The world of PC ports is a dark and treacherous place. DRM, 30 FPS framerate locks, and preset graphical options? Oh goodness, I need to go hide under a warm blanket while clutching my stuffed animal representations of anti-aliasing and V-sync. And yet, within those seedy alleyways, there's corner so pitch-black that most PC gamers dare not even utter its name: iOS ports. They are, the legends say, rife with snooze-worthily simple mechanics and graphics one slight step up from an Etch-A-Sketch.
Don't tell that to Camouflaj, though. In Republique, it aims to create an iOS game capable of going toe-to-toe with triple-A gaming's heaviest hitters. And now, the stealth-focused Metroidvania with a "symbiotic relationship" between the player and main character, Hope, is coming to PC. But how, exactly, will a game intended to leverage iPhone's, er, phone-ness make the jump to our very un-phone-like platform of choice? Well, if Republique lead Ryan Payton has his way, all the talk of "ports" will die the second we start playing.
"If you’re not going to design your game for the platform you’re targeting, then you’re wasting everybody’s time and money," Payton told RPS. "Some games naturally work well on both console and PC, and some just don’t. We don’t believe République could just be ported from iOS to PC and be fun without new designs and features. This is why we’re investigating a significant amount of time and resources into ensuring the PC version of République is built for the platform. I think this is consistent with our commitment as a studio to do everything at the highest quality possible, even if it takes a little extra time."
So then, what exactly does that mean? Well, on iPhone/iPad, you aren't actually Hope. Rather, you're (somewhat ominously) Big Brother, a mysterious figure out to both overthrow the totalitarian, 1984-inspired Overseer and protect Hope by hacking a number of network-enabled devices in her vicinity. It's an interesting mechanic to be sure, but it translates to gobs of screen-smudging touch controls. PC, however, will be an entirely different (and honestly fascinating) beast, according to Payton.
"We are thinking of designing some sort of simple DOS prompt-like interface for gameplay and hacking moments in the PC version of République, so in a way, I think we may be encouraging PC gamers to be PC gamers. I think it’s cool when players scan all your files for hints and notes. I used to do that with my favorite games. My only concern is that we don’t accidentally bury in any story spoilers in the code," he explained.
"We’re going to try and keep the same story arc but change or add scenes based on the idea that players are viewing the world not through an iOS device but a PC. This is a new challenge for us we were anticipating, but because of the excitement about the PC version from both the team and the community, I’m committed to offering something different and cool."
And, of course, without that community, Republique wouldn't even be Small Townshippe or Rundown Backwoods Shaque. The project simply wouldn't exist. Kickstarter, however, gave Payton the confidence to just go for it, and the results - especially in light of the fact that his game isn't a well-known license or nostalgia-soaked genre love letter - have been rather interesting, to say the least.
"Working with the community is one of the great things that Kickstarter allows us to do," said Payton. "The world’s positive energy about the game has given me so much encouragement about what we’re doing. People genuinely care about what we’re doing, and others genuinely hate it. It’s fascinating."
"Personally, I think it’s best to strike a balance between creative vision and community. Minecraft, for instance, is the perfect game to be driven by the community, but there are other games like Bioshock Infinite and The Last Guardian that have a very specific creative vision that may not jibe well with strong community input."
As an example, he noted that there are no plans to link the iOS and PC versions in any transmedia-style way right now, but if the community really wanted it, he'd find a way. Honestly, between that and such a strong PC focus, it all sounds a bit too good to be true. And with a Kickstarter that's hardly crept past a fifth of its goal in roughly half of its time, a cynical mind might think this is all just a ploy for attention. For Camouflaj, however, this isn't a zero-sum game. One way or another, this game will get made. Payton and co would just really like to have fans along for the ride.
"If Kickstarter doesn’t succeed, we’re going to pursue a more traditional funding route and try our best to realize this game we’ve already put so much of ourselves into without losing our independence and creative ambitions. It’s going to be tough, but I’m going to fight for this game and this team," Payton said.
"I think being an independent studio just allows us to cut through all the nonsense that comes with the territory of being a big company. Independence allows us to be more open and honest with the community because we don't have a long chain of command who can question every move. On the flip side, that can get us in trouble as I tend not to have much of a filter when I speak publicly. But I’d rather us be more open, communicative, and rough than faceless and cold, you know?"
In that respect, then, Republique is very much a no-compromise proposition. Big-budget production values paired with small-time spirit, heart, and risk-taking attitude. It is, to be frank, a very special brand of madness. But when I say "special," I mean it in the best, perhaps most naively optimistic way possible. If these people can succeed with their pie-in-the-sky, eyes-bigger-than-a-Death-Star's-stomach dreams intact, it could very well be the beginning of something huge. Republique's fighting against some mighty tall odds to the tune of nearly $400,000 more in two weeks, but in spite of myself, I'm hopeful. Really hopeful. Also, this made me smile.
"No DRM, no online requirement," said Payton. "I think PC gamers deserve more respect than that."
D'aaaaaaaaw. Oh you.