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.