Even though IndieCade 2017 was a week ago, there are a couple of games that I demoed that are still sticking with me. This has been a terribly busy week, but now I can talk about some of these amazing indie games and what players have in store for them.
The first game I demoed was _transfer, a game that made its debut at IndieCade 2016 and is currently in development by up and coming studio Abyssal Uncreations. It is described as “a queer transhumanist horror-themed social simulation” and rightly so. In the game there are no physical characters that you control, instead you are “a superintelligent artificial life form” who must explore the computer network you inhabit. Through social interactions with other AIs, you must piece together the past while attempting to understand your own purpose and identity.
What I really love about this game is that it is predominantly text-based. There are no graphics other than the DOS-inspired user interface. I had to type in commands in order to “speak” to the other AIs and “move” around in this digital world. These other contacts had unique names like BODV and LUHK and their intentions were completely unknown to me. I had no idea if they were friendly or hostile or if they would be an ally or an enemy.
During my short playthrough, I interacted with different AIs. Some were helpful and would warn me about particular names while others were more aggressive and declined to give me any answers. After a frustrating conversation with BODV, a new contact became available. Based on my questions and AI responses, I started to collect some important information about what had happened and who we were.
In one instance I contacted a threatening AI whose only purpose was to hunt. After one wrong response this AI started to chase me and all I could do was “run” from it until I was in the clear. During this chase, the computer screen would flicker and flash as though it was being hit by a virus. It only served to add to the intense pressure of trying to escape an obviously dangerous situation.
_transfer is a game that has players explore the dark unknown while trying to answer the fundamental questions of: Who are we and what is our purpose? The minimalist graphics and the soft, eerie music only enhance the isolation and the ambiguity of our existence. There are no faces to see and no tone of voice that you can interpret. You have no idea if what you say will have an adverse effect on your interactions with these emotionless AIs. And as you try to figure out who you are, you only have the words of the other life forms to help shape your identity.
As for Abyssal Uncreations, this is their first game and it is an impressive debut. Developer Hyacinth Nil and writer and narrative designer Reed Lewis have done an outstanding job in developing a game that hits upon many universal themes. It should be noted that some of the themes are of particular importance to the LGBTQ+ communities. This is in due in large part to Nil and Reed’s own personal experience being nonbinary.
At last year’s IndieCade, they explained:
“_transfer was conceived as a game tackling the experience of having no words to describe yourself. Many nonbinary people go through long periods of having no outside reference for their own identities, instead having to construct one based on the assumptions of others. Science fiction, the genre of the alien and the artificial, seemed a natural lens to deal with these topics.”
Despite my short demo, I am intrigued by this game and the purpose behind it. This is definitely a journey that I want like to take and with 35 possible endings to this game, I’m in for the long haul.
_transfer is still in development, but it will be available for PC when it is released. There has been no release date announced.