Just yesterday I learned about an interesting game that’s currently in development, Between The City and The Needle. A sci-fi, semi-psychological game where conversation choices completely guide through a series of outcomes in this conversation simulator game. When I first learned about it, I couldn’t help but think the intuition and conversation mechanisms from L.A. Noire (YES!), the background story of Parasyte, and the decision and consequence system of Papers, Please had a beautiful baby: Between The City and The Needle.
How do you know the person standing in front of you is actually a human being? What if they’re a simulation? A ghost? Better, let’s entertain the idea of something beyond our planet, possibly beyond our galaxy, from way out among the stars into the vast unknown? Sure, they have flesh just as you and I do, they’re breathing, and you could even argue their emotional composure (or lack of) is indisputable. They may fit all the criteria on the outside and even follow some of the behavioral patterns specifically associated with humanity but how would you actually know?
Exactly, you kind of can’t.
In the world of Between The City and The Needle, an alien race invaded our planet roughly a decade ago and have assimilated into our society flawlessly. The exact head count is uncertain but the invaders appear to actually be a sizable chunk of humanity. Nothing is particular known about the alien species other than that they can take on human form and mimic us successfully. I mean, we’ve been fooled for 10 years!
As you would imagine, the government is doing everything in their power to keep this on the down low and away from the public eye. Ignorance is bless and the less you know, the better. So, in an attempt to fix this problem, which seems to be leading towards the extinction of mankind, they create a specialized unit for identifying, studying, and determining the fate of the aliens. This unit is Honest Minds .
Now, the player takes a very interesting role in all of this (and this is where things get awfully heavy, man). The player is a new employee of Honest Minds. At Honest Minds, the player poses as a psychologist and evaluates 40 different suspects. Players engage in conversations with these suspicious characters and dissect every bit of their identity, character, and personality possible to see just where they lie on the spectrum ranging from human to alien. But this is no easy task. In the 10 years posing as human beings, the aliens have grown clever and worn their facade well. Picking the aliens from everyday Joes turns into a significantly more challenging task that originally anticipated – and sometimes we make mistakes and kill the wrong living being.
Can the player handle the risk of mistake with the fate of another living being on the line?
I mentioned a little about this previously but the primary gameplay is through conversation and decision making. Between The City and The Needle actually has 9 different endings, all based around the decisions and consequences the player juggles. The player will interact with 40 different suspects and get a front view seat to their personal thoughts, memories, and just what makes them tick. Ultimately, the player maneuvers through question after question with the question of the suspect’s humanity completely in their hands.
Aside from conversing with individuals, players will generate something of a personality through the course of the game based on their decisions. NPCs will engage in conversation with the personality the player builds which will both provide insight to the Honest Minds background but also an outside look at the character the player has formed. Also, there may be an even grander story at hand here and players learn more about it through exploring various parts of the Honest Minds facility, sifting through whatever documents and files they can get their hands on.
All of this is done through a panel and coursing through conversations.
A Few Questions For Nightmarea Games and Developer Info
Jennene Flavell and Joseph Fellows are the duo that make up Nightmarea Games, based in the UK. Despite officially founding Nightmarea Gmes in January of this year Between The City and The Needle has been a concept dating back to October of 2014. The duo both have a passion for narrative-driven and story-oriented games (hallelujah!), especially that of the point and click variety, which inspired them to create something based around the most arguably engrossing and demanding part of the gaming experience: the story and characters. Thus, the idea for Between The City and The Needle entered the picture.
For a little more information about Between The City and The Needle, I asked Nightmarea Games a few questions to get a feel for the inspirations and what lies ahead:
What inspired the name?
We liked the idea of having a ‘Morton’s Fork’ kind of title to reflect to the two difficult decisions the player must make concerning the fate of each suspect. The city refers to the decision of allowing them to leave their appointment alive and free to wander the streets. The needle refers to the decision to inject them with a lethal toxin.
Any specific inspirations for the concept (conversation-based game with different outcomes)? What about the story itself?
Both Phoenix Wright and L.A. Noire would be inspirations for the gameplay. We want to try and capture the conversation intensity of games like that but with ramifications and consequences to the actions you take. For story, the main inspiration would be the novels of Philip K. Dick, which deal with ideas of doubt, questioning the truth and fear of the unknown. And also the real life events that take place during the documentary Citizenfour concerning mass surveillance and xenophobia.
What platforms will Between The City and The Needle be released on (prior to reaching stretch goals of the crowdfunding campaign?)
We’re initially aiming to release on Windows but we’re hoping through Kickstarter we can support other platforms.
Is Steam Greenlight a possibility?
Yes, definitely. We aim to be on there when our demo is released.
For More Information
Seeing L.A. Noire as an inspiration is so exciting, guys. Putting my opinion in here, I’m flat out giddy about the idea for Between The City and The Needle. This is a gritty, heavy, psychological story where our perception of reality is called to question and nothing is black and white. Sides and angles here may seem clearly defined but as time progresses and more lives are put at stake, the heaviness of the situation truly unfolds. Gah, I want this game to be available now!
Currently only the teaser trailer for Between The City and The Needle is out at the moment but an official one is planned for release at some point later on in the year. Then down the line a demo release and a crowdfunding campaign (though IndieGoGo or Kickstarter isn’t specified yet). So, right now Between The City and The Needle is still in development and we just have to wait for more information to come out! In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more or check in for some updates, please check out the Twitter, Facebook, and official Nightmarea Games website.
Favorite game(s): Gone Home, Life is Strange, Back to Bed, Transistor
Non-indie: Mafia II, L.A. Noire, Dark Cloud II (Dark Chronicle), The Assassin's Creed Series (mainly Brotherhood and Black Flag)
Worked for Cliqist.com from Jan 2013 to Februrary 2014.
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