The Next Game From The Maker Of Papers, Please Is A 1-Bit Mystery

The Next Game From The Maker Of Papers, Please Is A 1-Bit Mystery

After winning many awards his 2013 indie masterpiece Papers, Please, Lucas Pope takes old school to the next level in Return of the Obra Dinn, a first-person 3D adventure rendered in the 1-bit style of ancient Mac games.

Pope announced the new project this morning on The Independent Gaming Source forums.

My next project will be a 3D first-person mystery game set on an East Indiaman merchant ship in 1808.

In 1802, the merchant ship “Obra Dinn” set out from London for the Orient with over 200 tons of trade goods. Six months later it hadn’t met its rendezvous point at the Cape of Good Hope and was declared lost at sea. Early this morning of October 14th, 1808, the Obra Dinn drifted into port with sails damaged and no visible crew. As insurance adjustor for the East India Company’s London Office, find means to board the ship and recover the captain’s logbook for assessment.

I want to challenge myself so this’ll be a very different game from anything I’ve done before, including Papers Please. There’ll be less creativity with the gameplay and instead I want to experiment with the rendering, story, and a few technical features. Right now I have only a rough idea about the narrative. I’m hoping to capture a compelling mystery with suspense and twists in the limited space of an old merchant sailing ship. It won’t be the typical “collect items and look for clues” structure. There’s a slightly cool gameplay hook but I won’t go into details on that until much later.

I’ll try to keep this devlog lively as I make progress. Because the gameplay itself is more standard, there probably won’t be as many creative updates as the Papers Please devlog. I will post lots of pictures and builds as soon as I’m able. Things will likely also move slower than Papers Please did too, at least at the start. P,P still takes a good amount of my time so there’s less chance for me to maintain a laser-like focus on one project like last time. The lower bound for finishing this game is around 3 months but realistically I think it will take me around half a year. My Maya skills are pretty rusty so I expect the modelling/animation to take the most time.

1-bit Rendering
My first computer was a Mac Plus. I’ve always had a nostalgia-softened spot in my heart for 1-bit graphics. I’d like to capture the detailed black & white look of old Mac games in a realtime 1st person game. I plan to push it grittier and less cartoon-like than those old games; the hard part will be keeping everything legible without it becoming an unreadable mess of dithered pixels. One interesting problem with 1-bit rendering is that it doesn’t scale well for images and it compresses to video like shit — so YouTube stuff may look really poor. We’ll see how it goes.

Unity 3D
I’m gonna use Unity for this one. I fell in love with Haxe/OpenFL on my last project but unfortunately the 3D situation is not that great there yet. Also, it’s time to finally see why 90% of the indie scene is using Unity. I have a good amount of experience with 3D games and the few days I’ve played around with Unity so far have been pretty productive. The animated title screen scene up there (with post-processing shaders and all) was created in one day. I now have unrealistically high hopes.

(“Obra” is pronounced like “Cobra” without the C)

Return of the Obra Dinn [TIGForums via Screenburn]


    • Shufflepuck is already updated and available on Steam.

      Do we really need to go back to 1970 with those pixels and only one colour?
      Why not 16bit? Street Fighter, Strider, Ghouls’n Ghosts etc looked great in 16bit.

      I”m done with this lazy 8bit easy way out to create a game without character details,
      emotions and animations because it is the “style” let alone 1bit.

  • I miss Cosmic Osmo.

    I’ll fire up Shufflepuck Cafe and give you a game, Spruppet!

  • “There’ll be less creativity with the gameplay…”
    Anyone else bothered by this? I should keep an open mind since I haven’t actually played “Papers, Please” yet.

    • You should (play it that is, not be bothered). It’s definitely worth your time, and tends to go down to about $5 in Steam/Humble sales.

  • Hopefully the game is more fun than papers please. It felt like I was playing boredom and misery simulator 2013.

    Some people obviously like that or it wouldn’t have won the awards but after 15 minutes I wanted my 5 bucks back.

    • I don’t think Lucas was aiming for fun with Papers Please. It would have obviously detracted from the message…

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!