Unheard available for your listening pleasure

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When it comes to modern mainstream video games it seems like there’s a trend to use as much processing power as possible to pursue higher graphical fidelity and faster frame rates… and the results are often spectacular.

But there’s another kind, usually independent productions, on the opposite end of the spectrum that utilize simple, abstract, or occasionally no visuals… and instead rely on the power of the player’s imagination.

These experiences primarily use audio, like dialogue, sound effects, and music, to set the scene in what’s sometimes called “the theatre of the mind”. With just the sense of hearing, they can paint vivid pictures, bring to life a host of characters, and create gripping situations.

If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of this type of storytelling. So when the developers at Shanghai-based NEXT Studios explained they were developing something that leveraged not only classic radio drama, but immersive theatre and adventure games — two of my other favorite pasttimes — I was eager to help however I could.

The end result is Unheard, which casts the player as an “Acoustic Detective” in a series of cases. By listening to recordings multiple times, they will navigate different floor plans in an attempt to identify who’s who and figure out whodunnit.

For my part, I worked with the creative director, Nick Zhang, to revise the English-language translation of the script and, later, remotely assist with voice-over recording sessions. I say remotely, because these took place in Los Angeles but with Nick and I phoning in from Shanghai and New York respectively; thanks to modern telecomm technology, it really is a small world after all.

Unheard is out today on Steam for Windows (OS X version coming soon) — and it’s 27% off during its first week. If you’re curious to hear more, visit the official website — www.nextstudios.com/unheard — or watch the trailer below.

P.S. If you’re at PAX East 2019, Unheard is playable at NEXT Studios’ booth — #10023 on this gigantic expo hall floor plan.

Polyhedron @ PAX East 2019 – Update #1

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Good mornin’, Beantown — the PAX East 2019 expo is about to start and The Church in the Darkness is ready to welcome players and parishoners alike with open arms.

We’re set up in the Indie MEGABOOTH — #20 on the map below — with three demo stations and more decor than you can shake a fern frond at.

The “One Shot, One Life” challenge makes its return this year, but with a new set of rules — speak with with one the game’s representatives to learn more or try your hand at this test of stealth skills.

If you’re feeling truly zealous, you can pre-order the game on the show floor — not only will you get instant access to the itch.io version, but also a devotional card signed by Ellen McLain and John Patrick Lowrie, the excellent actors who voice the two preachers. Check the official Twitter account for pics and additional info.

And keep an eye out for “Chip” James, a gonzo photojournalist who’s just returned from Battuela, the country where Freedom Town is located; he’s brought back some wild stories and a few extra rolls of 35mm film…

Polyhedron @ PAX East 2019

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Friends roamin’ the country, man, lend me your ears!

Today may be the Ides of March, but in roughly two weeks (28 – 31 March) we’re headed to Boston to help our good friends from Paranoid Productions demo their cult infiltration game The Church in the Darkness as part of the PAX East 2019 Indie MEGABOOTH.

We were fortunate to lend a hand last year, and had a ton of fun introducing attendees to preachers Isaac and Rebecca Walker, the Collective Justice Mission, and the compound hidden in the jungles of ’70s South America.

It was also the debut of the “One Shot, One Life” challenge — an ultra-hard mode that players could attempt once daily to win a set of real-world pins and postcards — which proved wildly popular and drew many back for repeat tries. Whether that gauntlet gets thrown again remains to be seen, but rest assured there will be happenings this year as well.

On top of that, the booth has some of the best decor on the show floor. Biased? For sure, but being surrounded by all the props and plants creates the feeling of stepping into another time and place.

This exhibition is also special since it will be the last one before the game is released. But if you can’t make it to PAX East yet still want to play before the general public, you can purchase the game from itch.io (via its publisher Fellow Traveller) for access to the Alpha build, as well as the full version on launch, 28-song soundtrack, and behind-the-scenes footage from the development process.

We’re looking forward to seeing you there/then and can’t wait to say more about the launch/later.