Niten Looks Like It Could Be An Interesting Walk In The Woods

It beggars belief that “walking simulator” is considered by some to be a pejorative. At RPS we’ve long-championed the genre, years before it was given a name, and will continue to do so. Simulating walking in an environment otherwise unexplorable, or fantastically impossible, seems like a very splendid way to use our machines. And Niten [official site], which is set on an abandoned Japanese island looks like it could provide an example of that, provided its Kickstarter succeeds.

The notion is to learn the story of the island’s previous inhabitants – a Samurai master and his orphan-child student – through discovered audio, with nods toward both Dear Esther and Gone Home. And most crucially, perhaps, it looks like the sort of space that’s enticing to wander. Unreal 4 graphics presenting a mysterious location, with dynamic weather and the like. Well, if it gets funded, at least.

Importantly, unlike the two cited games, you should be able to explore the island in the order you choose, letting you uncover its story by your own path. Alongside this, there’s to be a zen garden for you to cultivate in between bouts of exploration. And for those who prefer it, the game will be voice recorded in both English and Japanese, so there’s the option of playing with more authentic acting and subtitles. There’s also hope of a VR version, although that will be a complete rebuild made after the regular version is finished.

It’s after a weeny £15,000 to get there, and hopes to be out later this year.

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  1. GameCat says:

    The problem with “walking simulators” is that they’re often using decades old audiologs mechanics to tell the story, which IMO it is very boring way to do that.
    Throw some NPCs I can interact with in meaningful ways.
    Not every walk must be a solitary experience.

    Or add some interesting ways to move around like bicycle or small boat (I love the Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons section where you’re swimming in small row boat through frozen sea).

    • Geebs says:

      I hope there’s a thorough in-universe explanation about why and how the samurai master and the student are leaving audio logs to each other on this remote, otherwise uninhabited island. It would help if they can also include a brief biography of the guy who has been shipping over all of the batteries.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      So much this, why must every walking simulator be a completely static experience with cryptic exposition and audio log back story replacing a cast of characters and meaningful dialogue.

      I want to walk around somewhere that feels alive, not completely deserted because of random mysterious happening X…… Yet again.
      Imagine taking a game like Alan Wake, removing the combat and doing a walking simulator like that, so much more interesting than what the genre currently does imo.

      • Alice O'Connor says:

        “why must every walking simulator be a completely static experience with cryptic exposition and audio log back story replacing a cast of characters and meaningful dialogue.”

        Good news: they don’t have to, and aren’t.

        • GWOP says:

          You immediately thought of Bernband, didn’t you? :P

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          You can be smug all you like but that doesnt change the fact that unless you actively go looking for some obscure indie walking simulator, yes, they pretty much are all walking around on your lonesome.
          Firewatch felt refreshing in that regard as it had some character interaction and a constant dialogue with an unseen cohort but was still largely walking around a landscape on your own, as was Esther, and Gone Home, and The Stanley Parable, and Rapture, and Ethan Carter.
          Disagree all you want but my point is still accurate, these are the biggest titles in the genre and all of them involve walking around in solitude. It could be so much more interesting with some characters and proper dialogue.

    • Windows98 says:

      It could be that historically these sorts of games are driven by people who are mainly environment artists and storytellers, rather than programmers or character artists.

      I know this is true for Robert Briscoe of Dear Esther at least.

      • Shuck says:

        Also: making a believable landscape isn’t that difficult (or expensive), whereas making a believable NPC is very much both. If you’re making a low budget game (which these are), you not only don’t have the resources, but it would be very jarring to have a beautiful landscape inhabited by glassy-eyed, robotic mannequins.

        • pepperfez says:

          That’s an interesting contrast with movies, where it’s locations that are relatively difficult and expensive and indie films are derided for having too much sitting and talking.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          So basically you are saying these are simple games made by low talent indie game devs and for some reason nonsensically pushed by hipster games media even though they aren’t that good? I’ll agree with that.

          • noodlecake says:

            No. I’m pretty sure that’s not what they said at all, and you know it.

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            Yeah but I don’t really care tbh.
            If I’m gonna post a perfectly reasonable discussion on the genre and get snarky one sentence responses from the RPS writers, because apparently criticising their indie flavour of the month walking simulators triggers them hard. Then I might as well not bother, might as well just shitpost.

            Can’t design good gameplay mechanics? Can’t model human beings? Can’t write good dialogue?
            Step 1: Make a walking simulator
            Step 2: Wait for the games media to irrationally plug your game
            Step 3: Profit

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      gritz says:

      I agree that audiologs are probably overused, but I think that this particular genre grew out of people enjoying and embracing the simple pleasures of solitude.

