Only An L Short Of Infamy: Sonder

By Alec Meer on November 12th, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

SONDER

Edit – fixed video

How awful of me to immediately force this Choices In Space game to be compared to the notoriously broken SOLDNER. It’s like I’m accusing Sonder of being rubbish before we know anything about it. I’m not doing that, I promise, the name’s just unfortunate. Here, let me make up for this insult by bestowing upon the game’s excellent announcement trailer RPS’s prestigious ‘Best Use Of The Alan Parsons Project On A Tuesday Morning’ Award.

PROG ROCK IN SPACE GO:

That’s an Alien-inspired spaceship if ever I saw one. And that’s a good thing: much as vidjagams borrow liberally from Aliens, the stark, minimalist set design in Alien is something far less exhausted. Its whiteness and fusion of the futuristic with the humdrum is so refreshing against the metal corridors and grey-brown dim that abounds. Obviously Moon’s a touchstone there too.

As for the game itself, it sounds very ambitious. It plays out in real-time, with your choices and actions – or lack thereof – affecting the outcome. You can also switch character at will, for this is not the tale of a specific protagonist, but an ensemble piece. Changing perspective might make chosen actions when playing as another character suddenly look very different.

“The goal of the game is to illustrate that judgement is heavily influenced by perspective,” explains dev Kamai Media. “Acts that seem random, irrational, malicious or even generous or noble, may register differently when you are put in the position where you have to choose to make them. Ultimately, it is a question whether any action, in itself, is intrinsically good or bad or is it simply perceived as one or the other.”

Exploration, chat and mucking about with assorted on-ship items are the order of the day in terms of core mechanics, and there’s a plan to have that happen in multiplayer too, with players presumably co-operating or working at cross-purposes as they so choose. More details on how this may work are here.

By the way, the devs say Sonder is also know as ‘The Station’, which I really do think they should officially rename it to. Because Soldner. ‘Sonder’ itself is Tumblr-made term intended to express “the realization that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.” SONDER.

The Station – please, let’s call it that – is currently ‘pre-alpha’ and looking for industry funding, so we may not see it for a while. Certainly looks and sounds promising, though. The most important thing is that I’ve spent the morning listening to Alan Parsons, of course.

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64 Comments »

  1. Didden says:

    Whatever that video was, I’m sure it was awesome when it worked :(

    • Didden says:

      Watched it on the Sonder project page. Looks and sounds very cool indeed.

  2. klmx says:

    Not exactly sure what his game is supposed to be, but I’m intrigued

  3. Premium User Badge Anthile says:

    Hm, this does indeed look quite sonderbar.

  4. karthink says:

    “Usually, the characters that are not the main protagonist are merely a backdrop for him, existing only to fulfill a specific role within the narrative arc of the “main” player. Not so in our game, where you are free (and indeed encouraged) to play as any other character, and perceive the single game narrative from their perspective”

    Reminds me of Pathologic, but only vicariously through Quintin’s diary.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Meta

    • tormos says:

      I think that “but I only experienced Pathologic through Quentin’s diary” should be appended to every post anybody anywhere makes about the game. It would probably be 90% accurate.

  5. vasko98 says:

    ROCK IN SPACE RE GO (on youtube):

  6. Luke says:

    The music choice alone makes this video stand out.
    Looks intriguing.

  7. Berzee says:

    Sonder.

    • KhanIHelpYou says:

      The realisation that everyone you meet is living a life just as complex and vivid as your own. That they all have hopes, fears, goals. That they are all thinking just as much as you are and that from their perspective you might just be a face on a crowded train on one boring Tuesday. Millions of people living millions of lives that you’ll never know.

      Its a beautiful word that needs to see more use.

      • Zerbin says:

        Did that concept need a word? Isn’t that something that most empathetic people learn in elementary school? Isn’t that the basis of society and morality? That other people matter? Needing a new word for a concept so central to civilization just seems… odd.

        • Bull0 says:

          Plonderbast

          The realisation that most other people don’t like getting poked with sharp things either

        • Premium User Badge Harlander says:

          Did that concept need a word?

          It doesn’t need it, but it’s having it and it can like it!

        • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

          How dare people create things to try and communicate things

        • Koozer says:

          That’s like saying having a word for happiness is odd because it’s such a big and obvious part of human existence.

          EDIT: I just discovered ‘sonder’ is a real word appropriated by Tumblr for their own nefarious definition, therefore it is now evil and must be destroyed.

        • Bull0 says:

          I agree. A word for “the knowledge that other people aren’t some manner of meaningless philosophical zombies” is pretentious and silly. Do we need a word for the knowledge that other people breathe air too?

          *Edit* Cool video. I got a Telltale vibe from the character models. I’d definitely be interested in hearing more about this.

        • Premium User Badge Jackablade says:

          It sounds like a term that’d find more use in psychology, describing a lack of that particular aspect of empathy in people with mental issues, for example.

      • roberthdylan says:

        Perhaps the automatic presupposition we should abandon is that the story we tell ourselves about ourselves is somehow our innermost ‘authentic’ experience. Here’s Zizek discussing ‘the Other’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEZ_tklUzLg

    • MOKKA says:

      SONDER!

  8. MichaelPalin says:

    I’m sorry to say this to you RPS, but, sometimes, your verbosity gets in the way of your journalism. After reading the first paragraph and trying for a few seconds to understand what game you were talking about, what was the meaning of the clever title this time, what game was the bad one and why or whether both games were bad, I just gave up and stop reading. I know it’s not fair, but, sometimes, people want to get to the relevant information faster than that.

    • Stardreamer says:

      Yes. Please fix this pesky ‘reading’ thing you make us do, RPS. IT HURTS MY THINK-PARTS.

    • Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

      Yes, at least dial your Wordosity back down to “babbler” and see how it wrings out.

    • Alec Meer says:

      “Dear Jay-Z, why don’t you stop with the hippity-hop stuff and record some Nickleback-style rock instead?”

      • Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

        The article would be better if you just typed “WORDS” over and over, I think. All articles would. Perhaps replace the trailer with a cat video. Yes.

        • Premium User Badge Bluerps says:

          Well, if there is anyone who could write an article that only consists of the word “WORDS” over and over, it’s Alec Meer.

      • eQuality_Ninja says:

        Dear RPS, I actually prefer your coverage of SPACEHULK. Moar of that stuff too.

        • SillyWizard says:

          Speaking of which, are we ever going to get a Space Hulk follow-up WIT? I’m assuming there have been some patches….

      • Muzman says:

        I think most of the “reviews” contain too much authorial character and emotion too. When I learn things about games in reviews or their previews, I need something matter of fact like an engineering white paper.

      • Lanfranc says:

        Style is not an excuse for unclear communication.

        • Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

          *swings in on a rope in 18th century court dress, babbles incoherently, swings out again*

      • xaphoo says:

        Seriously, there is too much muttering. I can’t even tell what is being communicated.

    • eQuality_Ninja says:

      Someone needs a hug today.

      Hugs!

  9. Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

    Space Choices!

    • Stardreamer says:

      CHOICES! IIIIN! SPAAAAAAAACE!

      The game must be called this, now.

      • SillyWizard says:

        SPACECHOICEFACE

      • zal says:

        Spacechoiceface? I thought drundos was the word for understanding that choices in space can be as meaningless as choices on earth, and the realization that even a magnificent SPACE job, while less mundane than regular earth work, can still be mundane.

        Cultural acceptance of Drundos is going to be one of the saddest things humanity will ever have to acknowledge.

  10. LionsPhil says:

    Moon is great. If you haven’t seen Moon you need to see Moon. Everyone who likes bleak sci-fi needs to see Moon. Especially you. WATCH MOON.

    • Low Life says:

      I think it’s also worth pointing out that Moon is great.

      • Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

        Ah, man, I remember hearing about that film. Is it any good?

        • The First Door says:

          Eh… it’s all right, I suppose.

          (I kid, Moon is super!)

          • Hmm-Hmm. says:

            Yes, yes! Go see Moon if you haven’t. Heartily recommended.

          • Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

            OK, sounds like people here are lukewarm on it, so I’ll give it a pass.

