Keep Hope Alive: Camouflaj On Tailoring Republique To PC

By Nathan Grayson on April 28th, 2012 at 10:00 am.

It looks kind of like a face if you view the base as a neck and stuff. Neat!
The world of PC ports is a dark and treacherous place. DRM, 30 FPS framerate locks, and preset graphical options? Oh goodness, I need to go hide under a warm blanket while clutching my stuffed animal representations of anti-aliasing and V-sync. And yet, within those seedy alleyways, there’s corner so pitch-black that most PC gamers dare not even utter its name: iOS ports. They are, the legends say, rife with snooze-worthily simple mechanics and graphics one slight step up from an Etch-A-Sketch.

Don’t tell that to Camouflaj, though. In Republique, it aims to create an iOS game capable of going toe-to-toe with triple-A gaming’s heaviest hitters. And now, the stealth-focused Metroidvania with a “symbiotic relationship” between the player and main character, Hope, is coming to PC. But how, exactly, will a game intended to leverage iPhone’s, er, phone-ness make the jump to our very un-phone-like platform of choice? Well, if Republique lead Ryan Payton has his way, all the talk of “ports” will die the second we start playing.

“If you’re not going to design your game for the platform you’re targeting, then you’re wasting everybody’s time and money,” Payton told RPS. “Some games naturally work well on both console and PC, and some just don’t. We don’t believe République could just be ported from iOS to PC and be fun without new designs and features. This is why we’re investigating a significant amount of time and resources into ensuring the PC version of République is built for the platform. I think this is consistent with our commitment as a studio to do everything at the highest quality possible, even if it takes a little extra time.”

So then, what exactly does that mean? Well, on iPhone/iPad, you aren’t actually Hope. Rather, you’re (somewhat ominously) Big Brother, a mysterious figure out to both overthrow the totalitarian, 1984-inspired Overseer and protect Hope by hacking a number of network-enabled devices in her vicinity. It’s an interesting mechanic to be sure, but it translates to gobs of screen-smudging touch controls. PC, however, will be an entirely different (and honestly fascinating) beast, according to Payton.

“We are thinking of designing some sort of simple DOS prompt-like interface for gameplay and hacking moments in the PC version of République, so in a way, I think we may be encouraging PC gamers to be PC gamers. I think it’s cool when players scan all your files for hints and notes. I used to do that with my favorite games. My only concern is that we don’t accidentally bury in any story spoilers in the code,” he explained.

“We’re going to try and keep the same story arc but change or add scenes based on the idea that players are viewing the world not through an iOS device but a PC. This is a new challenge for us we were anticipating, but because of the excitement about the PC version from both the team and the community, I’m committed to offering something different and cool.”

And, of course, without that community, Republique wouldn’t even be Small Townshippe or Rundown Backwoods Shaque. The project simply wouldn’t exist. Kickstarter, however, gave Payton the confidence to just go for it, and the results – especially in light of the fact that his game isn’t a well-known license or nostalgia-soaked genre love letter – have been rather interesting, to say the least.

“Working with the community is one of the great things that Kickstarter allows us to do,” said Payton. “The world’s positive energy about the game has given me so much encouragement about what we’re doing. People genuinely care about what we’re doing, and others genuinely hate it. It’s fascinating.”

“Personally, I think it’s best to strike a balance between creative vision and community. Minecraft, for instance, is the perfect game to be driven by the community, but there are other games like Bioshock Infinite and The Last Guardian that have a very specific creative vision that may not jibe well with strong community input.”

As an example, he noted that there are no plans to link the iOS and PC versions in any transmedia-style way right now, but if the community really wanted it, he’d find a way. Honestly, between that and such a strong PC focus, it all sounds a bit too good to be true. And with a Kickstarter that’s hardly crept past a fifth of its goal in roughly half of its time, a cynical mind might think this is all just a ploy for attention. For Camouflaj, however, this isn’t a zero-sum game. One way or another, this game will get made. Payton and co would just really like to have fans along for the ride.

“If Kickstarter doesn’t succeed, we’re going to pursue a more traditional funding route and try our best to realize this game we’ve already put so much of ourselves into without losing our independence and creative ambitions. It’s going to be tough, but I’m going to fight for this game and this team,” Payton said.

