Secrets, mystery and enigma; this is the domain of Jet Set Games’ Playstation Home project Conspiracy. We had a quick chat with studio president Rade Stojsavljevic to shed a little light on the experience.
7outof10: Conspiracy is aptly shrouded in secrecy at the moment, what can players expect on launch?
Rade Stojsavljevic: We’ve designed the game to be adapted to players’ preferences. What I mean by that, is we’ve built a variety of content, such as the raids and puzzles, that we’ll roll out to players over time. How they react to this content and how quickly they finish it will determine how the game proceeds.
At launch we’re starting with a handful of raids, virtual goods, and various code-based puzzles involving the backstory. As players start to get further into the game we will expect them to start talking amongst themselves on the forums and working together to figure out what it all means. There are various rewards for completing these code-based puzzles including some rare and unique items.
Which demographic do you expect the game to appeal to; a more experienced hardcore audience or casual gamers?
There are two parts of to the game: raids with all the hacking mini-games and avoiding the security measures, and also the overarching mystery of what is really going on that is hidden in the game via secret messages and codes. I expect the raids will appeal most to more traditional gamers while the puzzles will have a much broader appeal.
How long exactly has the project been in development? When you started out did you plan on it being this ambitious or has there been a fair bit of evolution in this time?
We’ve kicked around the idea for a social spy game for a while until an opportunity presented itself to build it in PlayStation Home about the middle of last year. Having Home as a starting point let us get the game up and running very quickly and we were able to iterate very quickly during development.
As we progressed we realized what was working well and what wasn’t fun. Some of the larger-scale code puzzles weren’t originally planned but came about during development and while we were coming up with the backstory. We wanted a way for people to play the game socially inside or outside of the 3D game space. Telling the story via these hidden coded messages helps make the people who enjoy that sort of thing feel like they are actually participating it that story as in unfolds.
Which games inspired you? With elements of “covert infiltration and espionage” can we expect similarities to Metal Gear Solid and the like?
We’ve gotten lots of inspiration from movies. Our game has some similarities to Metal Gear Solid and Ghost Recon since we have a sneaking mechanic. However, Conspiracy is a lot more forgiving if you’re detected by a camera or sensor. We wanted the game to be as much about thinking and planning your move as executing the move. There is also a little bit of Zelda that slipped in there — they way some of the earlier games re-used elements in different ways to come up with some neat little puzzles. You’ll see more of that as we keep adding things to the raids.
We know that puzzles feature heavily in Conspiracy. What sort of things can we expect? Should we be dusting down our copies of Professor Layton?
The raids themselves will become more puzzle like in of themselves. We started with the more action-oriented things like avoiding sensors, cameras, robots and the minigames to unlock doors or disable certain security features. We’ll roll out more of these sorts of puzzles in the near future, and they will start to be tied together more closely, so that the player has to think about what he is doing to get to The Goods and get out again safely.
The other main type of puzzle is more along the lines of Professor Layton, where we provide various clues that players must piece together. In addition to clue puzzles, we’ve put some cryptographic puzzles in the game, along the lines of the word puzzle in the “Shandor” active item we released last year. These things do all tie together and lead somewhere. More things will be going into the game very soon that will make this more obvious.
There is talk of further content. What sort of things are planned?
We’re absolutely planning further content that will be made available on a regular basis. We’re keeping an eye on the players and what they’re saying so we can adapt our future content updates based on what people want. This content will generally come in the form of additional content (more raids, more puzzles, etc.) as well as things that introduce new types of gameplay. Also, Sony is regularly adding new features to Home which enable new features that we’ll most certainly take advantage of for Conspiracy.
As a micro-transaction supported game, can you give us an idea as to how you expect players to pay for content? Which in-game items will be incentivized?
There are portions of the game that are entirely free and will remain so. The initial raid experience is free. If players purchase an all-access pass they will get more raid content as well as the ability to gain faction reputation with either Reus or Wisperwyre that will lead to certain rewards. We also have items in the game that can be purchased such as healing packs or hacking scripts to help players out in raids. The raids are designed in such a way that they can all be beat without purchasing these items if players choose to.
With the recent successes of LORTO and other MMOs shifting to a free-to-play model, would you say that the era of subscription-based services is now ready to come to an end? Is Conspiracy ready to take risks with the revenue model and move things forward even within this relatively new territory?
I do think the days of subscription-based services are numbered. As a gamer I like the idea of being able to customize my game experience by purchasing those things that I find most entertaining and extend my play experience in a game. It also lets you try games you might not have otherwise played because you didn’t want to commit to a long-term subscription or pay a high up-front cost.
We’re certainly planning to try some new things with the revenue model in Conspiracy to see what works. A microtransaction model really democratizes the game development process as it lets players determine what we build. If no one buys a particular thing in Conspiracy it’s because we either built something players didn’t want or they didn’t see the value being worth the cost. In either case we’ll respond by reworking the design or doing something different. Just remember though, you aren’t paranoid, we are out to get you.