After his work on such delights as BioShock‘s Fort Frolic and Thief 3‘s Shalebridge Cradle, one might hope that Jordan Thomas’s first game since going indie would be more than, well, vapourware. But that’s just what The Magic Circle is: a half-finished remake of an ancient text adventure; a load of vapourware. It’s glitchy, you can clearly see the seams where development changed direction, and frankly I suspect it’ll never be completed.
Honestly, these big-shot developers make a few good levels and suddenly they think… oh. Oh! But The Magic Circle is meta-vapourware. Silly me. It’s a puzzle-o-explorer game set inside the wonky overlapping half-finished prototypes of a fictional remake of a fictional fantasy game, with tools to hack around and rewrite it.
Characters within The Magic Circle are none too happy with their ‘gods’ messing about and ruining everything, see, and are none too pleased. You learn to manipulate reality too, capturing things within magic circles to rewrite them. A bit like Double Fine’s Hack ‘n’ Slash, you can change the behaviour and properties of NPCs, simply turning allies to friends and pulling more elaborate tricks like copying and pasting the ability to control a hivemind, or also making all your new hiveminded friends fireproof. It’s puzzle-y but open-ended with multiple solutions, confluences of behaviours.
Jordan Thomas is joined at developers Question Games by another Irrational chap, effects artist Stephen Alexander, and Dishonored AI programmer Kain Shin. They hope to release it in 2015.
The Magic Circle’s vapourware dressing also means it has traces of different directions and reboots within development, half-finished bits left behind, and even scraps of a sci-fi setting. I wonder what if there’s something about Irrational which makes people who worked there want to make games about making things. Another group of former Irrationalites this week announced The Black Glove, a game about messing with people’s pasts to change their later work. Whatever it is, it’s our gain.