There aren’t many left, but these guys get my full support for the way they approach their game development.

The complete polar opposite of the way EA do things!

As you probably know, they are a small UK based company with only something like 4 or 5 employees, with a small catalogue of really neat game concepts done really well. Very polished titles that have a timeless charm about them. Their current “next” project looks and sounds fascinating to me! But let me back-track a bit and highlight their past before talking about the future 😉

All their games have a minimal graphical style which has many benefits all round. Cheaper and easier to develop for a small team, doesn’t date as quickly if at all, has a unique stylised feel when compared to all the standard 3D engine stuff you see now, runs well on older PC’s and focuses your mind on the MECHANICS rather than the SKIN of the game. Brilliant stuff…

Their first game was ‘Uplink’, released in 2000 – a pretty damn geeky game (well they are mega-geeks ;D ) where you take the role of a computer hacker and have to get into ‘virtual’ systems using various tools and retrieve certain bits of information. You have to stay undetected and erase any signs that you have been in, which gets harder and harder as the game progresses. There’s a real sense of pressure and tension even though the graphics were minimal to say the least.

Next came ‘Darwinia’, a simple RTS focussing on pure strategy and understanding of the game rather than a quick mouse finger. The scenario was that a computer virus had infected a mainframe computer, and what you see on screen is a representation of the internals. You have to beat the virus and stop it from spreading.

Next up was my current favourite of all Introversion’s games so far, ‘Defcon’. Another pure RTS based on the idea of global nuclear war and the 80’s film “Wargames”. It has an amazing atmosphere and a pace unlike any other strategy game I can think of. It’s mainly an online multiplayer game where each player controls a “superpower” continent, with or without alliances, and it plays out in distinct phases…

Phase 1: Place your bases and structures (everyone has the same number of units (radars, missile silos, air bases, aircraft carriers, batteships and nuclear submarines) but can place them in different formations and fleet make-ups so there is a big amount of tactics at this crucial stage.

Phase 2: Start to move your units away from your contienent and towards the ‘enemy’.

Phase 3: Start to launch the nukes! This part is very timing based… kind of like Missile Command. The aim being to launch a volley of nukes to the same target and try to make them all arrive at the same time so as to break through the enemy defences. Each nuke that lands halves the population of the target city, so going for the bigger capital cities first is key, but also likely to be the most heavily defended. The catch being that the silos which launch nukes form the land are also your only form of defence and they take a good while to swith from attach to defence mode – so you have to make defining strategic decisions as to whether you want to attack or defend or a bit of both, and what is right at different points in the game. Do you just use the subs, or the nuclear bomber aircraft, and in what order should you focus! The strategies are endless 😀

Phase 4: Whomever loses the least population wins the game.

There are some seriously good players online so I don’t actually stand a chance to win against them but it’s good fun trying anyway!

Their 4th game was ‘Multiwinia’: Basically an online competitive multiplayer version of Darwinia. An RTS boiled down to the core ingredients. Easy to learn – very hard to master. Just like Defcon in that respect.

They have recently released a version of this game onto the X-Box Live store, called ‘Darwinia +’ which seems a stop gap to fund their next project which really does sound amazing!…

Subversion: A culmination of all these concepts plus some amazing prcedural programming crammed into a game! Little is known at the time of writing this about the game itself but if you can picture being the man in charge of the Oceans 11 (film) team of high-tech thiefs – the man with the ideas of how to put the skills of your various team members to best use… that’s it!

So there’s going to be some hacking, some electronic bugging, acrobatics to avoid weight sensitive floors, some social engineering to gain access to private information to make your “job” easier and if all goes wrong some good old fashined violence to get you out.

The tech they have showed and talked about so far looks and sounds incredible. Randomly generated ‘maps’ with adaptive and procedural AI and tools which you can apply in different ways so that you can really achieve your goals in multiple ways depending on how you think/approach the situations. No scrpting and leading you down fixed routes like so many games that give a false sense of freedom… sounds promising indeed, no!?

Here’s some links to whet your appetite!