Conspiracies Galore: Episodic RPG Majestic Nights

By Alice O'Connor on July 24th, 2014 at 9:00 am.

In which our hero fails to charm the bouncer.

Conspiracy theories are fanfic for reality, aren’t they? That particular sort which knows how stories should really have gone. They pack history with exciting twists and turns, jazzing up origin stories with alien intervention, adding excitement and danger to even aeroplane vapour trails, splashing in sexy murders all over the place, and revealing that beloved characters are actually lizard people.

They are all, of course, entirely true. Majestic Nights knows this too. It’s a period RPG set during the ’80s, with two playable characters tangled up in the deepest, darkest conspiracies. Though I suspect it’ll ‘conveniently’ leave out the lizard people.

Majestic Nights is being made by Epiphany Games, the folks behind fantasy RTS Frozen Hearth. It’s got two main characters, an intelligence operative involved in so many conspiracies and a PI who doesn’t fully understand what they’ve been part of. Epiphany say:

With fast, light mechanics, the game has been developed to engross players in a shadowy world of conspiracy with an over-the-top 1980s aesthetic. Players will use wits, stealth and sometimes even a little force to investigate, explore, and acquire ever more clues for their big string-covered wall of conspiracies.

(Aside: one of my favourite X-Files episodes is Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man, where the shadowy character is revealed as the killer of JFK, the murderer of Martin Luther King Jr., a fixer of sports, and as generally tied up in every major conspiracy. Except it’s framed as someone telling stories of the Smoking Man based on stories TSM himself wrote as an idealised version of his life in his failed dreams of becoming an author, so who even knows what’s true?)

Majestic Nights will be released in six episodes starting towards the end of this year, preceded by a free “Chapter Zero.” They’ll be standalone but obviously work better together, and there’ll be a season pass. It’s coming to Windows, Mac, Linux, and tablets. Trailer!

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20 Comments »

  1. ran93r says:

    How popular is episodic content vs all included from the get go content?
    I just can’t bring myself to get all excited about a game that I’m going to have to wait to play the rest of.

    I have picked a few Telltale ones up but only after they have been completed and gone on sale. How does everything else find them?

    • Archipelagos says:

      I wait for the ‘series’ to have finished before picking it up, too. Having said that I do like what Telltale has done and wouldn’t mind seeing more episodic content with a really strong narrative focus.

    • MichaelGC says:

      I certainly waited for the whole of The Wolf Among Us to be released before starting it as I also don’t like having to wait. (I don’t even watch TV series episodically: DVD binges FTW.)

      Then I got annoyed by the ‘next on…’ / ‘previously on’ bits in between each chapter, which would presumably have been useful rather than irritating if I’d not been playing straight through.

      So I guess there are pros & cons either way.

      PS “Everything else”? Either that was autocorrect or you’re a sentient robot alien lizard!!!1!

      • Tayh says:

        “Then I got annoyed by the ‘next on…’ / ‘previously on’ bits in between each chapter, which would presumably have been useful rather than irritating if I’d not been playing straight through.”
        That was the final straw that made me give up on The Walking Dead.
        Why the FUCK would they go ahead and spoil the entire next season with their mandatory “Next on…”?
        And why the FUCK wasn’t the “Previously On’s…” and the “Next On’s…” skippable when you’re playing the complete edition?
        Raaaaage.

        So nowadays, I stay far, FAR away from periodic videogame content in any form.

    • Scurra says:

      Well I guess that’s a bit similar to asking whether you prefer serialised television drama or a self-contained movie?
      Obviously nowadays the curse of the “box set” means that many people do simply wait for all the content to be available at once and then watch it in one go, but there is something special about committing to a show that was designed to be seen week-by-week with the mysteries unfolding over time, rather than collapsed into two hours in one go.

      • frightlever says:

        “but there is something special about committing to a show that was designed to be seen week-by-week with the mysteries unfolding over time, rather than collapsed into two hours in one go”

        I don’t think there’s anything special about it, it’s just a television convention, and a leftover from the cinema serials like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon which were intended to bring you back to the movie theatre the following week whether you really wanted to see the main feature or not. I would suggest that the narrative flow of a series is better consumed while it’s all fresh in your head, rather than being drip-fed with sometimes several weeks between episodes.

