In launching our first game production, our goal was to create an experience that everyone could enjoy, regardless of their gaming experience, and where players would laugh and chat together while playing.
Independent ended up being just that, a very easy game to play but with enough depth for players to replay, improve and have fun. It was great to hear the comments from couples and families with young children playing together.
I found this mix of hide and seek game idea and modified Turing test game while encountering a bug in a fighting game. The game stopped showing the UI and left me confused about who I was in control and who was the opponent. Having to guess which character was mine and trying to figure out who the real opponent was among the NPCs (non-playing characters) was great fun! This idea allowed us to create a very easy to learn basic gameplay and still have many options to tweak the concept to decline the fun in different ways.
The key mechanic of the game is to guess who the real players are among a crowd of AIs. All players share the same screen, so there can be no visual indication to show which characters are controlled by players. For this reason, each player’s first task is to guess who they are controlling while continuing to blend in with the crowd. Then they must observe to find the opponents and sneak up to them to strike.
As a game developer, my favorite aspect of the game was to experience AI in a very different way than other games. Instead of working towards more and more precise and realistic AIs with complex behavior, I was able to simplify it as much as possible and just make it the player’s goal to copy the AI to blend in.
I even pushed it further, to the factory level (my favorite), where the AI is intentionally broken. Characters move faster and erratically, circle around, or get stuck against walls. It forces players to do the same if they want to blend in and it was super fun to see as a game designer when players run against walls pretending to be broken robots!
The game’s first demo was released on Xbox One as part of the 2020 Summer Festival and we were overwhelmed with the response from gamers with nearly 10,000 downloads and so much great feedback from Xbox One gamers. This response has been a big boost for a very small team like us. There are only three of us: Maxime Granger, Yohan Lebret and myself, and it really helped to find the motivation to take on the many challenges that we have faced this year.
I’m so happy with what we’ve accomplished this year, releasing our first game, getting some great response from gamers, and now releasing on an Xbox console that has always been a dream of mine. It shows that it’s more accessible than ever for small independent studios to be seen on platforms like this.
If you like fun couch board games to play with friends or family, please check out Independent.