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Thursday, December 24, 2020

What we're looking forward to in 2021: Lindsay's big five


What an unmitigated nightmare of a year 2020 has been. Between the natural disasters that went large this year, over to COVID-19 and the horrors of a pandemic, very few people will look back at this year with fond memories.

Typically at the end of the year we look back at the highlights, but given that 2020 has been so unrelentingly miserable, we've decided to look forward instead. Each of the DDNet team is going to list the five things (related to games) that they're looking forward to in 2021. Whether that be new games, announcements, events or experiences. Be sure to let us know what you're looking forward to on the rebound, too! We'd love to knock this year out with a wave of positivity.

Today's list comes to us from DDNet news editor, Lindsay!

A full release of Ooblets 

Ooblets is part creature collecting, part farming, and all dancing. Created by two developers (Ben and Rebecca, a couple who had their first child in September yet is still committed to updating as often as possible on the way to launch) and a composer (Predro Silva), the game is pure joy. I mean, you collect Ooblets by having a dance battle with each species; if you win, you can collect a seed to plant and grow your own identical Ooblet. I am all about the music and no matter how crummy I feel, I will find myself bopping along during battles 100 per cent of the time. The Ooblets are cute, odd, small creatures. Some resemble actual animals (for example, Tad looks like a frog) and others are just the strangest creations. Either way, I can't get enough. 


The Early Access version of Ooblets launched in July for PC via Epic Games and Xbox One, and to say I've been obsessed with it since then would be a massive understatement. From what I've seen from other players, they average maybe 30 hours before running out of things to do and moving on. Not me! By my calculation, I've played 150 hours to date. Have I run out of new things to do? Yes. Does that stop me from trying to collect all my Ooblet buddies and preparing whatever I can for the updates expected next year? Absolutely not! I've saved up nearly a million gummies, and I'm currently aiming to have 1000 of every crop and related processed product collected by the time the full release is available. I've played so much that it's become muscle memory, and I've literally fallen asleep (multiple times) while running around Badgetown because it's become so soothing and familiar; I'll wake up a minute or two later and find my character stuck in a corner or up against a fence. I think I may need updates more than I think... good thing there are four more major ones planned prior to the launch goal of late 2021!

Swery's The Good Life

What makes a good life? Cats and dogs, of course! If you've been keeping up with DDnet's twice-weekly catch-ups you'll likely remember The Good Life, as we've been talking about it since 2017. The face behind the game is one familiar to many; Swery is the man behind Deadly Premonition. And let's be honest, we love him! Deadly Premonition 2 got multiple awards this year. That being said, The Good Life is basically going in the complete opposite direction. It seems quite cheerful, features cute furry creatures, and is a sim/mystery title at its heart. It's faced some adversity, including a failed Fig campaign (though a later campaign on Kickstarter was successful) and some release date delays. It is currently set for a mid-2020 release for PC via Steam, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One.
 

The Good Life is set in the rural English town of Rainy Woods. It sounds idyllic, no? It's even considered the happiest town in the world. Naomi is a reporter who comes to town to solve its mysteries, but she quickly uncovers something most unexpected: the residents of Rainy Woods transform into cats and dogs at night. Naomi ends up in town for long enough to need to earn a living other outside of her current quest for the truth, so she'll need to do photo commissions, social media posts, and part-time jobs. Her camera is actually quite important. She can also grow veggies, cook, explore, and socialise. And somewhere along the way, she too gains the ability to transform into a cat or dog at night, each with its own unique skills.

The Microsoft-exclusive As Dusk Falls

It's strange, I don't normally find myself needing an Xbox One to play video games. I only play on consoles (it's a comfort thing) but ever since getting a PlayStation 4, I'll choose it over Xbox any day. I mentioned Ooblets earlier; it is one of those times that I had no choice as if I wanted early access, I needed to play on Xbox. When Tell Me Why launched last year, I also relied on Xbox. And now I'm relying on it yet again, as Interior/Night's As Dusk Falls is (reasonably, as its one of Xbox's studios) limited to PC and Xbox consoles. It has been repeatedly described as an interactive drama; from the little that has been shown, I would compare it to Life Is Strange. The studio's founder and creative director, Caroline Marchal, has a great track record to date: she was the lead designer for Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. 


As Dusk Falls is anything but linear, and the player's choices will heavily impact the narrative direction. The game follows two families whose lives collide in an Arizona Desert in 1999. The story starts in the middle, and eventually encompasses multiple points of view over three decades. It explores how the past, present, and future can relate to a single event. Can you break free of toxicity? Can you start over? Can you overcome your past? Marchal describes what is fascinating about interactive stories in a Microsoft blog post, stating, "they give us insights about ourselves. When we play as a character, we experience their emotions and dilemmas from their point of view. But the choices we make for them remain very personal. By stepping into someone else’s shoes, we understand them better, and we learn about our true nature in the process. We grow, thanks to empathy."

More information about Project Ambrosia

Okay, so this one is cheating the rules a bit. It's not about something I'm looking forward to releasing in 2021, but rather, something that we should get more information on during the year. Sam Barlow has moved across the pond to New York City and founded a game development company named Half Mermaid; its first title released was Telling Lies earlier this year. The company's next release, currently titled Project Ambrosio, doesn't have a tentative release date yet but I'd expect 2022 based on the Steam page for the game. Regardless, information should continue to be revealed ever so slowly in the coming year. I've pieced together that it's in the horror genre, and that's about it. That being said, horror isn't out of his realm at all – he wrote both Silent Hill: Origins and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. To sum it up, I'd trust him and Half Mermaid with my gaming life. 


So the big question: why am I so excited for a game when I know so little about it? I'm was introduced to FMV games with Barlow's Her Story back in 2015. I was interested because it was a crime-based mystery about digging through archival footage with no real direction, but I ended up falling in love with FMV as a whole. Whether or not Project Ambrosia is FMV doesn't make a lick of difference, though. What I trust above all else is Barlow's ability to weave narratives that aren't perfectly straightforward. Half Mermaid's Twitter account is full of thoughts and discussion about cinema, and based on what I've seen, I gather Project Ambrosio will be exciting in a way that reflects classic films, experimental films, and films that seem odd or outlandish unless you really dig into what it all means.

The Dark Side of the Moon 

You didn't think I'd get through this without featuring an FMV title confirmed for 2021, did you? I've been following development of Tayanna Studios' The Dark Side of the Moon for what must be at least two years now. I've played so many FMV games since then: one about biological warfare, one based on Lovecraft lore, one about solving a murder... you get the picture. There is always mystery involved, but do you know what's missing? 


Aliens.

Yep, aliens. And that's where The Dark Side of the Moon comes in. No, it's not a Pink Floyd reference in any capacity. Dean is a single father to two children, who are taken from their beds despite the house being in the middle of nowhere. Dean now has to find out where his children are, and who exactly has taken them. Tayanna Studios' first title, Calm Waters, is a point-and-click game, and The Dark Side of the Moon combines those elements with FMV to create its new game. Oh, and the developer (Darren Hall) also stars in it as Dean, which is all the more fascinating for whatever reason. There will be two faces familiar to FMV fans: Anarosa De Eizaguirre Butler (The Shapeshifting Detective) and Rupert Booth (Contradiction, The Shapeshifting Detective). The Dark Side of the Moon has no set release date yet, but expect it next year.

What we're looking forward to in 2021: Lindsay's big five
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