Return of Lucas Pope, Return of the Obra Dinn

Straight out of the gate, there’s more to Lucas Pope’s new first-person mystery-solver than one might assume. The above image isn’t some stylisation or striking image meant to attract attention without explaining the game, but an actual example of how he plans for it to look. The man behind Papers, Please is building the tale of an investigation into an abandoned ship and planning an art style reminiscent of the earliest games, something he’s termed “1bit rendering.” We’ll play as an “insurance adjustor for the East India Company’s London Office” with the intent to “find means to board the ship and recover the captain’s logbook for assessment.” Interesting, original, but a little more standard than his previous fares. Have a click through for more details and a gif that makes the art style a little easier to understand.

Rock, Paper, Shotgif 2: Son of Zangif

Not the standard animation it may appear, this is actually a Unity-rendered start screen Lucas has put together. He details it in this post including a behind-the-scenes shot of how it was put together. Serving as a devlog, there’s a lot of interesting stuff chilling out in that thread, including how he plans to make the art style actually work. Early attempts were, to be kind, devastatingly uggo so more complex steps had to be taken to wrestle it into something ledgible. Taking the lowest of the low-fi and attempting to throttle it into 3D submission is exactly the sort of mind-bending task I’d set myself after managing to turn picture-matching into one of the most thought-provoking games of last year.

Story details are thin on the ground, naturally, though in his initial pitch Lucas mentions a “gameplay hook” he’ll reveal more about later down the line. I’d be willing to bet a full hold of tea and half my merchant vessels on there being a bit more to the final game than hidden objects to find. The ghost ship concept is rife with supernatural undertones, but my gut says the only ghost’s we’ll be seeing are of the Gone Home variety. We’ll likely have more to follow as Lucas’ outside estimates put completion within the next six months.


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    Hodge says:

    Hot damn, that looks good.

    Make sure you open that .gif in its own window to see it properly, WordPress has shrunk it to fit the page and the scaling has done crazy things to it.

  2. Llewyn says:

    Doesn’t something that’s ledgible risk being shelved?

    Not sure how much dithered monochrome gaming my eyes can take any more but I might be prepared to suffer for this one.

  3. Synesthesia says:

    That is beautiful. I really like the work that goes into procedurally generating old school artifacting or technicques. Reminds me a lot of that game Terry Cavanagh did, At a Distance. The real time dithering effect was stunning.

    I mean, Hot damn, as hodge said before:×240.jpg

  4. LionsPhil says:


    While strict monochrome is 1-bit colour, referring to graphics or music by “bit”-ness usually refers to the home microcomputer bus width of the supposed era, and that art is the kind of thing you’d get out of a 16-bit Atari ST’s dedicated “high res” monochrome monitor, or an original Macintosh (same processor).

    So this actually looks relatively high-tech. Your Speccy or Commodore dreams of having such power. (A Beeb in mode zero could get close, I guess, but I don’t remember much trying—probably because it’d use most of its memory just holding the framebuffer.)

    And if you want “an art style reminiscent of the earliest games”, you need to emulate a circular green phosphor CRT.

    Yeah, I know. </pedanticism>. Inaccurate versions of Ye Olde Days just irk me, especially when they are still so closely in living memory.

    • JFS says:

      Grrr. 1-Bit, what’s next? 0-Bit? Boardgames? Playing croquet in the park?

    • Vendae says:

      I was tempted to jokingly imply that someone has been playing his Kentucky Route Zero a bit lately, but man you are our expert in 1-bit.

  5. Michael Fogg says:

    Wake up there, Muttley, you’re dreaming again!
    You’re not Robin Hood and you’re not Obra Din.

  6. Chordian says:

    And it would look good on a Sinclair ZX81 too.

  7. Pich says:

    Oh man i love that pixel art style. Does it have a name?

  8. perfect says:

    Wake up there, Muttley, you’re dreaming again!
    You’re not Robin Hood and you’re not Obra Din
    Paul Liburd

  9. fupjack says:

    Getting Taipan flashbacks from this… Other than Drug Wars and maybe a few space games, that’s a game ‘genre’ that hasn’t been refreshed.

  10. fenriz says:

    feemf interefting

  11. Shazbut says:

    Done! Sold!

    But am I the only one who thinks the “ugly” screenshot is much more attractive?

    • The Random One says:

      I think that too, at least as far as I can tell from a single static screen. Looking at it makes me hear my computer going ‘beep’…

  12. slerbal says:

    Gosh. Anything by the creator of Papers, Please has my attention, so hopefully this will be good! :)

  13. somnolentsurfer says:

    He’s making a game about the East India Company, and he claims it will have ‘no political underovertones’?

  14. Ahtaps says:

    I feel really old now. I was playing adventure games that looked like this back when they were a new thing. Lucas has captured the feel quite well and I look forward to playing it.

  15. GallonOfAlan says:

    As someone pointed out, this is what early Mac games looked like.

    • Skabooga says:

      Yes, the early prototype is not far off from how many of those games looked; that is to say, they looked ‘devastatingly uggo’, but in an enchanting sort of way.

    • Thants says:

      I’m getting flashbacks to playing Loom on my old Mac.

  16. HyperbolicInvective says:

    I remember the days of my childhood, overwhelmed by anticipation for Call of Duty and other AAA games. I am so happy that I discovered indie!