        But each to their own.

        • SanguineAngel says:

          I would disagree with you strongly there. I think a TV series can be paced knowing the time frame over which it is to be shown. I’ve watched series I love both as they are and in binges as box sets and the compressed time frame certainly affected my viewing of some of those.

          Things like drawn out plot points set over weeks of viewing take on a significance that they lack when they are actually viewed back to back – two or three episodes taking an hour or two instead of weeks. Relationships developing over time rather than in the blink of an eye. Even your investment as a viewer might be deeper over that long period of time (weeks months or even years).

          However, I think that the episodic games aren’t really equivalent to episodic TV. Perhaps it’s because of the interactive nature or because when we talk about an episodic series of games it tends to be a short series – three to six episodes perhaps – or perhaps it’s because games don’t tend to be very strong narratively speaking. Perhaps it’s because there’s already pacing in games when we stop playing ourselves and come back when we’re ready to continue. Anyway, I don’t tend to find any difference between playing those episodes as they release or all together other than I find it annoying having to wait.

          Even playing the Walking Dead series – which is in more episodes than most, seems to be stronger in the story telling department and feels a lot more like an actual series than most other examples – seems to benefit not at all from an actual staggered release.

          • Smion says:

            I think the difference in release time also plays an important role: While it’s relatively easy for me to keep the last episode of True Detective on top of my mind for a week or so, I’m not sure I could do the same with the last episode of the Walking Dead and then wait two months. Maybe it’s just my short attention span but I’d just prefer to replay the last episode the evening before I start with the new one to make sure I know what’s going on and then there’s really no sense in releasing the episodes seperately, now is there?

    • Eery Petrol says:

      It can be a great thing for developers. Episodic games allow them to gather income from one episode to fund the production of the next. Broken Age ironically got broken into two pieces because they ran out of funds midway. In cases like that, a more realistic question for players would be “What do you like more? An episodic game, or a broken unfinished game?”

    • Turkey says:

      I don’t really know how most serialized fiction survives these days. I personally don’t know anybody who wouldn’t just rather get it in bulk.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      Episodic Content done right has its perks, but they’re more restrained. Like early access it gets a foot in the development process, except in Episodic Content games it’s more like a toe. Minor things may change depending on fan reactions (a scene where Lee makes a friendly battery quip to someone who in a previous episode failed to check for batteries in a radio, or the devil in Sam & Max changing to the forum’s most hated character), but overall the developers have a vision – they know what they want to do.

      Customers receive complete chunks of a game rather than the incomplete full game. Early access games gradually take shape over months, finally releasing (or not, since some developers think their games will never technically be finished) to little fanfare because everyone is burnt out on it.

      There are advantages and disadvantages to both models. Like you, I prefer to wait in the wings and pick up the complete version. I was on the ground floor for The Walking Dead Season 1, and it was a mostly interesting experience (though I bought it direct from the TellTale site and was the LAST to receive every episode way behind Xbox and Steam, so never buy it from there), It’s just not for me.

    • DrollRemark says:

      I don’t get the dislike of it, or the “MUST WAIT UNTIL DONE” mentality. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Kentucky Route Zero, and what I’ve played of Walking Dead. Although I want to complete both, I don’t consider it wasted time not to have reached the end of the narrative.

      It’s not all about reaching the destination, as they say.

  2. frightlever says:

    “Conspiracy theories are fanfic for reality, aren’t they?”

    And that’s just brilliant. I shall be stealing that.

  3. Assaf says:

    Sounds awesome. The trailer is not so great tho.

  4. Turkey says:

    The idea of the 80s mixed with conspiracy stuff doesn’t really work for me, I feel like that vibe was more of a 70s and 90s thing when Americans didn’t trust their government.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      I just checked and the 70s was when the Illuminatus trilogy was published, and the 90s was when the Invisibles were… briefly visible. This type of 80s setting seems very trendy. I’m not tired of it yet, though we might be by the time this is released, of course. A change of scenery might be good for the genre, though.