COGWATCH – 3. Invisible, Inc.

Hey! It’s a new episode of Quinns’ weekly video series in which he examines one mechanic in one game. This week: how Invisible, Inc. structures its levels to increase the depth of its strategy, humanity and emotion. Watch it below!

Like it? Part one was on rhythm in roguelike Crypt of the Necrodancer, part two was about co-op in cart-based platformer Chariot [official site].

Remember to subscribe to the RPS YouTube channel for more videos like this!

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  1. heretic says:


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  2. Jericho says:

    I didn’t realize this game was out yet. Sure looks swell!

    Quinns, you brought up XCOM quite a bit in this vid, and the new-ish mod/TC for it, Long War, got me thinking if anyone at RPS would be interesting in taking a second look at that game with the finished mod in place. To be fair, the mod isn’t actually quite finished yet (it’s in final balance testing mode, currently), but I know that Matt Lees and a few other RPS folks knew of it and had talked about it in the past.

    Just curious, really. I’ve been working pretty actively over the last 6-8 months to help test the mod, and I think that it offers a enough novel mechanical changes over XCOM and XCOM: Enemy Within to justify a second look.

    For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, the XCOM mod can be found here:

    link to

    It’s still not totally balanced and polished up, but the most recent beta is available for those wanting to give it a try.


    • Gilead says:

      Invisibles Inc isn’t out yet, technically. Still in Early Access, although it does look really polished. Apparently it’ll be released sometime in May.

      • Timbrelaine says:

        Still in Early Access, although it does look really polished.

        This alone makes it a treasure to be marveled at.

    • zarthrag says:

      Thanks for the heads-up on Long War. I *really* enjoyed Enemy Unknown a lot, but haven’t played Enemy Within, yet. I think I’ll wait for this to come out of beta, instead :-D

      • k47 says:

        Long War took my XCOM playtime from less than 100 that I had on vanilla, to +600 hours on just the mod itself. It’s not for everyone, but if it’s for you, it’s pure bliss.

        • Jericho says:

          I can second that!

          A lot of people will probably say that it is very difficult, but I have to wonder if that is just due to the balancing issues over the course of its development. SO MUCH of the game’s mechanical balance has come together in the last few build updates, and it won’t be long now til it’s done and 1.0-ed. It is also difficult to compare it to unmodded XCOM in regards to difficultly because of the mechanics changes. It is still essentially “save the planet by building up your base, fighting aliens, researching their gear, and making better equipment”, but the rules/mechanics governing the whole strategic game are completely different now. The tactical game is pretty much like vanilla, just with a looooooooooot more options, abilities, equipment, and alien types to deal with.

          Anyway, enough of the horn tooting. It’s still not done, but maybe soon enough we can make a push to get more people aware of Long War.

  3. blind_boy_grunt says:

    great video.
    ftl still had the run away from combat option which sometimes is the smart thing to do, but it feels like loosing (because you get nothing).
    Lately my opinions about randomisation in games starts wavering. Often it’s just boring, yes the levels look a bit different but they feel exactly the same. This game sounds like it gives some meaning to the randomisation, e.g. if it is too hard: “that’s some bad intel, let’s get out”.

  4. ChairmanYang says:

    This is an amazing series, and works super-well in video–rather than written–form.

  5. ChairmanYang says:

    Are we allowed to request future episodes? I want something talking about cool conversation systems. Like Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s conversation battles, or Pillars of Eternity’s disposition system.

    • Kohlrabi says:

      Deus Ex’s dialogue system was more or less “stolen” from Alpha Protocol. A game which has not seen many mentions since it’s lightly shit, but the dialogues and the dialogue system was marvellous.

      • Emeraude says:

        They’re not exactly doing the same thing when you’re down to it – HR was going for something akin to self-contained conversational boss battles. AP was more about the aggregation of data – the individual scenes mattered less than the way everything coalesced and constantly referenced one another.

        I really liked what they were trying to do with HR’s conversational battles, my main grip (well, ignoring the writing) was the randomization which to me really killed the illusion and made the mechanical, gamey side too apparent. There has to be a better way of doing it.

  6. Freud says:

    It feels terribly unfair to us OCD completionist types.

  7. HuvaaKoodia says:

    The new XCOM sure enough didn’t require much more thinking than pushing for the main objective in each mission, but how about the X-Com the original (OpenXcom in ironman mode to be precise)?

