Welcome to the Apocalypse
Scavenger Studios, founded by industry veterans Simon Darveau and Amelie Lamarche, have announced their first game. The multiplayer survivalist game, called The Darwin Project, is slated to arrive on PC this fall. It takes place in a dystopian post-apocalyptic Canada, providing a harsh arctic environment for players to survive in. As well as battling their challenging surroundings, players will have to fight each other to survive.
This deadly arena in the Northern Canadian Rockies was created in preparation for the impending Ice Age. Part-science experiment, part-live entertainment, this competitive multiplayer third person experience hopes to bring something new to the Battle Royale arena-survival sub-genre.
The seven players will have to use a variety of survival skills — including setting traps, hunting, tracking, and even forging tenuous alliances — in order to outsmart their opponents. This truly is an example of the survival of the fittest.
Who’s Pulling the Strings?
The Darwin Project’s colorfully cartoonish art style and intriguing premise have attracted some interest, but it’s other aspects of the gameplay that have really got people’s attention. In addition to outsmarting the other players that are navigating the frozen arena, you will have to contend with a ‘Show Director’ as well. This Dungeon Master-type player can call the shots of any match, changing the environment within the arena to help or hinder players. This new element blends video games and reality television together.
“We wanted to create a game that heightened the tension and engaged players – and the spectators, in a new way,” said Darveau. “Our unique gameplay dynamic and addition of a Show Director mode results in a battle royale game closer to the Hunger Games fantasy than ever before. With the Show Director and audience influencing the outcome, it goes well beyond what’s possible with AI alone.”
According to Darveau’s statement, Scavenger Studios have put a new focus on the spectator. The audience is usually a passive element of gameplay, but with The Darwin Project, they’re hoping to change all that. Now, the audience can directly affect what they’re watching, impacting games like never before. Scavenger Studios are using technology that allows a website to use bi-directional communication with the game during a match. This means that communication can go both ways, allowing spectators to interact with the players in real time, and vice versa.
This opens up new levels of participation within a game. You can play as the controlling Show Director, the hunted/hunter arena survivor, or even as a spectator influencing the outcome. Not only is it a new way to engage in a game, but it’s also a novel way to include everyone involved in the story world as well. By creating something that is in part live entertainment in the game as well, Scavenger Studios are using players and spectators alike to build their in-game world.
Audience participation is already available with streaming services like Twitch and YouTube. The popularity of things like Let’s Plays and Livestreams have turned video games into a spectator sport. This has gone a step further, with competitive events for games like League of Legends broadcast globally. But although video games have grown to include these larger audiences, there haven’t been many games that use the spectators as a tool within the game.
The introduction of online play changed the way we thought about games as an interactive medium and social tool. Multiplayer became something more than just a group of friends playing together in a living room. Now, playthroughs and streams are watched by millions of people all over the world, interacting with each other, as well as the game.
The exact role of the audience and the opportunities they’ll have within the game is still unclear, but Scavenger Studios’ dedication to pioneering new forms of gaming are intriguing.
The Darwin Project’s setting is not the only thing about the game that seems futuristic. Scavenger Studios are hoping to expand the boundaries of interactive media, turning video games into a socializing tool for a truly immersive experience. Their vision for the future of gaming is, however, more hopeful than the bleak tundra of their game’s setting.