  11. Jools says:

    Naming your game after an obscure internet term for something that’s basically common sense seems like an incredibly bad idea. The game looks cool, so please go with “The Station,” guys.

    • Zerbin says:

      Oh thank goodness. I thought that I was the only one.

    • Barnox says:

      For bonus points: It is already an actual word, which has no relation to what Tumblr thinks it means.
      http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/sonder

      From now on, I am referring to this game as “To Probe”.

      • Dave Tosser says:

        As I know quite a bit of Old French and study a lot of aged PIE tongues, I assumed this was a French game about signalling space for lifeforms; a game centered around the idea of doing the night shift for a telescope in the 80s with nowt but Tetris and a radio to keep you company as you listen in vain for the chittering of the Ant Bastard Empire.

        A place called Tumblr is hardly a good source of inspiration for nomenclature.

      • Nevard says:

        To be fair while it is a word, it isn’t an English word

      • Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

        Bear in mind that if it is that, it should be pronounced son (like “on”)-day. Just to confuse the people who never got “Deus Ex”.

    • The Random One says:

      I imagine it’s much easier to be the first Google hit for “Sonder” than “Station”, though.

  12. Vorrin says:

    This sounds good!

  13. Premium User Badge VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    First reaction: intrigued. This is the sort of game I’ve been dreaming idly about for some time now, even down to the setting.

    Second reaction: doubtful. Making a game with lots of choices that affect outcomes is easy. Making a game with lots of choices available in a way that the player can express and have weight for the player is a much more difficult job. Still, hope they can pull it off.

    Third reaction: sceptical. Being able to switch characters at will has, I think, entirely the wrong effect. Rather than “illustrat[ing] that judgement is heavily influenced by perspective”, it will instead encourage all decisions to be made from the player’s god-like perspective, instead of that of any of the characters. The thing about perspective and decision-making is that its drama, and hence its interest comes from characters being limited to a single perspective.

  14. guygodbois00 says:

    Trailer is great; music made me remember some other, happier times. As far as expectations go, I would have to actually see some gameplay.

    • WrenBoy says:

      I’m sure I’ve seen better trailers but I honestly can’t remember when. Hope the game is half as good.

  15. CookPassBabtridge says:

    I have my suspicions that someone on the dev team may have worked on service ships or offshore oil platforms. Having worked in the North Sea on various rigs, the environment immediately reminded me much more of that than Alien. The bunks, everything in beige, people looking bored at equally beige consoles … all it needs are a few angry men from aberdeen and it will be complete. TBH this is exactly how I could imagine interior design on working spacecraft evolving. That said, the environment really appeals – such workmanlike-ness but superimposed on THA FYOOOCHAAA

    EDIT: That would also probably mean that when the lights spookily go out, its just because someone pulled out the wrong bloody cable when they were testing the electrical switchboards. Which is less scary. Next scene is actually just someone shouting “Bob! You dozy c***!”

    • Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

      Yes, being a space engineer strikes me as being much more like working on an oil rig than being a cowboy, say. Once the novelty of exploration is over, you’re left with difficult technical work in a hostile environment far from civilisation.

  16. kyrieee says:

    His left hand, wtf?

  17. Danbanan says:

    “Sonder” means “probes” in swedish and in german it means “special”. Now we know what the game is about…. special probes. But yeah the trailer got me intrigued at least. :D

  18. DatonKallandor says:

    Finally someone is doing a real time video game. It was silly in 24, but for a game it could be very interesting – because you don’t have to fit insane amounts of stuff in an absurd timespan. 2 or 3 real-time hours with replayability would be neat (as long it’s actually real time and things always happen at the same timestamps unless player interaction disrupts the timetable).

    • Skabooga says:

      Even though I thought it would be terrible when I first heard about it, I found Majora’s Mask pulled off the “game-world in real time” concept well.

  19. racccoon says:

    This Game is WAY out there man. looks kinda nifty :)

  20. CaidKean says:

    Sonder promises pretty much what Sentient by Prognosis from ’97 promised, except that Sentient was first-person and not third-person. I really hope this pans out well since I always felt that Sentient had very interesting concepts but was marred by the technological limitations at the time.