Breaking down walls
Adventure puzzle games have a history of leaning into the obscure to make things happen. Throw a bridle on the snake, and it’ll turn into a horse! The logic may seem cloudy, but that’s how you advance the video game — like it or not.
One of the first titles we saw at this year’s GDC is similar, but puts a mighty twist on the concept. OneShot has plenty of puzzles lying within it, but the solutions are outside the game. They’re somewhere within your PC, and it’s up to you to figure out where they may be.
The nuts and bolts of OneShot is an adventure game in a world where light is virtually non-existent. The sun has seemingly ceased to work, whatever events may have led to that. It’s dark, and protagonist Niko is aiming to fix that. He carries around a functional lightbulb, which is the only source of light.
All the typical puzzle elements are there. Scour the environment for collectible items and try to combine them in meaningful ways. OneShot‘s lead developer Matthew Velasquez assuages any concerns that these will prove to be too obscure. That’s not what he’s aiming for.
Instead, OneShot‘s hook is that it’s breaking the fourth wall with regard to being a game. Several times, the player will wander upon an in-game computer, and that’s their signal that whatever comes next probably isn’t actually inside OneShot. It’s hiding elsewhere.
For instance, we were shown a scenario that required taking the game into windowed mode and dragging the edges of it off the screen. Doing that changed the appearance of the window, eventually revealing a code. Those five digits were necessary to continue playing.
Velasquez gave us another example that comes from an older version of the game. There, OneShot hinted at documents in a way that was maybe not-so-obvious. The solution was to go to the My Documents folder where the game implanted a text file. Inside that document was the key to advance.
Even though it’s a novel concept, Velasquez acknowledges that maybe everyone doesn’t want a video game uploading files to their computer and changing the wallpaper. For those, he’s probably going to add an option to turn those game-transcending features off. They’ll be stuck with an adventure game that looks interesting enough in its own right. But, those who leave it on get all the neat fourth-wall-breaking that makes OneShot something a little more special.