RPS is very pleased to be the first place to announce the name and details of Size Five's (formerly Zombie Cow) new game. It is called The Swindle, and creator Dan Marshall describes it as a steampunk cybercrime caper.
Following on from RPS favourites Ben There, Dan That! and Time Gentlemen, Please!, as well as Channel 4's willy-based Privates, The Swindle is the first game to be announced since the studio changed its name. And what exactly is a steampunk cybercrime caper. Size Five explain that to us, below, along with the first ever screenshots.
"It means hacking into someone’s bank account using a steam-driven typewriter, that’s what that means. I was really keen to do something that no-one’s ever done before, and I’m pretty sure that kind of fits the bill."
It's a platform game, of sorts. Physics-based, and instead of being about going from left to right, it's about infiltrating facilities and nicking all their money. Which, pretty impressively, Dan Marshall describes as "Deus Ex meets Sonic the Hedgehog". Well, there you go.
"You’re charged with infiltrating various facilities, stealing all their money and making your escape. So it’s kind of open how you go about that – whether you want to do it stealthily by bounding around rooftops, or simply walk in through the front door shooting everything that gets in your way, that’s all up to you."
Clearly steampunk theft requires steampunk gloves, which are your main piece of equipment. With the money you steal you can upgrade the gloves, gathering new abilities. Perhaps you'll pick faster typing skills, maybe improved weapons, or the most important thing in gaming: double-jump boosters. And naturally there's an option for telekinesis.
"And yes," adds Marshall, "you shoot by putting your fingers together in a gun shape, playground style."
Inspired by Assassin's Creed II, Marshall was driven by the enjoyment he gains from making money in games. "It's one of my main hobbies," he explains. "There’s nothing more satisfying to me than a big fat horde of fake money, and that’s something that I felt ASCII did really well... So that’s the core gameplay I’m working towards: nick stuff, upgrade your kit, go back and nick some more."
So how does that actually work? What are you doing as you play? Marshall puts it like this:
"At its core, it's a platform game. Running, jumping, shooting, whipping up and down ladders, the usual Megadrive-era mechanics. Where it differs is in your approach to getting in-and-out of a building: you might use telekinesis to lift a rock off a manhole so you can break in through an underground tunnel and bypass all the security guards. Maybe you'll hack a terminal that takes down the security cameras, allowing you to plant explosives by a weak wall, and go in guns blazing. Maybe you'll hop into a guard tower and use the double jump ability to land on the facility's roof, where you can smash through a skylight. That sort of thing."
Things are still very early on. Due to the success of previous games, Size Five are in a position to take their/his time with this, to make sure it's right. But rather than adopting the usual secretive development practises, this time he's determined to share the process. To follow that, the best route is via @danthat on Twitter.
Oh, I do hope this works. Crime capering is a weirdly under-explored genre. We will certainly be keeping a close eye on it.