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Development Hell: The Magic Circle On Steam Early Access

Fictional vapourware

You can now buy and play Ion Storm and BioShock alumnus Jordan Thomas's emergent oddity The Magic Circle [The Magic Circle], but do be aware that it's not finished yet. No, I know that's the point of the game - that you roam around an unfinished vapourware game, rewriting it from the inside - but I mean it's really not finished.

The Magic Circle arrived on Steam Early Access today. In all the layers of metafiction, it may be the most The Magic Circle-y version of The Magic Circle you'll get.

The Magic Circle is a game about a fictional vapourware game, one that's been trapped in development hell for decades and exists in a horrible scrappy state with a mash-mash of styles from different directions. It's sort of an emergent first-person puzzler, where you can trap and alter the behaviour of creatures in the world to create your own solutions. As Alec explained in his preview last year:

"So, with simple clicks, I can alter code. I can make the game’s mutant dogs fight for me, I can reanimate corpses and have them deactivate forcefields, I can turn giant turtles into heat-proof platforms to ferry me across lava lakes, or I could simply remove the Movement – Ground attribute from any foe and render it unable to come after me. In what I played, there was never one fixed solution (although in some instances it is simply a matter of giving a specific ability to a creature of your choice), and it was highly systems-driven rather than purely plot-driven."

Sounds great, that. Developers Question (not a typo: their studio name is Question) expect the game to be on Early Access for six weeks while they add more localisations, as well as respond to emergent solutions players might come up with. "If any of those novel solutions seem like they should be officially recognized or supported with small tuning changes, we will make them," they say.

The Magic Circle costs £13.49 right now, will go up to £14.99 next Wednesday, and may go up again when it officially launches.

I say The Magic Circle is Jordan Thomas's, but that's lazy. I only mentioned him up-front because I thought you might know his work on Thief 3's Shalebridge Cradle level (the spooky orphanage-cum-asylum), or on BioShock's Fort Frolic (the entertainment district), or as creative director at 2K Marin on BioShock 2. It's attention-grabbing. Anyway, Thomas co-founded Question with Stephen Alexander, also from Irrational, and it's rounded out by Kain Shin, who worked on Thief 3 and Dishonored among others. I thought you should know. Okay. Bye.

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About the Author
Alice O'Connor avatar

Alice O'Connor

Associate Editor

Alice has been playing video games since SkiFree and writing about them since 2009, with nine years at RPS. She enjoys immersive sims, roguelikelikes, chunky revolvers, weird little spooky indies, mods, walking simulators, and finding joy in details. Alice lives, swims, and cycles in Scotland.

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