An interview with White Paper Games’ Pete Bottomley
We recently caught up with Pete Bottomley, Co-founder of White Paper Games, the developers of Ether One, at EGX Rezzed 2017. The studio is currently working on a new politically driven, first-person narrative game called The Occupation.
The Occupation puts you in the shoes of a whistle-blowing journalist in the North-West of England during the 1980s. After a terrorist attack, the Government is planning to release a controversial new Act that will strip the British population of their freedoms. In real time you will have to make split decisions that may decide the future of the country. Here’s what Bottomley told IIG about their new game.
“At the heart, it’s a first person narrative exploration game, we like those kinds of games where like it has a core narrative drive, however our previous game, Ether One, was very much classed as a walking simulator”
“With this game we want to push the kind of, well we’re very inspired by games like Dishonoured, Thief, Deus Ex, the immersive sim genre, we love that sense of world and sense of being, however we don’t have the combat, the weapons, how they operate, that kind of stuff, so it’s like what do those games do? Giving player agency, a sense of presence in the world, and kind of connected systems for immersive gameplay, that’s fascinating to us and we’ve been heavily inspired by those kinds of games, so we wanted to bring that to the kind of games we wanted to do, kind of like Bioshock in a way, so that’s what the occupation is”
The game revolves around the passing of a controversial Act by the government, known as the Union Act. Analogous to the American Patriots Act, the Union Act in the game targets immigration laws, encourages national surveillance and aims to erode the rights and freedoms of the British populace. As a journalist in the midst of civil unrest caused by the passing of this Act you find out some information about a person involved who did a terrible thing, they injured a lot of people, but they justify it for the right reasons. In a story that’s very reflective of our current society, The Occupation explores these difficult themes and tries to tell the story from the different ideological perspectives.
“It’s very reflective of the current day and this anger that people feel comes from somewhere, it wasn’t just born over night and we want to kind of tackle that approach and show that there’s always two sides to the story, it’s not always trying to push political views or anything like that it’s always just ‘there’s a conversation here to be had’ we’re just exploring it in our game, there’s no right or wrong you know there’s just the grey in between of the two sides”
“It’s not that we want to make a statement, more than anything we want to create a conversation” Bottomley told IIG.
The team at White Paper Studios are not shy of exploring difficult themes, there last game, Ether One, dealt with the cognitive degradation caused by dementia and how that affects sufferers. Bottomley had this to say to us about the origins of The Occupation’s story.
“Our last game Ether One was based on mental illness and that just came about because we had a conversation in the team and a lot of people had recently dealt with it, sadly in their family, but we also had people in the medical field working with dementia patients”
“As developers that’s where the whole foundation of the game [The Occupation] came from in terms of theme, it was just something very prevalent in the studio, it was cropping up in conversation, people felt passionately about these subject themes and again we’re not trying to push an agenda, it just means something to us so we want to put it in our games”
One interesting aspect of White Paper Games’ new, narrative driven adventure is the rather ambitious design choice to run the game totally in real time. As Bottomley told IIG: “The game runs in real time, so you start at 7.30 in the morning and the game will end at 12:15 in the afternoon, it’s a very set timeframe, so if you went outside and sat on a bench, fed the pigeons and just watched the world go by the game will end and give you a narrative outcome”. This would suggest a playtime of around four to five hours, which wouldn’t be much dissimilar to their previous game.
It seems The Occupation will be a game that offers players multiple narrative outcomes depending on how they choose to play. The fact it will be running in real time will also add another dimension to the narrative experience. This will also encourage multiple playthroughs as you endeavour to explore the different narrative paths in the given time. Bottomley had this to say about the game’s real-time narrative approach.
“I kind of really like that because if you’re sitting on the fence your inaction will cause a reaction, I like that. You could then go and play a very passive style, you could just go in there and do your job, you could write about the act and find out the information and the game would give you a narrative outcome or if you feel some people have been treated unjustly then you could try and do something about it”
The team are planning a variety of endings for the game based on the paths the player chooses to take throughout the story. They currently have three possible endings, although these are not fully written yet they do feel confident that players will not feel disappointed in terms of reward. Bottomley told IIG his thoughts on games having multiple endings.
“What I really like about games is, take Dishonored for example, you’re playing Dishonored, you have your experience, you may get an ending, you speak to someone else and they had a completely different experience to you, they were in the same world as you, they just made different options, took different corners, took different paths and you have different narrative experiences and that is what I really like, it’s not massively different outcomes, but it’s just a player’s experience is personal to you I think”
As it stands White Paper Games don’t know what platforms The Occupation will be releasing on, but Ether One released on PC and Playstation 4, so it’s safe to assume something similar. In terms of a release date, the team are currently aiming for a Q2 2018, but obviously at this point that is subject to change. If you’re interested in finding out a little more about the game you can check out their website here.