Monolithic Monochrome: Betrayer

By Jim Rossignol on August 5th, 2013 at 3:00 pm.


Betrayer, an upcoming FPS from Blackpowder Games, certainly has some visual clout. A monochrome colonial North America with a few dashes of bright red to unsettle proceedings, it delivers quite a look. And it sounds creepy: “The year is 1604. You sailed from England expecting to join a struggling colony on the coast of Virginia. Instead, you find only ghosts and mysteries. What catastrophe blighted the land and drained it of color and life? Where are the settlers and tribes who lived here? And who is the strange, silent woman in red who aids you from afar?” It’s based on some of the horrible things that certainly did happen during the colonial era. Ah, the mystery of Roanoke, we know it well.

There’s every reason to think it might be rather good, too, as the Blackpowder team is made up of former Monolith types, and veterans of No-one Lives Forever and F.E.A.R. Details below.

Speaking to PC Gamer, Blackpowder’s Craig Hubbard explained that the game is quite minimal with its aid to the player and demands that the player figure out what’s happening, between the bouts of combat: “It’s been so long since someone’s done something this austere, that it just seemed like an opportunity. We originally had an objective system that would tell you more of what to do, but we were finding that by doing that, people didn’t care about the mystery, it just felt more mechanical. So pulling some of that out, more player investment came out of that.”

Betrayer will apparently be available for $15 on Steam Early Access on August 14.

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44 Comments »

  1. Keyrock says:

    We originally had an objective system that would tell you more of what to do, but we were finding that by doing that, people didn’t care about the mystery, it just felt more mechanical. So pulling some of that out, more player investment came out of that.

    What!? You mean to say that hand holding sucks the fun out of games and figuring things out on your own can be a lot more satisfying? Whodathunkit.

    • Triplanetary says:

      Don’t tell Bethesda, they might accidentally make a compelling RPG.

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      • Triplanetary says:

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      • Barberetti says:

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  2. smeaa mario says:

    Surely looks interesting but the black and white view is bound to get boring very soon.

    By the way, I do not wish to pre-label an ongoing work but anyone else see a very very striking resemblance to the Skyrim environment, particularly the steppes around Whiterun?

    • tKe says:

      In my youth (honestly not that long ago!) the only spare TV I could purloin for my bedroom was an old black-and-white (complete with analogue tuning pots on the side and a vertical hold). I remember watching the simpsons on it many an evening and surprisingly stopped noticing the lack of colour. I’m guessing the same kind of immersion (if not more) will apply in this case. Although I’m not sure how the splashes of red will affect the immersion.

      With that in mind I don’t think the B&W will get boring unless the content itself is boring.

      Although I only have my own anecdotal evidence to back that up :)

      • smeaa mario says:

        Hopefully immersion wins then but the red splashes also appear a bit annoying to me, just as you noted. By the way, I don’t completely oppose this style. The Saboteur, for instance, was also all black and white and you brought in color after liberating areas. Nevertheless, I don’t remember ever getting bored of the colorlessness. Probably the implementation is entirely different -one uses it to emphasize on the historical theme, the other as an art style and also with darker tones- and that is the issue that bugs me.
        Oh and I used to watch a lot of cartoons on an old black and white tv back in the day and it was never a problem to me either.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I like the monochrome with a little splash of red here and there. But I’m not sure how well the ultra-high contrast works for locating and targeting enemies in FPS combat. It might be fun and something different, or it could be a big strain on the eyes to identify what you’re looking at, while something in a black shadow is shooting at you.

      I hope there will be a demo. And maybe a player-adjustable contrast setting, although that does kinda mess with the art concept.

      • Hodge says:

        Yeah, I though the exact same thing. The graphics look great, but it looks like it will be hard to read when things get busy.

        MadWorld on the Wii used a similar style, and got around the problem by making everything bold and cartoony (and also by being a big dumb beat ‘em up which doesn’t require precise aiming).

    • Shadrach says:

      Agree, I had the same problem with another b/w game, The Bridge, at first I thought it looked awesome but after a while wanted it to be in color. There was even a small glimpse of how it would look in color, so it’s in there… maybe unlocked after all the levels, but that’s just too hard…

      I think it looks like a strong enough environment and story to not need the gimmicky b/w look.

    • apocraphyn says:

      Only black and white game I can think of (with splashes of red) was MadWorld on the Wii, a game that riffed stylistically off of the Sin City graphic novels more than a little bit. The red in that didn’t bother me and nor did the black and white art style in general. That said, I’m a sucker for this kind of thing.

      Anyway, the setting is somewhat intriguing, so colour me interested.

      • naetharu says:

        The problem that I had with that game was that the black and white often made it hard to see what was going on. It looked great during cut scenes and so forth but it is much harder to make sense of fast action when you don’t have colour. I’m pretty dubious about this one to be honest.

