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It's all in your head, Part 18

It's all in your head, Part 18

Postby Chris » Sun Feb 21, 2010 8:35 pm

On Friday we held our Darwinia+ launch party at BAFTA in London, and it was awesome. It was one of the first stage talks i've actually looked forward to giving - we had a great audience including lots of friends, we said goodbye to Darwinia publicly once and for all, and the time was right to unveil Subversion in more detail than we've ever done before. Despite being a long way off a finished and polished game, we showed Subversion being played live on stage. The whole event was a cathartic experience for us - very deliberately moving on from the previous game to the next.

So what exactly is Subversion? We've been evading this core question for a long time, mostly out of fear that we'll end up promising things that we can't deliver. Up until now we've preferred to keep the core gameplay pretty secret, and just blog around the process of making a new game from scratch.

For a very long time we've been working on procedurally generating cities - that much we've been open about. We eventually hit the point where we couldn't generate the insides of buildings in any further meaningful detail - because we didn't know what we were aiming for. You can't really write an algorithm to generate (say) a Bank, if you don't first study what a bank looks like, and understand why a bank is that way. We'd been generating Subversion "Top-Down" - starting with 10Km of empty space, filling it with a city, going further and further into details, but never getting that close to the core gameplay.

So around September last year Myself, Gary and Leander held a meeting, and decided to turn the whole thing on its head. Instead of "Top Down" we'd work "Bottom up" - start with an actual location with people and equipment in it, simulate those things, let the player interact with them. Work on core gameplay mechanics, rather than world building. This give us probably the biggest leap forwards in the project so far, and in just five months led directly to the mission I demonstrated at our BAFTA launch event.

Subversion is going to be set in a modern High Tech environment, with you taking "mission control" over a team of skilled operatives in a hostile High Security building. You will be using Sabotage, Social Engineering and Grifting, custom Electrical and Mechanical devices, Distractions, Hacking, Stealth, Acrobatics, Precision demolitions, Trickery, whatever gets the job done. In the best case scenarios your enemies will never know you were even there. When things go wrong, a well prepared escape plan and well timed precision violence will get you out of a tight spot - or maybe not.

Anyone who's a fan of Introversion will know we love our movies, and many of our games are inspired by some truly great ones. Subversion's key movie influences would be high tech Heist movies like Oceans 11, Mission Impossible (the TV series - another old favourite from childhood to sit alongside Wargames and Tron as massively influential on us), Entrapment, Sneakers. You may also see a lot of Uplink in this game - which is no accident, as we've always considered Subversion to be the "Spiritual Sequel" to our debut game.


The combination of your guys physically on site using their own special skills and equipment, mixed with you taking control of building systems via computer hacking, opening locked doors, disabling cameras, exploiting weaknesses in security systems, is something of a holy grail of game design for us.

The demo I showed on stage during BATFA showed how a team of two agents could infiltrate a high security office. They used a variety of gadgets like wall scanners and motion trackers to gradually unveil the office layout, which begins invisible and requires various Recon tactics until you have revealed the layout. One of the agents was caught and tazered by a security guard, but not before I'd hacked in and taken control of the cctv cameras dotted around the office. This massively expands your view of the location, and uncovered the primary target - a secure server room with some data we needed to destroy.


Visually i've always been drawn to the schematic style of graphics, with crisp vector lines and moody blue tones. What you see in these screenshots is far from finished - we've lots of plans for the look, but broadly speaking you are going to be looking at 3d blueprints. The visual brief has always been quite simple - what would Uplink look like if it was set in real building rather than inside a computer? The people are the biggest challenge, one which we haven't nailed yet - the Pacmen in these shots are definitely placeholder material.

