In 2014 E-Line Media published Never Alone. This game served half as a platformer and half as an educational tool to teach people about Iñupiat culture. This year at E3, E-Line is continuing that "half game, half educational tool" theme with a pair of games they're developing. One, Beyond Blue, is a strategy game where you'll be learning about the ocean. The other, The Endless Mission, is a game-creation game to help teach about game design and coding. Both seem to be bringing something unique to the table, so I took the time to check them out and learn a bit more about the subjects.
Beyond BlueThe first game I was shown was Beyond Blue. However, I didn't get to see much of the actual game. I got a look at the trailer and some screenshots, but no gameplay. So mostly everything here is just what I was told by the developers.
Beyond Blue takes place some time in the future. You play as a scientist named Mirai who wants to develop technology to help understand oceans. Of course, she can't do so alone, so she hires a team of professionals and begins looking for funding for her mission. This makes up the core of the game. You and your team, each of whom has their own backstory and reason for being on this mission.
While we didn't see any gameplay, I was told Beyond Blue is closest to a strategy game. Your goal is to do research to learn more about the underwater creatures and how to apply the things you learn. Then you need to make deals with companies to acquire more funding so you can continue your research. Despite what it may sound like, this isn't a survival game. You won't be collecting resources to build things. Rather, your goal is to just get more research so you can get more contracts with companies.
To do said research you'll have to explore the ocean. You can swim around yourself or get drones to do the work for you. These drones can come in different classes that specialize in specific areas. For example, one drone may be stealthy while another is really fast. As you advance you can upgrade these drones to be better at their jobs, and you can also send them off to work without directly playing as them. This way you can always be earning something.
You'll be doing plenty of swimming around yourself though. Because you're underwater, you can't rely on sight as much as you'd like. There's not much light, after all. Sure you can bring your own source of light, but you risk scaring away many of the underwater fishes you want to study. Instead, hearing becomes much more important. If this means you have a special ability or you actually need to rely on audio cues hasn't been revealed to me.
There's still a lot we need to learn about Beyond Blue, but I am at least interested in what I've been told. I want to see more of the game, and I'm hopeful that I'll get to learn quite a bit about oceans in the process.
Beyond Blue will be launching early 2019 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One
The Endless MissionAfter this I got to see the other game E-Line Media has in development: The Endless Mission. While Beyond Blue may want to teach about the ocean, The Endless Mission puts its focus on teaching gamers about video game development.
It'd be easiest to compare The Endless Mission to other "game creation games" like LittleBigPlanet or ModNation Racers. I'm not quite sure that's really telling the whole story though. While those games let you create games that generally stick to 2.5d platformers or racing, The Endless Mission really lets you get wild. As in, you can open up and completely edit the game's code if you want to get super in-depth. I was told there's some minor restrictions, namely safeguards in place to ensure the players can't write a virus, but otherwise the whole game is open to them.
I then sat down to actually try the game out for a bit. At the current time the game had three base genres for people to begin editing with: Platformer, Racing, and RTS. First I was told to just play a straight up example genre, so I settled on RTS because it seemed the furthest away from what I normally see these types of games handle. Sure enough, the game loaded up an RTS. I could build bases, train units, collect resources, explore a map, and all the staples that came with the genre. Is it simple? Oh yeah. This is just meant to be an introduction to RTSes before anything else, to quickly teach the players about the basics of the genre. However, I was impressed that the game seemed to have all this work put into it for players to use.
After this I got to try out the most absolute basic creation mode: the game portal. Here you can mash together genres to create simple outlines to help you start the process of creation. You'll pick genre styles for three different areas of the game: play style, game mode, and setting. I settled on the platformer play style, the racing game mode, and the RTS setting. The result? I played a platforming character with abilities like double jumps and dashes. My goal was to win a race against a bunch of sci-fi looking race cars. The track was less of a racing track and more like a random forest populated with RTS-styled buildings and characters collecting resources. It was neat seeing how mixing and matching these genres worked out.
I then got to mess with the mod menu. This allowed me to modify portions of the game on the fly. Naturally I followed my first instinct: the secret to winning the race was to go fast. So I set my character to go really fast forever. I do mean forever, as I maxed out movement speed and bottomed out the ability to actually decelerate. What did this achieve? Being totally unable to do anything other than crash into walls, but it was hilarious. The developers told me how other players won races by doing things like setting the main character to be so thin she could pass through rocks, or turning the race cars so big they couldn't do anything other than hit buildings. I was already considering ways to apply these into a game mode. Moving without stopping? Seems like a great start for an infinite runner.
Turns out I was beaten to the punch. I then got to check out some of the games the developers made, and sure enough one of them made an infinite runner. Using the inability to stop running, players had to jump over items and onto platforms to avoid the approaching wall of lava. It's neat to see how someone was able to take these simple tools and turn out a full game mode. Another that I got to play? A top-down twin-stick shooter. Here I got to control one of the archers from the RTS mode, moving with the left stick and shooting with the right. Enemies came in waves, and I had to simply kill them before they could get to me.
I was impressed by my small slice of The Endless Mission and I could see it genuinely being used to create some interesting game ideas. Of course it's going to live or die by its community, but it feels like E-Line is doing everything they can to make sure the community has great tools. If you're really interested in making games, this appears to be a smart first stop.
The Endless Mission will be entering Early Access on PC in September 2018 for the price of $30.