Welcome to the developer spotlight: a series highlighting the developers you need to know. In our first entry, we are shining a light on Osmotic Studios, a three-person team of developers that have already won a slew of awards for their unique title, Orwell. Based in Germany, the team is made up of Michael Kluge (Programming), Melanie Taylor (Art & Business) and Daniel Marx (Game Design and Production) all of whom are college educated game designers. The team came together to create games – “with narrative and personal resonance that challenge players to reflect on the world around them.” Orwell was the first title from the studio and they are already busily working on their next game.
Established in 2015, Osmotic hasn’t had time to create an expansive library of titles; but they did hit the ground running with Orwell, in which players work for the government of a fictional nation and monitor information. The game begins with a terrorist bombing which prompts the activation of the Orwell project. This allows the government to freely access all of its citizen’s information from across the web and even allows inspectors to hack phones or computers in the hunt for the truth. Across five episodes, players uncover the existence of a shadowy organization and set about stopping their plots through the power of illegal monitoring.
As you’ve probably noticed just by that brief description, the game has much to say about modern society and the information age. While players investigate their targets, they will see chunks of their internet history from various points in their lives. It’s up to the player to decide if, for instance, the person that constantly posted revolutionary rhetoric in their college years really has changed. The game provides a fascinating look at how we can be effected by things we said, even if they are years in our past.
Orwell is light on gameplay and heavy on story, my favorite combination, with the gameplay consisting of sifting through websites and removing incriminating information. This builds a profile of the person the information is about. Over time a web will form as you connect various people to one another. The web grows and shifts as new information is added. Visually, the game does its best to be stimulating despite the limitations of its own design. Information collecting also adds an extra component to the game: player choice. At various times, the player will be prompted to pick between two conflicting chunks of data. Either chunk will update someone’s profile in a major way. For instance, I ended up getting a guy fired when I choose to add his revolutionary rhetoric to his profile over his more recent pro government comments, as I believed these comments were disingenuous.
They say first impressions are key and in the case of Osmotic, Orwell was an excellent first impression. The game was, and still is, so very relevant to the modern world; arguably more so in light of recent scandals. It comes as no surprise that the game won three awards for its narrative and writing at the German Game Awards, A MAZE Awards as well as BIG Festival. It also scored six nominations at various other award shows. While many studios would be content to wait around and bask in the afterglow Osmotic got right back to work.
In August, Osmotic announced their next game would be a sequel to Orwell, subtitled Ignorance is Strength. Based on what has been released so far, the game will focus less on the collection of information and more on its manipulation. The sequel is said to take place at the same time as the first game and offers players the chance to decide how far they are willing to go to preserve the “truth”; whatever that may be. Based on the screenshots offered on their publishers site, the gameplay remains unchanged, with players still combing through webpages as they search for relevant information. Likewise, there hasn’t been any apparent updates to the UI or visual design of the game which is fine with me, but still worth mentioning.
According to Steam the game was set to release November 2nd, but as of this writing that date is still listed in the new releases section, but not on the games actual page. So far the developers have yet to give an official release date, though they did put out a short blog post talking about the game on the 12th,,in which they confirmed some of the central ideas, such as weaponizing the truth. Osmotic also confirmed that the antagonist of this second game will be an outspoken, anti-government blog editor that is quick to bend the truth to promote their agenda.
So, while we still don’t know when the game will be released, we do know what it will be about and we roughly know how it will play. I’m excited as I really enjoyed the first season of Orwell for its unique design and the very real story it told. Hopefully, the second season continues to deliver with an even more impactful story sometime in the near future.
Osmotic Studios Website: http://www.osmotic-studios.de/
Surprise Attack Website (Publisher): http://www.surpriseattackgames.com/