“I think being an independent studio just allows us to cut through all the nonsense that comes with the territory of being a big company. Independence allows us to be more open and honest with the community because we don’t have a long chain of command who can question every move. On the flip side, that can get us in trouble as I tend not to have much of a filter when I speak publicly. But I’d rather us be more open, communicative, and rough than faceless and cold, you know?”

In that respect, then, Republique is very much a no-compromise proposition. Big-budget production values paired with small-time spirit, heart, and risk-taking attitude. It is, to be frank, a very special brand of madness. But when I say “special,” I mean it in the best, perhaps most naively optimistic way possible. If these people can succeed with their pie-in-the-sky, eyes-bigger-than-a-Death-Star’s-stomach dreams intact, it could very well be the beginning of something huge. Republique’s fighting against some mighty tall odds to the tune of nearly $400,000 more in two weeks, but in spite of myself, I’m hopeful. Really hopeful. Also, this made me smile.

“No DRM, no online requirement,” said Payton. “I think PC gamers deserve more respect than that.”

D’aaaaaaaaw. Oh you.

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24 Comments »

  1. ZIGS says:

    This sounds great and all but I really doubt it’ll reach the goal :(

  2. Agrona says:

    It kills me that they keep saying “Republic” and not «République». Also Camoflaj’s apparent inconsistency with accenting the e is pretty terrible.

    • Contrafibularity says:

      Good to know I’m not the only one, although it’s a very minor gripe, it’s just baffling why someone would get it wrong let alone several people developing said title, but otherwise it could be a stunning adventure game (well, with a twist obviously, but it makes sense to call it that I think).

  3. ScottHarrigan says:

    It is good that this company is trying to rework the game rather than just dumping it onto another format with little thought. Many ports, especially HD collections being released have been extremely lazy ports. Even when it was not glitchy, it offered nothing new to the experience, which is a problem when the customer is paying for the same game twice. Things should not only be altered to fit updated format, but provide something more. Devil May Cry HD was very lack luster in its presentation, which made me feel silly for buying it, despite my intense love of the game.

    http://www.videodetective.com/games/devil-may-cry-hd-collection/285381

    Hopefully this port can make the jump to PC, but the company does have their work cut out for them. It is hard for HD collections or ports to be something more than a quick cash in.

  4. JamesPatton says:

    I’m a liiiittle sceptical about their ability to turn a game they only ever envisioned as an iOS title into a game that would only make sense on PC, but I watched the video, thought it looked interesting, and pledged some money. So here’s hoping.

    My biggest concern is that if the Kickstarter fails (which, sadly, looks likely judging by the numbers) then if they approach a big publisher or some other funding-source with this idea, they’ll look up the Kickstarter, see that it failed, and say “Well you had your shot and obviously there just isn’t a demand for this sort of thing.”

    • Shuck says:

      Yeah, I hadn’t thought about the dynamics of trying to go from Kickstarter to traditional publishing models, but I suspect you’re right. Kickstarter at this point is sort of a last ditch funding source to begin with, and a failure there would certainly be a strike against it when trying to pitch it to publishers.

  5. Bostec says:

    Reading the title I thought it was a sequel to Republic: The Revolution. How I loved that game even when I didn’t know half of what I was doing.

  6. Trinnet says:

    If ever there was a time to hang on to your money and see how the final game turns out, this seems like it.

    Ports are often horrible, ports from phones doubly so. They haven’t yet decided what the PC features are going to be, and they didn’t want to make a PC game at all – a few days ago their FAQ patiently explained what a bad idea a PC version would be.

    • Oof says:

      Agreed with all of the above.

      It just all impresses so much as last-ditch-attempty.

      • RobF says:

        Yeah, there’s a lot with this that sets off alarm bells. Its hardly a smart use of iOS bringing back CD-I gaming for a new generation and the shift from “it’s totally iOS all over” to “it’s a PC game too” smacks more than a bit of trying to find a way to claw in more money cash.

        Combo up with using Kickstarter funds to bait other investors, it’s all a bit awooga awooga purple alert.

        Wouldn’t touch it with someone else’s.

        (plus I don’t really want to encourage people who -think- they’re bringing AAA stuff to iOS but what they really mean is same old tired shit)

  7. Vesuvius says:

    So it’s more or less http://www.gamespot.com/the-experiment/ but with less interactivity since it’s originally been designed for an ipad. Oh and with worse graphics for the same reason.

    • caddyB says:

      Oh. It does look very similar indeed.

