With the rise of indie games in the past few years it is easy to miss some of the tragic failures in the face of so many great success stories. Outerlight was a Scottish studio located in Edinburgh who used the Half Life engine to whip up an extremely unique first person action game called The Ship. In it, you played the part of a trapped early 1900s cruise line passenger forced to participate in a game of death as each person on board is given a card with a person's name on it and told they need to murder them. At the same time you are hunting your prey, someone, is hunting you. Released before the big indie boom, and in a market flooded with traditional first person shooters (games released just before The Ship included Half Life 2, Battlefield 2, Call of Duty 2, Operation Flashpoint, Fry Cry Instincts, and Star Wars: Republic Commando. Games released just afterwards: Painkiller, Black, Rainbow Six: Critical Hour, and Call of Duty 3.) in my opinion The Ship never really stood a chance.
The gameplay in The Ship is phenomenal. It is a slow paced mystery style action game, where you have to search out your intended prey while avoiding getting shanked in some hallway by anyone with your name on their card. The game ends up becoming this weird cat and mouse style game where you have to avoid looking like you are a little too interested in knowing when that particular guy will be away from the watchful eyes of the security guard. You even have to watch Sims like bodily functions so that it forces you into areas that may not be safe. I don't know if it was kids not enjoying be murdered with a barbecue fork while taking a dump or the fact that the game wasn't some high speed war shooter, but for some reason the masses didn't take to it. Which is a shame because I think they're missing out on quite a unique experience. Recently The Ship was bundled in an Indie Royale bundle and along with a ton of other people I don't think I would've learned about The Ship had it not been for that. Hopefully the influx of cash and a renewed interest in games with the same sort of idea like Spy Party can reunite Outerlight's original game and maybe even spark a sequel. (while Outerlight did have a second game on the XBox 360 called A Bloody Good Time, it didn't fare too well either, though it did stray heavily from The Ship in theme and gameplay.)
Overall there are going to be a lot of these kinds of stories unfortunately, and that's why I believe the indie game movement is so important, to reignite these small studios with big ideas and have them succeed in the face of huge gaming corporations and their stagnant nonsense.
For more on The Ship with a full review and screenshots head over to Indie Love
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