Mike Bithell released Thomas Was Alone last year, a great game that seemingly came from nowhere and charmed the pants off of most anyone who played it. Next year, the British developer's new game will steal the pants off of players. And you'll be able to make the most awesome parts of it.
Players will be able to create and share levels in Volume, a top-down stealth game coming to multiple platforms in 2014. You'll control a nameless thief as he skulks his way around futuristic virtual reality landscapes. There won't be any killing in Volume and the game's primary weapon is something called the Ricochet, which lets you distract, and take over the robotic-looking guards who prowl the environments.
Based on the trailer and level editor demo above, Volume looks like a significant step up in design chops and ambition from Bithell, who's making this new title with a small team of people. And David Housden, the guy who did Thomas' awesome soundtrack, is back for Volume's tunes too. I'm super stoked for this one. You can get more info on Volume over on the official site.
Update: Bithell was gracious enough to answer questions sent over email. You'll find that Q&A below.
Kotaku: Who is the "Chris" of the dev team? Bithell: Can I reveal now that Daz Watford, our concept artist, was totally the original inspiration for Chris? I guess I just did. He's the loveable grump of the team, but it wouldn't work without him. I'm massively excited to be working again with an old friend (and I mean that in both senses.. I've known him a long time, and he is not a young man).
Kotaku: With your game, Republique, Mark of the Ninja and Monaco, it seems there's a wave of indie stealth titles surging right now? What about the genre appeals to you? The creativity found in a rigid ruleset? Bithell: I think it's a logical extension of the puzzle genre. To me, stealth games have always been puzzle games dressed as action games. It kinda makes sense that this would be the next genre a sizeable number of indies would try and tackle after the puzzle platformer.
What's cool, is there seems to be enough different takes on the genre to sustain it for now. No two of the games you mentioned feel similar, so there's definitely room for us all to get exploring.
Kotaku: You made one game practically all by yourself to pretty good results. What made you decide to have a level editor and user-generated content as core components of Volume?
Bithell: Honestly, it was the number of emails I get daily about level editing for Thomas. The first reaction was a slightly arrogant 'go away, I made the game I wanted to make'... but after a few, you start to realise that a game lives on after you've built it. I still get emails most days from people who've just played Thomas for the first time. I got to thinking about what I could do to encourage a long term community for the next game, and hand over some of the fun of game narratives to players. I'm not making Everquest Next here. I'm not on that scale, but I really like the idea of opening this stuff up.
Kotaku: Will the various platforms all have the same level editor tools? Bithell: That's the plan! We're a ways off though, and I'm not quite ready to talk platforms just yet.
Kotaku: Let's do some word association: Lode Runner
Kotaku: Did you give David Housden any direction as to how to make Volume sound different than TWA?
Bithell: The dude's a genius, we went through our usual process of me making him a mix tape and giving him tonnes of notes, and then him ignoring everything I'd sent and doing something far better. It's an odd system we have going, but it's worked so far.