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access_time October 10, 2011 at 4:19 PM in Features by Lukas Jaro

DONTNOD’s Adrift: Thinking outside the box…

When you are about to attend a press meeting for an unannounced game you know almost nothing about, you often don’t know what to expect. You’re curious, excited, nervous and to a certain degree also unprepared. When you finally learn about the game everything you can, talk with the developers and leave absolutely amazed, without actually seeing anything, you wonder how’s that possible. What’s so special about this project that it left you completely speachless? That’s what happened to me with Adrift and in this exclusive article you’re about to learn why…

For starters, let’s talk about the studio behind it for a minute. DONTNOD Entertainment was established in 2008 in Paris and focuses its development on current-gen consoles – mainly the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Currently they have a staff of approximately 70 developers, but the core team is what really counts and pushed this company forward. Co-founded by Hervé Bonin (production director), Aleksi Briclot (art director), Alain Damasio (narrative director), Oskar Guilbert (studio director) and Jean-Maxime Moris (creative director), this studio is just warming up. All of them have a rich background in the industry, be it working at EA, Criterion, Blizzard, Ubisoft and elsewhere, and now they want to use this experience to create Adrift and hopefully make it a success. By the way, if you’ve wondered about the name of the company, it’s actually pretty clever. Not only you can read it both forwards and backwards, but it emphasizes the team’s motto „Don’t nod.“ In other words – think for yourself. And that’s exactly the message they want to bring forward to gamers with their new title.

Adrift, as the game is called right now, is a 3rd person action-adventure game. It takes place in the future, in Neo-Paris, 2084. A “surveillance society” has been accepted by the citizens themselves, in exchange for a few technological benefits. It is a reality that no one even thinks of challenging anymore. Augmented reality and memory manipulation have taken control of peoples’ lives. You can now digitize, buy, sell or trade your own personal memories. The only kind of privacy people have left. This memory-based economy gives an immense yet uncontrollable power to a handful of people. And that’s bad. Very bad. Think George Orwell’s “1984”, but 100 years into the future. Looking at where we are today, it’s kind of a scary thought to be honest.

As Jean-Maxime Moris points out: “It’s something we already see happening today. Technologies such as smartphones – some people are able to know at all times who you’re talking to, what you’re talking about and where you are. I don’t know what they do with this information, but I agreed to it, as everyone else, because phones are a cool technology I’m able to outsource parts of my brain to, so it’s ok if some of my freedom is going away with it. The same situation is with social networks like Facebook and what’s on your profile. Your friends and family, past and future plans, education, pictures, what you like or dislike and more. Your identity is already there and what is done with this information we don’t know. We just hear things. But these are the trends we see today and with things like RFID chips, memories are just the next step.”

To some of you this might sound a bit far-fetched and you’ll probably start thinking about how much this scenario is or isn’t plausible, but initially that’s the point, as Jean adds: “We’re not saying this is the way it’s going to be and you should be afraid, but while you are playing our game just stop for a minute and think about it.” Personally I think that’s great. Projecting current and potential future real-life trends into Adrift is a great way how to reflect where we as a society stand and where we are theoretically heading. It not only adds a whole new level of realism to the game, it also gives developers the chance to create a deep gameplay experience different from anything we’ve ever seen. Be it through bringing up theological issues, dealing with the question of transhumanism, a monitored society and more – preferably accomplishing what titles like Deus Ex, System Shock, Bioshock or even Mirror’s Edge have managed in the past: making people raise an eyebrow or two. It’s hard to say at this point what the outcome will be, but the team certainly has balls to come out with a project like this in the first place. Originality and uniqueness always counts 🙂

Aleksi Briclot, Art Director and one of the globally most renowned illustrators, with whom I had a chance to talk as well, explained how the concept actually came about and what was needed for it to come to fruition: “We’re not dealing with 15km long spaceships or things like that. We took a look at humanism, graphic design, fashion, technology and tried to think what it could be like in 2084. Our focus was to create a believable future. One of the first ideas was to work on global warming and water rising, but in the end we’ve chosen Paris as we live here and it’s one of the most touristic cities in the world. We can look around, feel the vibe of the city and take a lot of photographs of buildings, etc. The big challenge was to deal with old buildings, the Eiffel Tower and add something futuristic, some diversity.”

Doing actual research, before starting working on a game, is certainly crucial. And DONTNOD have done just that. With five world class concept artists and half of the levels already playable, there’s no doubt this game will ship in fall 2012 on time and polished. It’s coming out for PS3 and Xbox 360 only and if you’re wondering what to expect in terms of graphics, Adrift’s using the latest Unreal 3 engine – meaning very nice visuals. Be sure to look forward also to some combat in the game, as well as creatures, puzzles and philosophy. Will it blend? It sounds too good to be true. I know. It’s too long of a wait. I know. Together I’m sure we can manage though…

Like the team on Facebook, follow GotGame on Twitter, follow me and come back soon for more Adrift! An interview is cooking. Be here!


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