Ready Up: What is Light?
Danny Goodayle: Light is a minimalist 2D stealth game made in Unity. Basically you’re playing a person who’s been kidnapped by a corporation that has forcibly put data inside your head. You’re trying to escape them and figure out just what happened to you; why this data is inside your head. You quickly realise you have the ability to control electrical objects. For example, by touching terminals you can control the doors and cameras at will.
RU: One of the main mission objectives on the show floor levels is collecting intel. Why’s that?
DG: This is one of the corporation’s headquarters and you’re finding out what has happened to you. You’re looking for any references to yourself – “6c” – as you don’t know who you are because your memory has been wiped and you’re now storing their data. The fragments of intel are essential to filling in the gaps of what’s happened to you.
RU: What made you go for this visual style?
DG: Honestly… I just really like looking at blueprints and I always wanted to play a game where I could walk around them. When I decided I wanted to make a stealth game, I figured we’d put the art style of a blueprint in a stealth game and see how it came out! We’ve drawn each level in the game ourselves as physical blueprints, then turned them into actual artwork in the game. In the final version of Light there will be restaurants, offices, airports, prisons and more.
RU: How about for the character designs themselves? They remind me a little of Geometry Wars…
DG: I like how simple and vector-like they are. We wanted to keep them as simple as possible because if we had a heavily complex character model it might make us want to change the art style to be more realistic or even go 3D. I also wanted to keep each character type as simple as possible so as not to detract from the environment itself.
RU: What do the colours of each character signify?
DG: The red guys are the guards and the white guys are civilians. Civilians wander around minding their own business. In the demo on the show floor for instance, the setting is an office so people are trying to get on with their work whilst you sneak about. The guards react differently – they’re actively looking for you as they’ve been tipped off that that you’re going to be there. In later levels there will also be targets – people you may need to assassinate as you progress through the story.
RU: How long have you been working on this?
DG: Since last August, so it’s essentially in a pre-alpha state right now. There are obviously bugs and some usability problems, but we’re learning as we go. This is the first time anyone has played it! Some things need pointing out, so we’ve written down a little cheat sheet for players, telling them to interact with blue objects. We’ll make that more explicit in the final game so people know what to interact with and make things less confusing.
RU: As I spent most of the time killing just about everyone in the level I did get a bit lost as I couldn’t figure out where to hide the bodies. I couldn’t find the right kind of cupboard to hide bodies in, so I ended up stacking bodies up in small rooms.
DG: Yeah, you can do that but, to be honest, killing in this game is penalised as a score reduction at the end of each level, so it usually works out best if you don’t go on a spree. The idea for this goes back to the stealth games we grew up with, where it was really tough and you were rewarded for actually playing it as a stealth game rather than soldiering through as if playing an action game.
RU: I found that out for myself the hard way… I was trying to storm through a level but it always led to my getting caught or having the police being called once I was spotted.
Roberta Saliani: Well, at the same time, if you can hide the bodies the penalty disappears. We have a mechanic where you can swap outfits with people you kill, reducing the sight radius of cameras and guards to balance things out a bit.
DG: But the focus of the game is more on electrical traps – cameras, doors, maybe even laser grids… anything that can be connected to a computer. The guards are just a way of catching you – everything else is there to try and get you caught.
RU: What stealth games influenced you into making Light?
DG: Probably Metal Gear Solid most heavily. I was really looking forward to Introversion Software’s Subversion too. When they said they weren’t making it any more I was really disappointed. I hope they pick it up at some point.
RU: So, you’re here under the Team17 banner… how did that happen?
DG: We were in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign and we received an e-mail from the CEO of Team17 saying “We’d like to publish your game,” so that was a great moment for us as this is only the second game we’ve ever made. We certainly didn’t expect that – a nice experience to be honest!
RU: What kind of release date and platforms are you aiming for?
DG: Light will be coming to Windows, Mac and Linux systems later this year, with other platforms a possibility depending on how things go. I think it would fit the PS Vita very well.
RS: We’d have to rebalance controls, but I think it’ll fit a touchscreen too. We’ll see what happens!
After a little perseverance (and hogging the only computer running the game for the best part of half an hour) I did pass the demo by learning patrol routes and tracking down all the intel. Perhaps slow and steady does win the race.