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Living With Consequences In The Uncanny Valley

Don't mind the skeletons.

Dying in video games has become an awful lot more interesting in recent years, with a wide spectrum from permadeath in roguelike-likes to the die-restart-go-die-restart-go of Super Meat Boy and Hotline Miami. Something I’ve been keen to see more of, though, is games where dying isn’t the main failure state, where things go wrong and we need to roll with the consequences.

Side-on survival horror Uncanny Valley is having a crack at this, not killing the player (mostly) but instead affecting the character and the story. Given that this story appears to be about nasty things going on in an android research plant, that sounds pleasingly dreadful.

Starring a security guard who gets bored at his job in a strange facility then starts poking around, Uncanny Valley’s looking back to ye olden golden days of survival horror. It’s said to focus on exploration, puzzles, and occasional awful things attacking you rather than the shootiness that’s more common nowadays. (The ‘uncanny valley,’ I’m sure you already know, is a term referring to how how things which look almost-but-not-quite human often give us the screaming abdabs.)

That not-dying, then. The developers explain, “dying and repeating the same section over and over is tedious and leads to frustration. The game stops being scary if you’re angry and just want to rush through it, so we think that adding such a system will still keep the tension while adding a new layer to scariness.” They give the example of dodging an attack then ending up moving slower, though a few potential deaths are still planned.

I bet £20 you won't eat a bit of that roboskin, Tom.

Several games have dabbled in undeath including later Fable games, where ‘dying’ saw you knocked out and left with a lasting scar. The idea often frustrates players. Something about knowing we’ve cocked up and have to live with consequences nags at part of us that wants to ‘beat’ the game systems and play the ‘best,’ not wanting to continue in a way we deem suboptimal rather than simply different. It’s not how we’re trained to understand games are, so this jabs at our jellycomputers. That’s perhaps a good feeling to inspire in survival horror.

The dev team are asking for €5,000 (£4,100-ish) on Indiegogo to pay for things like a Photoshop license and that daft Steam Greenlight fee. They’re using Indiegogo’s flexible funding option so they’ll still get whatever’s been pledged if they don’t hit the goal, and say they’d just go ahead and finish Uncanny Valley more slowly anyway. If all goes grand, they hope to launch around Halloween.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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