Teleportation is a very common form of locomotion in VR games that minimises motion sickness, but most of the time it is used solely for that purpose and as such may seem gimmicky, out of place, and takes away from immersion and gameplay. One game that avoids this common pitfall very well is Budget Cuts, in which you lob a physics projectile to a target location, get to preview that location through a small portal, and can choose exactly when you want to teleport to that location by the press of a button (see above trailer). This is especially apt in a stealth game as it allows you to scout the location before teleporting to it, and the physics projectile itself is very fun to play with as well.
Now you’re thinking with portals
To take this concept one step further, we can take inspiration from the classic first-person puzzle platformer Portal. Instead of just a small portal that you can peer through, we can create a portal that is large enough for the player to physically pass through. This opens up a world of possibilities, such as moving objects or even shooting/combat through the portal. The best part is, if done a certain way, we do not have to worry about the bounding box as this will only require the player to move back and forth between 2 points in real life! Although this might not be the aptest form of locomotion for Budget Cuts, this will be a very fun mechanic to see in other genres such as puzzle, platformer, and shooting games.
Invisible, Inc. is hands down my favourite game of all time. It is a singleplayer turn-based stealth rougelite, developed by indie studio Klei Entertainment. Players assume the role of a remote operator for an espionage agency, controlling a team of agents and an AI, to hack and sneak in and out of rival corporations.
Lens 9 – The Elemental Tetrad
The Aesthetics of Invisible. Inc are beautiful, but more importantly, minimalistic. The graphics are also very focused on relaying essential information to the player in an intuitive manner. You are able to identify hazards and valuables at a glance. If that’s not enough for you, the game even has an inbuilt tactical view that shows only the barebones strategic information that the player needs. All of this contributes to setting the player up to feel like a master strategist, making their actions feel ever more intentional and rewarding.
Technology in Invisible. Inc was nothing too special. It was heavily inspired by XCOM, and as such, most of the technologies used have already been seen before. The one thing that I would like to point out would be its random map generation that I believe is unique to this game, as the maps required for this genre of game have very specific requirements: they have to be “solvable”, varied enough to encourage replayability, all while still looking like a natural floor plan. This was one of the keys to the game’s success as it essentially defined the level design of the game.
There are many Mechanics that contribute to the satisfaction of pulling off a high stakes heist on every level. The most prominent of which would be the security level, a counter that increases every turn and when you get spotted. At fixed increments, new threats will then be introduced. This is the core of the game’s tension, as the player can no longer take their time to gain intel and play safe, they will have to take risks and make exciting decisions like whether to keep looting or to escape. To go hand in hand with this, the game’s difficulty also increases with each level completed, thus applying pressure on the player to improve and to take bigger risks for bigger rewards at every level.
Another important mechanic is the AI that you control. Although rather disconnected from the stealth aspect of the game, hacking the mainframe with the AI adds exponentially more complexity to the game, especially later on when more threats are introduced. The AI also gives the player unrealistic foreknowledge of the level, such as guard patrols and hacked cameras, which all contribute to the fantasy of being an omnipresent strategist.
Last but not least, the Story of Invisible, Inc. is mostly conveyed through engaging voiceovers and cutscenes. The concept of this game was actually inspired by heist movies, which explains its very unique gameplay. The interesting thing about this game is that the best story experiences actually come from the gameplay itself, whether you pull off a clutch escape or lose an agent, these are the moments that you as a player will remember the most.
All in all, the four elements work in harmony to really sell the common theme of espionage and stealth, making it the exciting yet deeply strategic game that I love.
Lens 13 – Infinite Inspiration
Invisible, Inc. was originally inspired by XCOM. In its early development phase, agents had health and ammunition, and combat was the central mechanic of the game. However, the designers at Klei decided that this did not give them the feeling of espionage that they wanted. Eventually, this whole combat system was scrapped in favor of the stealthy gameplay that remains. The designers actually drew inspiration from heist movies, where the protagonist finds themselves in unwinnable fights, unarmed and outnumbered. They will have to overcome the odds using their wits, gadgets, and whatever is present in their environment. This led to the exhilerating underdog experience that players face in the game today.
Lens 37 – Fairness
From a player vs environment perspective, the game is intentionally unfair, starting every level with no intel and vastly outnumbered and surrounded. But as previously mentioned, this just adds to the rewarding feeling of progressing through the level and eventually conquering it as an underdog.
From a skill level perspective, the game is extremely accessible, providing a whole host of options to customise the game’s difficulty, including turning off the turn counter, and making guards get knocked out for longer. Conversely, for those who crave a challenge, the game has a New Game + option with a whole new set of mechanics to make the game harder, as well as a Time Attack option for players who don’t like to sit around and think.
Lens 42 – Head and Hands
As with most turn based strategy games, Invisible, Inc. is 100% a mental game, which requires no physical dexterity to play at all. While this significantly limits their target player base, this makes the game much more appealing to players of this genre. To compliment the mental grind, the game makes sure that actions are very predictable, and that you can take an indefinite amount of time to take any action, so that the player always feels like they are in control.
Lens 69 – Interest Curve
Being a very tactical game, Invisible, Inc. encourages players to think ahead, often leaving players interested in something they have even yet to see. I wonder what’s around this corner? What new threats await me in the levels ahead? By constantly rewarding players with new and interesting mechanics and experiences, the game slowly ramps up the players interest throughout.
The true beauty of the interest curve lies in the individual levels, where the player starts of calm, with very little information and choices to make. But as the level progresses and gets more chaotic, the player gets more and more invested into the level, eventually reaching a climax when they make their grand escape. This is the ever so rewarding interest curve that really sells the replayability of the game, constantly bringing players back for one more level.
I love this game so much like you don’t even know fam.
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