        • Eight Rooks says:

          Yeah, this. I have no problem with monochrome in theory, but I hated Madworld – I badly wanted to like it but in practice it was a fairly simplistic sandbox beat ‘em up with one of the worst colour palettes I’ve ever seen. As soon as anything started moving I could barely keep track of what was going on, and it’s one of the few games to give me a vicious headache. This (Betrayer) is… intriguing, but well-worn conspiracy theories+predictable supernatural elements+seemingly poor use of black and white doesn’t have me that excited.

          (Not to mention F.E.A.R. 2 was so much better than the original. Didn’t bother with the third, though.)

  3. Triplanetary says:

    The game looks cool, but let me just take this opportunity to arbitrarily complain that I’m getting a little tired of the way early access has taken off. But I guess only time will tell if it leads to a higher number of quality indie games.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      It seems more honest that launching an unfinished game as “finished” and then patching it up, eh?

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        I wouldn’t be worried about that if it was certain to be patched up, but it remains to be seen how many of these “alpha” titles will actually reach a finished level before they are “finished.”

        • Turkey says:

          Right. I hope there’s some sort of communication between Valve and the the developers on early access to nudge them into actually making some progress, but I fear this is only the first step in some kind of weird self-governing system where it’s up to the users to police developers through votes or something.

          • Triplanetary says:

            Yeah, Valve keeps talking about wanting to take themselves out of the process of games being published and sold on Steam, and I kind of… don’t want that.

          • MSJ says:

            But Valve removing themselves from that responsibility sounds like exactly want people want. Every time I hear people refusing yo buy games from Origin or GoG, I find the main excuse is that “they want all their games to be in the same place”. Knowing the internet, they certainly don’t mean “I want all my games to be under the control of one company”. It’s obvious that what gamers want in the future is for them to be able to sell and distribute games on Steam with virtually no control or involvement from Valve, other than paying them for the cost of storing the game on a server. What gamers want is for hundreds of games to appear on Steam, without Valve having any knowledge or control of it.

      • Junkenstein says:

        I don’t know, it seems to me that the concept works well for multiplayer or sandbox games, Arma 3 being a prime example, but for a story-driven single player game, I don’t really want to try it out before it’s finished.

        • Zenicetus says:

          Yep, that’s the problem right there. I was an early-phase buyer of Kerbal Space Program and Endless Space because they’re sandbox games with high replay value. I can dip my toes into any phase of the development from Alpha stage and still have fun. But I don’t usually play through RPG’s or anything with a linear story-line more than once. I want a highly polished, finished game for that experience.

          I might early-support an indie game that I’m sure will be something I’ll enjoy, and just wait until it’s finished to play it. I’m not sure this is it, but I’ll keep an eye on it.

          • Triplanetary says:

            Hell, I kickstarted Maia, which I assume is going to be largely sandboxy, and I’m *still* waiting till at least beta to actually play it. The alphas are available now, but… well, the tech sounds cool, but ultimately I just want a game.

  4. TheTingler says:

    I think you should have lead with “from the makers of FEAR and No One Lives Forever”, i.e. the pre-FEAR2 Monolith, the Actually Really Great Monolith team who left when Warner Bros bought and gutted my personal favourite FPS developer.

    I’ll be there on day one.

    • KeeperKrux says:

      Neckbeard confirmed? Monolith has the best first-person run out of any studio. Craig Hubbard and the rest of Blackpowder Games were the core guys behind their biggest successes.

  5. Piecewise says:

    [Trigger warning: Scary, spooky, skeletons]

  6. RedViv says:

    They can have all mah money.

  7. Wedge says:

    Why is this an FPS? I do not want to shoot at a bunch of ghosts and colonial zombies with iron sight muskets and tomahawks. That is stupid and not mysterious at all. Can’t you just do an interesting paranormal mystery without a bunch of arse looking shooty bits?

  8. aircool says:

    Wendigo!

  9. crinkles esq. says:

    The reason you can kill ghosts with a musket is because…you’re already dead! Dum dum dummm!!

    I think they should get rid of the FPS stuff and look heavily at the Fatal Frame series for inspiration. The billowing ghosts in the first picture are really arresting, but running around shooting things in b&w is not. Focus on the atmosphere and the exploration of the mystery.

    • Wedge says:

      Or even the first Condemned, which was a Monolith game. Not that I’m advocating melee brawling with ghosts, but that game was very heavy on the atmosphere without making the combat a huge focus a lot of the time.

  10. Ross Angus says:

    Now I want Dead Man, the game.

  11. Iskariot says:

    The monochrome is a very, very bad idea.

  12. selena25 says:

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  13. MicroMissles says:

    Oh man. It’s like a less obtuse version of A Field in England. Also it’s a video game.

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