Last month, media outlets across the world previewed Encased; an upcoming isometric dystopian sci-fi RPG releasing on Tuesday 7 September 2021 developed by Dark Crystal Games and published by Prime Matter.
But beyond the praise for the gameplay, storyline and environment one thing stood out; almost everyone had played the game ‘normally’; out of over 100 articles, not one person had gone off-piste.
This might feel like a strange statement. After all, how else could you play the game and not get zapped in the first 20 seconds. This is where things get interesting: the developers - Dark Crystal Games – have added unusual gameplay styles (a few are signposted in the opening level) to give an entirely different playthrough. Some of these are:
- Setting your intelligence as low as possible
- Not talking to anyone and being permanently in the shadows
- Being a pacifist and only using non-lethal weapons
- Acting like a serial killer
There’s a new video https://youtu.be/sGwZsKd8LAo highlighting the alternative gameplay styles in Encased that’s been put together to accompany this story (you can download the video here: http://press.kochmedia.com/WUAIIMLSBO and you’ll find Russian and English subtitle .srt files here: http://press.kochmedia.com/IEMORYWEID)
So why did everyone, basically, act as themselves rather than role-playing an RPG? While some of this would be down to it being a first playthrough, there are more fundamental issues.
Dr Rachel Kowert - a psychologist specialising in our interaction with video games - says that almost all of us project our own personality when playing a video game; at least when it comes to RPGs.
“Our in-game avatars are often a means of experimenting with many possible ‘selves’, either as we are – our actual self – or an idealized version of ourselves. The characters we create in-game are very often closely related to who we are out of game.”
There’s also a personal development aspect to this too. Research at Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab found players who were helpful to NPCs in a video game were then more helpful to others in real life too. It’s called the Proteus effect and – yes – playing video games can make you a better person; other studies have produced similar results.
“There is an entire field of research looking at how digital role play in video games can impact how we think and behave out of game. For example, seeing a digital version of ourselves being successful in these spaces can become a catalyst for changing thoughts and beliefs we have about ourselves,” added Dr Kowert.
So is the converse true; if we play as evil characters or just run amok with a gun in a first person shooter, does that mean we become worse in real life. Thankfully, despite what some of the tabloids would have you believe, the answer to this is a firm no. The proteus effect only pulls you up; it doesn’t push you down.
So why did the developers put these alternative gameplay styles in the game if people don’t instinctively play them?
“We created Encased to not only be a totally entertaining game, but one that would provoke some thoughts in players too. From moral choices to problem solving, we wanted the player to use their imagination to play our their avatar in whichever way they wanted,” said Viacheslav Kozikhin, Creative Director at Dark Crystal Games.
“These are some of the reasons why we created all these extra possibilities. We’re aware not everyone will see them, but that’s part of the magic of RPG’s. It’s all about discovery and allowing players to explore a world in whatever way they want, rather than having a storyline-on-rails”
Encased, which will be a digital PC release on Steam, Epic and GOG, is currently in early access where users can experience all the first act and part of the second. https://store.steampowered.com/app/921800/Encased_A_SciFi_PostApocalyptic_RPG/
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