It is a statement game about borders, nationalities and the freedom to travel and live where you wish. This is a very important subject for us, and also one that’s currently in the spotlight, given the recent events and the visceral reactions to them. Yes, I am thinking about refugees, attacks, fear, restrictions and prejudices. I am thinking about love and death and that we are all fundamentally the same, as humans. And that, if we really are the most intelligent animals on this planet, we should at least be smart enough as to not invent silly, arbitrary rules regarding where we may go, and what we may aspire to, based on where we were born, our gender or the colour of our skin.
But Project: Freedom* is not a sad, oppressive game, like, for example, Papers, Please! or even The Westport Independent. Quite the contrary.
In Project: Freedom, you are a digital nomad who wants to live life travelling, unattached to any one particular place. The entire world is open to you, but in order to travel from country to country you need to buy visas, arrange your travels, make sure you can work, keep an eye on the cost of living, and also enrich yourself by visiting worthy objectives – but with the downside that you don’t work, hence don’t earn, when you do touristy stuff.
And of course there’s a catch: your nationality. You have a nationality in game, and some degree of choosing it (expressed in an Easy, Medium, or Hard setting :D) but you can also let the game choose absolutely randomly where your digital persona gets born in this fantasy world.
Project: Freedom is a simple 2D puzzle game. I have collected an entire reference board on Pintrest, here. We want simple, crisp, illustration inspired graphics. But we also want to play a little with the idea of point of view, planes, and tilt shifting. Like this <3
You start the game by creating your digital nomad persona, and it looks like a passport. You choose your name, avatar, sex, nationality (a dropdown that has the values Easy, Medium, Hard, Random) and age. You also have a passport issue date. All of these details come to play a role in your adventures as a traveller.
Next you see a map. We talked a lot about this map, the world of the game, and how we really want to make people think about the concepts of nationality, borders, freedom, how we want them to identify their privileges, or lack thereof. So we almost used the real map, until I thought about the reverse – picture our Earth, just that there’s water instead of where we have land now, and land instead of water.
This map needs to be really pretty and inviting since you will be spending most of the game contemplating it. You always see where you are on this map, and you can click on any country to get details about it, to apply for Visas, or to Travel there.
Each country is wonderful in its own, but there is one extra quality which is pretty crucial for earning money: Connectivity. You will need good connectivity to stay in touch with your clients and to be able to send your work and get paid.
Visas cost money and time. They can also expire, and you will have to reapply for them. You might also be in trouble if you are in a country and your Visa expired. You might find yourself trapped, or expelled. We thought about adding a random factor when it comes to the Visa cost or time, to suggest bureaucracy and corruption. But we have not decided about that yet.
Travel also costs money and it takes time. You are not earning money while you travel.
Once you arrived to your new destination, you can access the Objectives for it. They look like postcards, they cost money and they take time. You are not working while you are visiting these Objectives. There are several objectives per country, and a country is fully visited when you have visited all of them. We also wish to add a special set of objectives like obtaining a residence permit or citizenship, but that is another feature we are unsure of.
Additional to this map, you also have a Time mechanic that you can accelerate or slow down (much like the older X-Com’s), because time passes, in this game, and you are also earning Money per time unit, based on your nationality, to begin with.
Furthermore, you can always access your Passport that doubles down a s a travel journal and shows you your money, your visas and their status, as well as what Objectives you have accomplished.
The scope of the game is to visit all the countries and experience all the objectives in each of them. You can fail, of course, by remaining without money in some strange country where the cost of living is high, the Connectivity, terrible, and you cannot earn enough. But we did not agree on how this failure should be expressed. Above all, this game should be a hopeful, positive reflection about our freedom to travel.
State of the Game
Project: Freedom is currently just an idea expressed across several meetings, in a few design documents, and with some Reference and Asset folders attached. We also have a backlog in Pivotal**.
The WE I keep referring to is actually me and Sebi and D’Vid, our friend and programmer. My part is somewhat uncertain as I need to apply for permission from my job, for this little project of mine. I am however fairly confident all’s gonna be OK. We have three more friends who expressed willingness to join, but we will see. I fully intent to sell this game properly, and actually make a profit, because I am far too opinionated about this part of game development and I really, really need to test all my theories and hopefully prove them right, so all the Sweden Game Arena studios have an extra validation to listen to me before signing questionable deals. Yes, the Impostor syndrome is strong with me, and I need a cure. That, and of course I WANT TO MAKE GAMES. I want to make games that change the world.
My plan is to keep the entire development as open as possible, which is why I am writing this and, hopefully, many more blog posts to update you on our journey. We currently have all our design, References and assets on Google Drive and I don’t think it is wise to make them public, but I am thinking about it. I believe the best way is to somehow port them and make them public here. I wish people would use the Comment functionality more, on this blog of mine.
Our first milestone is a functional prototype that demonstrates core gameplay. We want to release this prototype and analyse the feedback we get.
We want to highlight the Passport, the Map, the Visa and Travel, the Objectives, the Time and Money mechanic, as well as a Notification system that can explain our future plans. We aim for a living world with countries that interact and influence each other, so you get to have open borders, unions, and even wars. As a digital nomad, you’ll experience all that, both the good parts and the bad ones. Since it is a game, you will have one unique, amazing super power, which is to influence the counties you travel to, and make them open up and drop their borders. So the ultimate end game is to help create a fully free roaming world, governed by friendship. It is indeed the real world I wish I’d live in 🙂 and I do believe we are heading there, but I don’t think I’ll be alive to experience it. So at least we can make a game about it.
All three of us are slacking. I am probably the best of us to find excuses. After all, I had a talk to prepare, and before that I was at GDC, and before that I had to prepare for GDC. If I slack, everyone SHOULD slack, and that is my punishment. If I cannot inspire my team, whom else could I possibly inspire?
So here we go, Project: Freedom is full in the open now. What do you think? I am particularly looking for sceptical feedback. And if you want to tag along and help, just drop me a line!
*Project Freedom is a name already taken by another game. This is why it’s just a code name.
**That no one uses =)