Catching a ride on that sweet, sweet bureaucracy-in-a-time-of-oppression gravy train, The Westport Independent [official site] has drawn inevitable comparisons to Papers, Please. Though this one involves editing a newspaper rather than manning an immigration booth, the key dilemma is whether to comply with or push back against the state. It’s been in the works for a while – including popping out an alpha demo – but now has a release date attached, and publishing support from Coffee Stain Studios, who perhaps wanted to put some of their Goat Simulator money-pile into something more cerebral than a stupid farm animal knocking things over.
It rather seems that Westport isn’t only about standing up or kowtowing to tyranny – it’s also about the broader role of the press in society. The articles which sell papers LOOK AT THESE FALLOUT 4 BOOBS are not necessarily the articles which do the most good this is a really clever game you’ve never heard of made by just one woman. A story’s placement has a dramatic effect on whether people will read it, and how important they believe its subject to be EXCLUSIVE HERE IS PRE-RENDER OF MAN WITH GUN.
Obviously Papers, Please plays a certain inspirational role, but Westport Independent is trying to go to new places too. For instance, apparently there’ll be “hundreds of articles” with which to construct our censored newspapers,” although different articles are picked for each new game rather than the whole lot being available at once. The stories within the game will be adaptive, affecting how readers feel about the watchful government which rules them, and what happens as a result – and in turn which stories turn up in your pile. Apparently even the paper’s employees will talk amongst themselves about your decisions.
Papers, Please got away with being mechanical because the very nature of what it documented was entirely mechanical – this is aiming for something much more organic, so I hope it finds the balance between routine tasks and flexibility.
With the game due out in just six days, the new trailer suggests Coffee Stain are trying to add an air of mystery to it – which is slightly odd given both the alpha demo and the original gamejam entry which prompted it have been freely available for bloody ages. This is a neat, moody trailer though, and hopefully reflects that Coffee Stain’s involvement with two-person team Double Zero One Zero’s game has added a little whizzbang.
It’s out on Steam on January 21st, as well as on your state-approved mobile distraction units. While you wait, it’s worth revising Papers, Please creator Lukas Pope’s own dystopic newspaper management sim, The Republia Times.