Meta-Vapourware: The Magic Circle Announced

Clouds are vapour too, you know.

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.

The magic circle

Our John had a peek at The Magic Circle during GDC in March but as he’s currently gadding about the world admiring sealife, all this is going off what Eurogamer have to say.

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.


  1. MadTinkerer says:

    Well, I did always want Okami on the PC. Hopefully this will be good enough.

    • Synesthesia says:

      oof, i just had visions of playing it and drawing with my wacom, and suddenly felt warm inside.

  2. Geebs says:

    I hope this makes Mr Thomas enough money to buy me that new pair of trousers he owes me.

  3. Lars Westergren says:

    Pre-emptive snark about ironic meta-snark. But ironically.

    Seriously though: I love you all, and I wish I could hug you in person.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      My ironometer is reading +1billion irons.
      Which actually means -1billion.

  4. tumbleworld says:

    That’s an impressively incoherent write-up, but John’s dolphin pic was cute, so that’s something.

  5. Shazbut says:

    Looks original and God knows that’s hard enough, but I don’t like puzzles much. I’m more of a “dumb” kind of guy, an “idiot”, if you will

  6. DrScuttles says:

    My curiosity was piqued at the concept alone, but having the Shalebridge Cradle on one’s CV makes my interest gland pump interest goo all around my brainpan like nobody’s business.

  7. evileeyore says:

    This… this intrigues. Yessss precious, it does.

  8. dontnormally says:

    What a fucking awesome idea.

  9. Bart Stewart says:

    The developers have talked about the notion of playing The Magic Circle through AI systems as a kind of “bankshot” style of play. Instead of you directly affecting the world, you’re pitting systems against against each other to indirectly produce desired effects.

    That’s a style of play I’ve liked since the days of System Shock / Thief and DOOM. It relies on having enough actors in a local area that the core gameplay loop of causing them to interact is always available. But if you can design the game world that way, it’s great fun.

  10. The Random One says:

    A brilliant concept. It almost sounds like a game as an ARG.

  11. Shadowcat says:

    This is not only an intriguing idea, but also the best ever excuse for bits of your game not actually being finished.