[UPDATED] PAX East First Impressions – Dyscourse

Survival games have risen in popularity recently, setting the stage for a number of games that ask players to manage resources, take calculated risks, and find a place to make camp before nightfall. But amidst all the crafting and combat, there’s often a certain element missing from the survival game formula: The human element. That very element is the exact one Owlchemy Labs is choosing to focus on with their upcoming title Dyscourse, a game where surviving a conversation will prove more difficult than surviving the night.

Offering players a brief demo on display at PAX, the team at Owlchemy Labs was keen to make sure I understood that Dyscourse is first and foremost a story-driven game. Player-choice will be at the forefront, and every decision will weigh heavily on the remainder of the adventure. And I do mean every choice. Dyscourse considers every conversation players have and reacts accordingly, slowly molding the personalities of fellow NPC survivors on the island around the player’s decisions. If all goes according to plan, most players will have an experience completely unique to them, with drastic shifts in events and character interactions based on dozens of variables.

Dyscourse(2)In fact, the team told me one of their favorite moments of PAX was when a husband and wife played the game facing back to back on different computers simultaneously. They both finished the demo within minutes of each other, turned to discuss their thoughts, and quickly realized neither had seen the majority of scenes the other had witnessed. Intrigued to experience the game from their partner’s perspective, they were both eager to play the demo for a second time, each following in the other’s footsteps.

While Dyscourse is a single-player game, the above anecdote serves to prove the game will have a social component as well, one fueled by discussion as players discover alternate versions of events across the branching story arcs. The basic story centers around Rita, a plane-wrecked survivor stranded on an island with her fellow passengers. (You might say they get a bit Lost…) This allows the game to tackle a few hard-hitting emotional topics, including group psychology and the survivor’s struggle. Of course, all the heavy stuff is kept in check by Owlchemy’s unique brand of absurd humor, so don’t expect to be bummed out all the time.

Dyscourse(3)When I first looked at Dyscourse, I thought it was a more puzzle-oriented point-and-click of sorts. But the team was quick to point out (heh) that there’s actually no real puzzle solving in the game at all, it’s more exploration based. While there won’t be any sprawling environments, each area will have a number of people and objects to interact with that will then trigger story events. Owlchemy Labs also told me that the interesting visual style was a conscious decision. They want Dyscourse to be a game that people can instantly recognize from a screenshot, relying solely on the distinctive aesthetic alone. Of course, the visual style then influenced the music of the game, which will feature a number of tracks as diverse as the island’s various locations themselves. Since the entire game takes place on an island, the team made sure there was more than just sand and rocks to explore, so Rita’s adventure will take her through a number of different areas.

Update: An official statement by Alex Schwartz sent to IGM clarifies the game’s length and additional content

Dyscourse will be broken into “days” that are connected by an overarching narrative. Additionally, Owlchemy Labs “Chief Scientist” Alex Schwartz told me that, “Dyscourse‘s playable snippet at PAX showcased a 3-day situation on the island, while the full scenario starring Rita will likely feature 10-days worth of narrative. In addition to the Rita scenario, Dyscourse will ship with the Indie Plane Crash scenario showcasing multiple prominent indie developers stuck on an island on their way to GDC.” The game will be available for PC, Mac, and Linux, and is currently up for pre-order after a successful Kickstarter campaign. The core game costs $15.00 to pre-order, while putting down $20.00 nets early adopters Beta access, a digital artbook, and a digital soundtrack. There’s also a $30.00 pre-order for those who’d like a making-of documentary as well. To find out more about Dyscourse, check out the Owlchemy Labs team on Twitter and Facebook.

Vinny Parisi graduated from the Ramapo College of New Jersey with a degree in Journalism. No stranger to the industry, Vinny first picked up an NES controller at the tender age of two-years-old and hasn't stopped gaming since. RPG and Action-adventure are his genres of choice, but there isn't much he hasn't played. His thoughts and shenanigans are displayed for all the world to see @Vincent_Parisi