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Kickstarter Spotlight: Game Over's Daniel Lisi on Failsafe [Interview]

Failsafe, an upcoming first-person parkour game by Game Over, takes its inspiration from Mirror's Edge, Journey, and Shadow of the Colossus.

Today's market for video games is absolutely flooded with AAA titles. The gaming world is so saturated by massive conglomerates that it's easy to forget about the little guys. 

When a small studio stumbles upon a creative new idea for a game, they'll fight to raise the funds to produce their masterpiece by any means necessary. A lot of the time, the struggle to raise money for smaller projects leads developers to Kickstarter -- where fans, the people who will live and die by the upcoming game, can become a part of its creation. 

Today's article is focused on a studio in this exact circumstance. Game Over's pilot project Failsafe grabs all of the best ideas from multiple AAA titles and mashes them together in an attempt to stand out from the crowd, and it might just work. I caught up with Game Over's managing director Daniel Lisi for some of his thoughts on where Failsafe stands in terms of audience, gameplay, and AAA competition.

What is Failsafe?

Failsafe is a parkour adventure game inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's storytelling, reminiscent of the fluidity of Journey and the monolithic scale of Shadow of the Colossus.

Our goal is to provide huge, sprawling environments for the player to explore using dynamic parkour to navigate the remains of a mysterious civilization. The game plays like the better parts of Mirror’s Edge, with some pivotal refinements on the movement systems.

-Failsafe's Kickstarter page

The narrative of Failsafe features an adventuresome young girl who wants nothing more than to get out of her isolated village and explore the world. 

With so many great games mentioned in just the first two paragraphs of their Kickstarter, it's clear to see from where Failsafe was born. I asked about the relation of Game Over's upcoming game to Electronic Art's Mirror's Edge, which seems to be Failsafe's greatest inspiration. 

So many AAA titles have begun creating first person parkour-esque titles, so I asked Daniel, from a developer's point of view, why he thought the genre has suddenly exploded in the industry.

Daniel Lisi (DL): I can't really say why first-person parkour is a 'thing' all of a sudden. We focused on parkour mechanics in our game simply because we were testing a whole bunch of different mechanics, and Isra's first-person movement mechanics were the funnest of the bunch. We took that fun nugget and started refining it further and further until we ended up with the movement mechanics you see today!

BlacktideTV (BTTV): Why do you think it's taken so long since the original release of the game-changing Mirror's Edge for the industry to start focusing on advanced movement in-game?

DL: As to why it's taken the industry so long to start throwing more time and money into first-person parkour, well, it's a tough genre. It's super tricky to keep a player aware of their surroundings in a first-person setting when such intense horizontal and vertical movements are going down. The big task to developers approaching this genre is tackling the orientation issue and providing the player with a cohesive, digestible experience while still slinging crazy cool dynamic movement styles into their faces.

Game Over is fairly level-headed regarding the intensity of the parkour genre. Failsafe's entire "intuitive command system" is controlled with a single button, allowing for ease of access with younger and less experienced players. 

DL: It was a goal out of the gate to make an elegant input system. The roadmap for it seemed so daunting in my head. We have so many actions Isra can perform. She can run vertically up walls, horizontally across walls, slide across the ground (and keep sliding depending on her momentum and the surface she's sliding on), she can jump (of course), leap over walls, ascend up a pair of parallel walls by kick-jumping off of them... the list goes on. All of that can be done with one context-sensitive button. It's pretty nuts.

Our designer & programmer Evan Hemsley was determined from the beginning to make this system work. Even when I met the whole idea with skepticism, Hemsley really championed it and created a supremely sophisticated button. It's a piece of flipping art, really.

Not only will players be naturally gifted at the art of parkour while playing as Isra, the heroine of Failsafe. Game Over is also including a grappling hook so players can soar to new heights.

BTTV: Who is the intended audience of Failsafe? As previously mentioned, the control system is extremely simple and the possible "lessons learned" from the campaign, already leaning towards learning to venture out on one's own and make one's own conclusions, seem to point towards a younger audience. Even still, I think the game looks great and would want to play myself, at an older age.

DL: We haven't really intended for the game to be focused specifically on younger audiences, though it is definitely accessible to them. The game is pretty much non-violent, there's no combat to speak of, save the occasional standoff with a giant robot. 

I think if you're looking for a meaningful story with some rad gameplay, Failsafe's the game for you.

Regarding the "standoffs with occasional giant robots", Failsafe isn't going to make players kill them. Though inspiration surely came from Team Ico's Shadow of the Colossus, which made us cry every time we engaged in a boss battle, Failsafe, as mentioned above, has "no combat to speak of". 

When asked how players will engage the giant robot portions of Failsafe, Daniel told me that, "You'll have to be crafty, scale them, climb around on them, and disable them."

My final question for Daniel concerned the title of Game Over's pilot game. 

BTTV: The final, and possibly the most important question of them all: why Failsafe? Is there any specific importance to that title that you're willing to share with us?

To which Daniel cryptically answered:

DL: The title is extremely narrative heavy. The Failsafe is a secret that players will discover at the same time Isra does.

Failsafe is in alpha build, with a projected completion date sometime in summer of 2016. Pending console arrangements, Game Over would like for Failsafe to be released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but will definitely be releasing the game on PC, Mac, and Linux. 

Game Over have reached $20,000 of their $80,000 goal on Kickstarter. The final 80k is going towards level completion for Failsafe's campaign mode. 

With a full development/writing team with history branching from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots to Borderlands 2, and inspiration coming from games like JourneyMirror's Edge, and Shadows of the ColossusFailsafe is looking to be a mighty competitor in the tough first-person parkour market.

Images courtesy of Failsafe's Kickstarter page.

Published Nov. 12th 2015

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