The way stories can be told in games continues to evolve. The Last Sleeper--an upcoming game being designed by a former Halo 4 producer and designer Kendall Davis--seeks to enhance its interactive narrative by allowing players's physical interactions (by way of the iPad's touchscreen) to drive the story forward.
The Last Sleeper has players inhabit the story of Adam, an amnesiac with the incredible ability to heal by the use of touch. The player teams up with a woman named Fera, who has the same healing powers as Adam, but also harbors a secret that could doom the world forever. The duo's goal is to bring something called the Light of Ephos back to the world, and protect its denizens "from mind-control of the Queen's Shadow."
The project has already achieved its minimum $10,000 funding requirement via its Kickstarter campaign, but the more funding Davis can secure before the campaign end-date, the more he'll be able to enhance The Last Sleeper. More money basically translates to more animation and other bells and whistles. There are only a couple of days left before funding ends, so any interested indie philanthropists should head over and check it out, posthaste.
Despite being an independently-developed project, The Last Sleeper has quite an impressive pedigree of experienced artists and designers involved. Sound designers Ethan Van der Ryn (Lord of the Rings) and Erik Aadahl (Tree of Life, Transformers, X-Men) join composer Steve Jablonsky (Gears of War 3, Transformers), in addition to programmers Pat Connor (Bioshock 2) and William Gahr (Red Dead Redemption). God of War 2's lead level designer, Michael Cheng, is also involved.
The Last Sleeper is a project Davis feels very passionately about, and is one that strongly influenced his decision to depart from the development of Halo 4 and strike out on his own. I asked him about the game's approach to storytelling, and Davis told me that one of the game's goals is to bridge what he describes as "the discreet divide between 'gameplay' and 'story.'"
"To me, this [divide] never made sense - because in a great book, there's not a divide between 'reading' and the 'story,'" Davis explained. "Michael Cheng and I have been working a lot to craft a foundation that allows the actions you do in the game to be the story," he continued. "There's no divide for us - everything is made with the purpose of pulling the player into the story and producing an emotional response that helps you identify and feel the drama."
"A lot of games have done this in sections, but very few do it all the way through," Davis told me. "I think that's where we are different, in our approach. The story truly is everything. It's about the idea that an arresting emotional experience can be had in less than an hour. Games could be, and must be the next great form of emotional art."
I also asked Davis about his decision to develop the game for the iPad and its touchscreen interface. He explained that one of his goals was to make the story accessible to as many people as possible and avoid shutting certain players out with barriers of assumed gameplay knowledge or mechanical skill.
"[Traditional console games]... have a moat - player proficiency - that keeps as many people as possible from experiencing the stories," Davis illustrated. "The iPad presents a way around this - because everyone from a toddler to my grandfather can pick up an iPad and understand how to use it," he said. "If we can achieve a design that uses the basic interactions of the iPad (flicking, swiping, touching, etc)... It's entirely possible we could take our ambitious story and put it in the hands of every day people," Davis continued.
Davis also told me his strong belief that "Games need to be about human relationships." "I don't think there's anything wrong with how escapist they are right now," he said, "but they need to be human... I think we can get this inside of games by using these types of gestures, especially if they advance the story."
The Last Sleeper - Episode 1 is planned for Spring 2012 release, exclusively on iPad.