Introversion, the creators of Uplink, Darwinia, Defcon, Multiwinia and most recently Darwinia Plus have announced that the 5th original title they will be producing will be called Subversion. After years of development where the only details that were released focussed around the innovative procedural generation that will create the world of Subversion, the gameplay underneath it all has now been revealed to centre around performing sophisticated subterfuge in hostile high security buildings. In many ways i t is the spiritual sequel to Uplink with the action now taking place in 3D ‘real-world’ environments rather than from the perspective of a computer console. The developers cite films such as Ocean’s Eleven and Entrapment and the original Mission Impossible TV series as sources of inspiration with the players in Subversion using “Sabotage, Social Engineering and Grifting, custom Electrical and Mechanical devices, Distractions, Hacking, Stealth, Acrobatics, Precision demolitions, Trickery, whatever gets the job done”.
The game is set to be Introversion’s most demanding and enthralling game yet with lead designer Chris Delay declaring: "Subversion is undoubtedly the most ambitious game we’ve ever attempted to create – massive in scope and totally uncompromising in it’s requirements. But every day I work on it I’m even more convinced - this is the big one, Introversion Software’s Magnum Opus, and it’s going to be the best game we will ever make."
What we know so far
The world of Subversion is being designed with as many real life systems as possible accurately recreated in the way they function, are dependent on each other and the components they’re made up from. The purpose of this is to allow the players to be able subvert any system in the game they want in many ways, which will create a high degree of player freedom and procedural gameplay in the process. Subversion is set to allow players mess with different in-game systems on a social, mechanical and electronic level.
Confused? As an example, Chris Delay has talked about the ways of subverting a typical sliding door operated by proximity sensors: “For example – smash one of the Actuators with a hammer, and one of the doors will stay where it is, while the other door continues to open and close. Smash one of the outer sensors and the Actuator will push the door of the end of its slide. Cover the motion sensor with a plastic bag and it won’t send any detection messages to the computer, leaving the doors closed. Stick some chewing gum over the inner proximity sensors and they will think the doors are already closed, thus the control computer will leave the doors open. Push a bin in-between the two doors and they will close on it, and sensors on the insides of the doors will detect this obstruction, and the doors will open slightly, then try to close again. The doors will be stuck in an open/close/open loop, constantly hitting the bin and re-opening, just as you’d see in real life. Cut any of the signal wires, or short-circuit them to set a high or low value. Or just plug straight into the control computer and tweak the status variables in memory, making the system do whatever you want whenever you want. None of these are activities or opportunities that I have explicitly created, but all are possible because I’ve simulated the system in sufficient detail.”
In keeping with Introversion's other games Subversion will not be sporting realistic textures and high-polygon objects. Instead Subversion will feature stylised environments that may bear a resemblance to the look of building blueprints/schematics.
Groundbreaking procedural generation technology will play a large role in the creation of the gameworld down to small levels of detail. The developers initially released tech demo videos showing procedural generation software which can create a cityscape, complete with roads and a variety of buildings including the insides of these buildings. The procedural generation will allow for the quick creation of varied and complex environments and this will be supplemented in the game by 'hand-made' content for the most important parts of the gameworld that the player will interact with (an example being a procedurally generated office block with one floor being hand-made).
The developers have spoken out about their interest in the use of user generated content in recent games such as Spore and LittleBigPlanet with the implication that they are considering including something similar in Subversion. It seems certain that Introversion will at least continue their tradition of fostering a strong mod community behind their games so that users can add extra content to the game after release in some way, as has occurred in previously released titles such as Uplink and Darwinia.
Updated over time?
Chris Delay has talked about Subversion being unlikely to be released initially with the full feature set that Introversion envisions for Subversion, since he says the project is too large for Introversion as just one release given time and cost constraints. How this will manifest itself in terms of release schedule and pricing is unclear and is almost certainly currently undecided by Introversion themselves as they consider other games and developers and the various models they have used in trying to do something similar, e.g. Dwarf Fortress, Burnout Paradise, Team Fortress 2.
Background to development
Subversion has been on Introversion's 'to-do list' for a long time now. Its initial development was started after the release of Uplink and has been worked on and discussed by the team to some degree ever since. It has seemingly been the big project on the horizon for Introversion for a long time, almost too big to take on directly and so has been pushed back continually by smaller projects which have been easier to tackle in the short term. The team have now committed themselves to making Subversion the main focus of their attention now that the Darwinia project for XBox Live has been completed. The only fear now for all those eager to play whatever becomes of the Subversion project, is that Introversion will remain afloat financially until being able to finish it, given that 2008 was a bad year for the company and then Darwinia did not meet their sales expectations and resulted in a number of long-term staff members being shed.
The main developer behind the game, Chris Delay (Introversion's creative driving force) was keeping a blog to document the development of Subversion, which can be found here. The blog features an unusual transparency and amount of detail about the game's behind-the-scenes development given how far from completion and final polish it is. A number of videos of tech demos have already been released via these blogs - a recent one is here.
These articles recently have stopped updating, with Chris citing a need to stop writing about making Subversion, and just making it instead.