    On the strategic map you’ll have to decide whether the UFO is worth the battle to begin with or should you just destroy it instead? How about the team? Should it be veterans or rookies with or without armor. Which weapons to use: explosives or more explosives?

    On the tactical map there are multiple strategies: spread out thin or use small teams? Move slowly and meticulously or storm the premises. Which tactics to use against different enemy types when they are found or reveal themselves with an ambush. How may rookies should I sacrifice, should I risk the last veterans here or fight another day and most importantly when to retreat or is it even an option anymore.

    This has very little to do with Invisble Inc I know, but I don’t do EA and I do like to talk about X-Com.

    A little niggly bit about the video though, which most people probably didn’t even notice or care about. You called the escape elevator a great storyteller and listed a few related stories afterwards. In this case you were the storyteller, while the world, which the elevator is a key part of, just enabled these stories to come to existence. I would call it a something else like narrative enabler, focus point or key element. This is just to separate these emergent procedural narratives where the user is the storyteller from traditional authoritative storytelling where the story is given to you to consume.

    • blind_boy_grunt says:

      re. your last part:
      I kind of disagree (in the mildest version of disagreeing). I think the player is the storyteller when game mechanics result or interact in an unexpected way, giving meaning to something that isn’t really there.
      “In this case you were the storyteller”, but the elevator (or the layout of the level) changes the story of the level, from “the” big heist to a frantic get out of this mess situation. The player participates and can change the outcome but the “story motor” still comes from the layout. Or basically, in the case of invisible inc. Quinns was retelling the story, not making the story up.

      • HuvaaKoodia says:

        To reiterate my main point on the subject with a comparison.
        The virtual world generates a sequence of events the player witnesses and later tells as a story. This is the same as the real world generating a sequence of events a bystander can recall later and tell as a story.
        The real world and the virtual world are not storytellers, humans are.

        I do read your point though. The fact that the virtual world is made by humans who are capable of storytelling does change something. While the creators have no authority over the specific sequences of events and how they are interpreted by the players, they can affect the range of possibilities the virtual world contains, thus making it more probable for certain kind of sequences of events to emerge.

        It comes down to definitions then. In my mind story is a specific sequence of events with a consistent theme or idea, while narrative is how and why a story is told. In this case the creators’ job is to imbue narrative enablers to their world to allow the events in the world to come together in the players mind to form a story. If they do a bad job and the sequence of events in nonsensical the player will skip it in the same way as you might skip the ramblings of a real world street lunatic.

        To sum up: Quinns was not lying about the things which happened in the virtual world and how they relate to each other, but he was the one telling the story to himself and us. The world merely enabled the events of the story to come to existence and the creators only have high level probabilistic narrative control over the specifics of these stories.

        Yes, I do care about this stuff.

  8. DXN says:

    What a bloomin’ great series!

  9. k47 says:

    I love these videos, but is it really “just one mechanic on one game”? You talk about how different mechanics interact between each other, and really, I want more of that, but the premise is not really being addressed (and maybe it shouldn’t, or it should change).

    Back on the game, how has EA progressed for Invisible Inc? I played the first few builds till I beat them, and I haven’t played since, and considering jumping in again instead of waiting for release. From the video I see at least 1 more new character, but how about levels and missions? Do you get more “boss” missions like the placeholder one that finished the game on the first build?

  10. nindustrial says:


  11. lobrow says:

    Sounds somewhat similar to Dungeon of the Endless in a way, with the whole “should I open one more door or get out of the level” risk management decision and the idea that the level architecture is recontextualized after finding the exit.
    Will definitely get this game when it launches.

  12. suibhne says:

    I typically dislike YT series something fierce, but these have all been great. Delivery is entertaining, gameplay insights are solid, and length is just right. Two thumbs up, plus another one I found in my mailbox yesterday.

  13. Flit says:

    Splinter Cell: Turboburgler
    The Bourne Turboburgler
    Turbo Mission: Impossible Burgler
    Taken 8: Turboburgled

    I have a new favorite word, thanks

  14. frightlever says:

    Oh, I’ll save that for lunch break. Happy to see anything from QS on the site.

  15. Banks says:

    Fantastic video.

    I’ve had a ton of fun with the game during the EA and I am super excited to play the final version.

  16. bill says:

    That was great. I wish i had more time to watch this series… that’s why I’m commenting 2 weeks late.

    This game looks awesome too. Needs more coverage I think.
    I’m sure there is a card game with a similar mechanic of escalating levels. (Netrunner Android? Forbidden Island? something like that…)