    • Guhndahb says:

      The Experiment came immediately to my mind as well. But the flaws in The Experiment (it tended to be tedious) weren’t with the clever overseer-style conceit. I think that worked very well and would be happy to play more games like it. And I can see how a touch interface could work well with it for iOS. I can also see his vision of giving a command prompt for PC gamers could work (like the Hacker:Subtitle games), although I think the mixed GUI/CLI computer interfaces in The Experiment are probably a better idea. But I’m very skeptical of making one game designed to work well with both of those very different interfaces without a really good source of funds and and equal dedication to both. I may be overestimating the unique work required for the two facets, but it seems like a significant enough difference that it may almost be like making 1.5 games to really get things right. Especially on the PC side, we PC gamers are tough to appease.

      I’m not sure what promises have been made regarding priorities, but I know I’d be wary of donating to this project for fear that my money is going to development of an iOS game first. I’m not just apathetic about that, it’s a flat out downside to me. Such feelings affected my interest in the Shadowrun Kickstarter too. But I’m a curmudgeonly old platform bigot. :)

      And on the topic of Kickstarter, I noted people saying it’s likely to miss its mark. I will say that’s the one reason that should _not_ keep people for donating. If it doesn’t hit the mark, you lose nothing. But if people start deciding not to donate to projects just because they don’t look like they’ll make it, then smaller projects are doomed. There are plenty of good reasons not to donate to Kickstarter projects, but that’s not one. The primary reasonable related fear to that is if they underestimate the mark and run out of money, but that’s true of any Kickstarter project.

  8. DarkFarmer says:

    As much as RPS wants this to happen I dont think it will, and I am not upset about it. In general I am highly skeptical of kickstartering games- since minecraft, there have been alot of pay to alpha games and not all of them have turned out as well as minecraft did.

    Kickstarter just does away with the “have any version playable” requirement and lets bigshot game designer rockstars come out and get paid before they even have a playable version, which I think is pretty weak.

    Even publishers (if they are smart) required a playable demo before they’d pony up the money, i suggest the PC gaming community do the same, especially with an iOS game that decided it needed half a million dollars ??? to be made.

    • PopeJamal says:

      I agree but I have to say, the “Collectors Edition” they have listed on their site is awesome. If they had attached these goodies to Shadowrun, I would have gladly forked over the $100+ for it:

      -Physical CDs
      -A really nice worn rebels handbook
      -A hollowed-out fascist rulebook that you use to hide all you rebel contraband

      Maybe I’m just a sucker for books. Also:

      “Yo dawg, I heard you liked books…”

  9. asshibbitty says:

    So apparently there’s drama around this game. If it doesn’t get funded now it would be a lesson for everyone.

  10. rustybroomhandle says:

    In other news – I rather enjoyed this goofy pitch video:

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1684781151/legends-of-eisenwald?ref=live

    :)

  11. Baresark says:

    I supported this, I may pull my support though. I found out about it, read what they wanted to do and was all for it. But I found it after they switched from an iOS exclusive. I feel as though that since they were so adamantly against making it a PC game, they will fail in this, no matter what they say now. I’ll see though. I mean, it doesn’t look like they will at all come close to making it the funding amount.

  12. Ahtaps says:

    I would like to see an analysis at some point by someone with far more time and connections than I about what Kickstarter actually does for a game. If people have the attitude “Well, if the Kickstarter fails then we are still going to go ahead and develop it anyway.” then why go with Kickstarter in the first place? You don’t get any money from it when/if it fails and you can still get the support and publicity by direct funding (like Minecraft to use an overused example) and joining promotional sites related to your industry. Is it just an easier way for developers to manage their funding, because I don’t really see any other benefit from it that hasn’t been achieved by other, more traditional means already.

  13. thebigJ_A says:

    Wasn’t Sword & Sworcery an iOS port? Sure it was simple, but it was also beautiful. Except for the whole tweeting thing, that was ugly and should be killed with fire.

  14. orient says:

    This is why we’re investigating a significant amount of time and resources into ensuring the PC version of République is built for the platform.

    Well at least they’re only investigating and not actually investing yet.

    I too thought it was the iOS platform holding this campaign back. Turns out PC gamers (including me) are more conservative than I had imagined. Strategy RPGs? Sweet. Adventure games? Sweet. Voyeuristic stealth games? Ew, get away.

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