Seeing what game developers are up to after they leave high profile companies is always kind of interesting. Seems former-BioWare writer Jennifer Hepler, a woman who took the brunt of much nerd rage since Dragon Age II, has signed on with Kickstarter project, Ambrov X. Talk about great publicity.
While the description "relationship-driven science fiction RPG" might raise a few brows, it's definitely not what many of you might immediately think. Ambrov X is based on Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah's Sime~Gen universe, created back in the '60s. In this universe, two human-like species find themselves reliant on one another for survival, where one side has always been known for preying on the other. Think of it as a complex tale of how former enemies can learn to coexist.
The idea here is to create more compelling character relationships using this material. Actually, Hepler herself referred to the project as a "complete Mass Effect rip-off," namely because of the potential for the narrative to be relationship-driven. Here's what she wrote:
"... I read the source material, and I started thinking… What if when Ash/Kaidan turn against Shepard in the Citadel coup, Shepard’s own life literally depended on convincing them back to his side?," she wrote. "What if Hawke could have used Anders’s addiction to her life-force to keep him from turning fully Vengeance? How much more intense could your relationship be with your followers if they were more than friends, more than romances – if they were both a part of your soul and the greatest threat to it?
"Over and over again, the majority of BioWare fans tell us that a large part of what draws them to a character is their involvement in the main plot of the game. Fans like to have the chance to put their lover/best buddy Alistair on the throne, or have Morrigan end the Blight by carrying their baby. In the writers’ rooms, we spent long hours trying to respond to this by giving every follower a shining moment in the plot, but it’s hard for a single story to support 8 or 9 equally important co-starring roles. And the reality is that on a large game, things change – followers get cut, or downgraded to non-romanceable, or gender-swapped. And in a party-based RPG, it has to be gameplay that guides such decisions – whether a follower is the much-needed mage or rogue is often more important than how well-written they are, or how much their personal arc might get under your skin."
It's an ambitious project for sure. While the Kickstarter's funding goal is $500,000 USD, Hepler has noted that she will not be contributing unless the Ambrov X project hits the $750,000 mark.
In Ambrov X, players will be able to choose from either gender and the Sime or Gen races. Four classes will be available, and your character will be joined by a companion of the opposite species but either gender. Yep, that's definitely a good opportunity for drama.
The game will be fully voiced with cinematic cutscenes, available in six languages, and be distributed DRM-free to Windows, OS X, and Linux episodically. Each episode is estimated to be three to five hours in length.
Hepler also wrote:
"While there is also a sprawling space opera plot that players will navigate and world-affecting decisions to be made, the key moments hinge on the tumultuous relationship between the two main characters. Though they may fight, make up, take opposite sides and love and hate each other in equal measure, they cannot survive without each other… and humanity cannot survive without their alliance. But this doesn’t mean the story is limited to a single playthrough with a single paired character. Our intent is to have a distinct paired character for each race/gender combination the player can choose. When combined with the choices the player makes in the plots, Ambrov X will be a deep story with extensive replayability. By producing the game episodically, we get the opportunity to develop these all-important characters in conjuction with the fans. By hearing fan feedback early and often, we can tailor the characters to players’ interests, so that by the final installment, any surprises in the ending should be the kind that make you gasp… not groan."
For anyone interested in checking out some more details or looking to donate, head on over to the Ambrov X Kickstarter page.