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Last month, media outlets across the world previewed Encased; an upcoming isometric dystopian sci-fi RPG releasing on Tuesday 7 September 2021 developed by Dark Crystal Games and published by Prime Matter.
But beyond the praise for the gameplay, storyline, and environment one thing stood out; almost everyone had played the game ‘normally’; out of over 100 articles, not one person had gone off-piste.
This might feel like a strange statement. After all, how else could you play the game and not get zapped in the first 20 seconds? This is where things get interesting: the developers – Dark Crystal Games – have added unusual gameplay styles (a few are signposted in the opening level) to give an entirely different playthrough. Some of these are:
- Setting your intelligence as low as possible
- Not talking to anyone and being permanently in the shadows
- Being a pacifist and only using non-lethal weapons
- Acting like a serial killer
So why did everyone, basically, act as themselves rather than role-playing an RPG? While some of this would be down to it being a first playthrough, there are more fundamental issues.
Dr. Rachel Kowert – a psychologist specializing in our interaction with video games – says that almost all of us project our own personality when playing a video game; at least when it comes to RPGs.
“Our in-game avatars are often a means of experimenting with many possible ‘selves, either as we are – our actual self – or an idealized version of ourselves. The characters we create in-game are very often closely related to who we are out of the game.”
There’s also a personal development aspect to this too. Research at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab found players who were helpful to NPCs in a video game were then more helpful to others in real life too. It’s called the Proteus effect and – yes – playing video games can make you a better person; other studies have produced similar results.
“There is an entire field of research looking at how digital role-play in video games can impact how we think and behave out of the game. For example, seeing a digital version of ourselves being successful in these spaces can become a catalyst for changing thoughts and beliefs we have about ourselves,” added Dr. Kowert.
So is the converse true; if we play as evil characters or just run amok with a gun in a first-person shooter, does that mean we become worse in real life? Thankfully, despite what some of the tabloids would have you believe, the answer to this is a firm no. The proteus effect only pulls you up; it doesn’t push you down.
So why did the developers put these alternative gameplay styles in the game if people don’t instinctively play them?
“We created Encased to not only be a totally entertaining game but one that would provoke some thoughts in players too. From moral choices to problem-solving, we wanted the player to use their imagination to play their avatar in whichever way they wanted,” said Viacheslav Kozikhin, Creative Director at Dark Crystal Games.
“These are some of the reasons why we created all these extra possibilities. We’re aware not everyone will see them, but that’s part of the magic of RPGs. It’s all about discovery and allowing players to explore a world in whatever way they want, rather than having a storyline-on-rails”
Encased, which will be a digital PC release on Steam, Epic, and GOG is currently in early access where users can experience all the first act and part of the second.
About Dark Crystal Games
Dark Crystal Games is an independent RPG studio founded in 2017 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The core of the team was formed by ex Larian devs, passionate to create their own RPG in the post-apocalyptic setting. In 2018 Dark Crystal Games launched a successful Kickstarter campaign that funded the development of the game and raised its production level. The project was promoted and developed by publisher Black Tower; three years on and Encased is almost ready to ship
About Prime Matter
Headquartered in Munich, Germany, Prime Matter is the premium gaming label dedicated to delivering a range of diverse and immersive games from amazing gaming development talent all around the globe.
Working across projects of all styles, scopes, and sizes, single-player, co-op to live ops, from producing to publishing, from ambitious teams taking their first step that need full support without compromising their dream to larger established successful studios searching that next step in the global market and building of brands.
Prime Matter looks to lead through creativity, expression, and passion, with games that will grip and enchant with enthralling story-telling, winning an audience with its incredible moments and larger-than-life experiences. Prime Matter is a proud member of the Koch Media Group.
About Koch Media
The Koch Media Group is a global developer, publisher, and distributor of video games, VR games, gaming hardware, and merchandise.
The group’s publishing activities, marketing, and distribution extend throughout Europe, America, Australia, and Asia. Koch Media has more than 25 years of experience in the digital media business and has risen to become a leading global publishing partner. The Koch Media Group runs a multi-label strategy with fully owned publishing units such as Prime Matter, Deep Silver, Milestone, Vertigo Games, and Ravenscourt, publishing games for consoles, PC, and VR platforms across all physical and digital channels.
Additionally, as a global publishing partner, Koch Media has formed long-term multi-national publishing collaborations with numerous game publishers including Activision Blizzard, Bethesda, Capcom, CI Games, Giants Software, Kalypso, Koei Tecmo, Konami, Paradox, Sega, SNK, Square Enix, Techland, Tripwire, Warner Bros, and many others.
With its parent company in Höfen, Austria, and the Publishing HQ in Munich, Germany, Koch Media owns local publishing companies in Germany, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Australia, the United States as well as Japan and Hong Kong.
The Koch Media Group owns nine-game development studios: Deep Silver Volition (Champaign, IL / USA), Deep Silver Dambuster Studios (Nottingham / UK), Deep Silver Fishlabs (Hamburg / Germany), Warhorse Studios (Prague / Czech Republic), Milestone (Milan / Italy), Voxler (Paris / France), Flying Wild Hog (Warsaw, Kraków, Rzeszów / Poland), Free Radical Design (Nottingham / UK), Vertigo Games (Rotterdam /The Netherlands) and DigixArt (Montpellier, France). Additionally, the Koch Media Group collaborates with numerous independent development studios around the world.
Part of the Koch Media Group is also Koch Films, a leading European independent film distributor with business primarily in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy as a cinema, TV, online, and Home Entertainment distributor. The Koch Media Group also owns Gaya Entertainment, a leading video game merchandise company in Munich, Germany, and the Quality Assurance Facility in Olomouc, Czech Republic.
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