We are also aware that we are not alone thematically anymore. Unlike Defcon and Darwinia and Uplink which largely stood thematically on their own, there are other games that have similar core themes of espionage and infiltration - from big commercial offerings like Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid, through currently in-development projects like Frozen Synapse and the recently revealed Monaco. We're watching those games closely, and we're fairly sure they're watching us too - but each of those named games is actually very different in several core ways to our plans, and we've long since stopped second-guessing ourselves just because someone else has a similar idea. The central theme is so exciting - so awesome in potential, and so universally understood, that it's no suprise to us that other games are treading in similar directions. As Introversion, we obviously believe we are uniquely placed to make a game of this type truly incredible.


So there we go - Subversion is unveiled. Congratulations to the numerous people who have successfully guessed the core theme and gameplay as we went along, despite our best attempts to keep it vague. There's still a long way to go, and a great deal of work to do. Internally, we still haven't hit what we'd consider a "first playable", and we're certainly not in full production. We are still experimenting and prototyping, but things are coming together rapidly now. This blogging process began in December 2006, so you should of course take that with a massive pinch of salt :)
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Postby martin » Sun Feb 21, 2010 8:40 pm

I was hugely excited by subversion when I first started realising what the gameplay was going to be like, now you've just confirmed that it was what I hoped all along. Which is the kind of game I've always wanted to play :D

Thankyou introversion for reading my mind ;)

This makes me wish I'd managed to get to the Darwinia+ launch ceremony now :(
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Postby Greeba » Sun Feb 21, 2010 8:55 pm

Get in. Loved seeing it and having a natter about it on Friday, hope you guys had a good night and things come along nicely from now on.
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Postby Lord Ozymandias » Sun Feb 21, 2010 9:07 pm

Eeeeeeeee! Yay! Can't wait to play it!

Any indications of platform availability?
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Postby Mitheor » Sun Feb 21, 2010 9:20 pm

It looks soooo promising! :shock:

Preorder day one!
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Postby SquidLord » Sun Feb 21, 2010 9:22 pm

Two questions, really:

    Did you record the presentation or do you intend to reveal somne video of the Subversion content as it is now?
    Have you thought about just packaging up the dynamic city-building stuff to release publicly for folks to play with?
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Postby dgtljunglist » Sun Feb 21, 2010 9:30 pm

+1 on "video please?"

Also, I'm now curious to see how the larger city-generation part plays into the more localized gameplay and missions.

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Postby RabidZombie » Sun Feb 21, 2010 9:33 pm


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Postby Ace Rimmer » Sun Feb 21, 2010 9:42 pm

This might actually take some of my attention away from Defcon, and possibly some of my hard earned cash too.

/me looks forward to 'regular' blogs :P
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Postby elexis » Sun Feb 21, 2010 9:44 pm

This looks really Really REALLY good!

About the people, would it be possible to draw them in so they looked sort of like a "human blueprint", with thick, straight outlines that are drawn a little too long*. If they were kept simple enough to match with the existing theme but had enough detail to eg. tell a guard from an office worker it could work.

*How do I explain this? Try drawing a rectangle using a pencil and ruler. Draw each line very fast without care for accurate lengths. The resulting effect with the lines being a little too long and "fading away" is what I am trying to describe.
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Postby Montyphy » Sun Feb 21, 2010 9:44 pm

Hope the Darwinian death video makes it to the internet in good quality.
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Postby weasello » Sun Feb 21, 2010 9:54 pm

For seriously, if you guys offered this for preorder right now for $100, I'd buy it.
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Postby RagingLion » Sun Feb 21, 2010 10:04 pm

VERY excited to finally here some more information about Subversion. Boy, it's been a while.

The idea for the game looks great and it's nice to know you've been able to work solidly on this for quite a number of months now (at least Chris that is). Really home the gameplay can come together as being really solid as the apparent freedom in Subversion to use different approaches could be one of the biggest issues in balancing the game.

Keep up the good work. I hope you're having fun with this in the day-to-day development :)
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Postby Serif » Sun Feb 21, 2010 10:19 pm

Yes. :)
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Postby rainingblood » Sun Feb 21, 2010 11:19 pm

You made my day !

This is the perfect project, a kind of Uplink in a more ambitious way, i'm buying !
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