up short?
We're all in, so if The Black Glove sounds like a game that people want to play, backing the project on Kickstarter is likely the only way that they'll be able to do it.
Music will play what seems like a major role in The Black Glove; what does it add?
Soundtrack and score are huge components in making a game world feel real. That's a lesson we definitely learned from Irrational.
For The Black Glove, music is tied directly into the core concept. So when you use The Black Glove to change a creator's past, you're altering the narrative and world around you and it dramatically affects the score. Likewise, altering an aspect of The Musical Act's Medium, Message, or Muse can turn a warbling country music song to a lounge act cover to a different track entirely.
We're pretty excited about the group of bands who we're working with, which includes Many Embers, Karoshi Mode, and Malcolm Sosa from Rademacher. Rob Danson from Many Embers is a film and television composer who is also contributing to the game’s score.
What platform(s) are you targeting for The Black Glove?
PC, Mac, and Linux. Console platforms are a distinct possibility, but that's all I can say for now. I think VR support would be incredible.
Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
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