      For me, character interaction would make these games something they aren’t attempting to be.

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        That’s pretty much exactly how I feel about these things, too. Thanks for putting it so concisely.

  2. Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

    “Simulating walking in an environment otherwise unexplorable, or fantastically impossible, seems like a very splendid way to use our machines”

    The trouble though with that though is that most examples of this genre is that the environments in the best examples of these games are neither fantastical nor unexplorable.

    Take a look at firewatch, blah blah rapture, and blah blah Ethan Carter. All of these games have environments that could easily be explored by just going to these environments. I’ll leave plot details aside right now; I’m purely coming at this from an environmental point of view, since I thoroughly enjoyed the storytelling in firewatch, and that is a conversation for another time.

    I think that using our machines to fool us into believing that awe can be achieved by just turning on a game and looking at it is a little self destructive. Our world is vast and beautiful, and nothing but nothing developed by men in a room can possibly compete with any of it.

    The rise in popularity of these games reminds me in a funny way of when avatar came out: many (ridiculously) die hard fans of that movie got all upset and silly that they could never live somewhere like Pandora, that they were stuck on boring old Planet Earth. Well newsflash: Earth is the most beautiful and incredible and unique thing in the known universe, and nothing even holds a candle to just standing in it and taking it all in.

    • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

      (Lack of an)EDIT: I should add that I don’t think for a minute that walking sim fans are anywhere near as rabid as the Pandora fanboys that existed after the release of Avatar. They both just strike the same place in my brain.

    • John Walker says:

      Cool – can you bank transfer me the money for my family’s trip to Wyoming?! So pleased it’s so easy!

      • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

        I didn’t say I’d do it all for you. What I’m actually trying to say is we shouldn’t let the virtual experience jade the real on, which a lot of modern media we consume is facilitating.

        Get your own fucking money and go to Wyoming if you want to go, or don’t, the point is you can do anything you want to do, and the harder you have to work to achieve it the more rewarding it will be.

        I don’t want to discount the goodness of games as an art form to be consumed as enjoyed by us all – I’m as big a proponent of Video games as a recognised art form as anyone – but we are endangering ourselves with all of the reality-replacement technology which emerges, and it’s a little scary.

        • Sarfrin says:

          No, you can’t do *anything* you want to. A minute’s thought should be enough to prove the fatuousness of that old chestnut.

        • Romeric says:

          People always use this argument against walking simulators, saying that they are aiming to replace the real thing and it’s scary this, sad that. Nobody said these games are in place to replace anything. I think you simply don’t like the genre and this conveniently fills your otherwise empty argument.

    • GameCat says:

      Why bother to listen to CDs or radio when you can just attend some gigs?

      Why bother to watch sports in TV when you can see it at stadium?

      Why bother to watch documentaries about marsupials when you can go to Australia and watch some animals?

      Why bother to read a book about Mount Everest when you can climb that shit?

      Why bother to see Mona Lisa on google image search when you can just go to Louvre?

      Creative media, please stop ruining our world!

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      Thirith says:

      IMO it’s silly to separate environment from story, though, since the two are experienced together, and each contextualises the other. At least for me, it’s also the combination of the familiar and the unusual that is effective: I’ve been in middle-class houses, but I’ve never felt like a trespasser. I’ve been to rural English villages in the ’80s, but none of them were utterly abandoned (except for floating balls of light).

    • Urthman says:

      Only someone who’s either never hiked in Wyoming or never played Firewatch (or maybe both) could possibly claim that the two are in any sense interchangeable. That’s just ridiculous. They are *completely* different experiences, even if you ignore Firewatch’s narrative content and just consider the difference between hiking in the woods and WADSing around the game environment.

  3. Niko says:

    A can’t help but snicker somewhat disapprovingly when I see the name Donald Macdonald attached to a game about Japan.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Eleven says:

    Wait, that’s not Duncan “Totally Hatstand” MacDonald, is it? The legendary creator of the Advanced Lawnmower Simulator?

    It can’t be, as just mentioning the name of such a landmark piece of software would have instantly funded the Kickstarter, and yet it appears to be curiously missing from the funding pitch. :D

  5. Flatley says:

    1) Coincidence to read a preemptive defense of “walking simulators” from one John WALKER? I think not. Wake up, sheeple.

    2) Now that John sees the value of using PCs to leisurely explore fantastical worlds, I’m only assuming we’re due a lengthy and heartfelt apology to the Original Walking Simulator: Myst.

  6. Distec says:

    “It beggars belief that “walking simulator” is considered by some to be a pejorative. At RPS we’ve long-championed the genre, years before it was given a name, and will continue to do so.”

    You forgot to put up an APPLAUSE sign after this.