PC Previews

Boston Indie Game Spotlight – OBEY

Tonight’s tedious manual labor has left you exhausted, but under the watchful eye of the oppressor, rest is not an option. Long ago you saw past the illusion of success through hard work honesty and you’re now aware that feeding the machine lines its pockets much faster than it lines your own. But attempting to subvert the ruler is grounds for execution, not to mention practically impossible while under constant surveillance.

But what’s this? One of your fellow peons has successfully removed their shackles and stepped out of line, unnoticed! Should you join him to start a revolution? Should you distract the leader and allow him to subvert the regime? If he gains power, will he help you, or be even more tyrannical? Or perhaps the current overlord will pay handsomely for your loyalty if you snitch on the traitor. Your pause during this moment of indecision has been noticed and suddenly you’re in the spotlight, guns trained on your head. What do you do? Oh, and by the way…. you’re an adorable bunny.

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Under the surface of Lo-Fi Apocalypse’s upcoming, adorably Orwellian project, OBEY, lies a compelling, ruthless social experiment. The object of OBEY is to simply be the first player to earn a set amount of cash. Every few seconds, each player earns a few cents, depending on their position in the game. If they’ve managed to enter the giant, fully-armed, all-seeing robot, they earn money the quickest. If they submit to the robot and agree to wear a collar (which indicates their position on the map to the robot) they earn more than their fellow bunnies who refuse to wear collars. But without a collar, it’s easier to sneak into and subvert the robot.

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Obviously, everyone wants to be the robot, if not for the chance to wield some awesome weaponry, then for the opportunity to boss around other players via the continuously open voice chat. You see, another way to earn cash for yourself is to “feed” the robot by placing items into a box which then also adds to the robot’s wealth, or his robot arsenal.

As the robot, you must not only keep an eye on all your bunny minions, but encourage them to continuously do your bidding, either through financial motivation (you can arbitrarily pay anyone as the robot) or under direct threat of annihilation.

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OBEY’s unique balance of risk and reward creates a pitiless atmosphere of self-interest and manipulation among players. Working for the robot pays, but being the robot pays more. To subvert it, you need to remove your collar, but if you’re spotted trying to sneak in, you’ll be annihilated and waste precious time respawning. While sneaking around, you also run the risk of other players ratting you out in attempt to curry favor, and possibly a few extra cents, from the robot.

As you can imagine, honesty and loyalty have no place in OBEY. Successful strategies depend heavily on players’ ability to lie, sneak, steal, and backstab. Therefore, new players face the burden of learning the basic mechanics while also trying to determine if the orders they’re getting from more seasoned players is actual advice, or simply a manipulation. This steep, unforgiving learning curve coupled with a naturally building mistrust of your fellow players may turn off or overwhelm some. However, actually winning in OBEY is immensely satisfying, especially for deviants like myself who inexplicably derive pleasure from deception.

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Visually, OBEY is aggressively unremarkable. This design choice not only demonstrates the studio’s mantra of “getting the most out of the simple,” but it creates a strikingly charming contrast between the innocent and simple world with the darkly complex gameplay.

However, as I often found myself getting stuck in the environment, a little more detail and texture wouldn’t hurt. The final game will include a musical score, however the build I got to play only included ambient sound.

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Like a good Indie game should, OBEY breaks the mold and defies typical video game genre classification. It’s both a compelling, metaphorical social experiment and an immensely fun time, especially with friends.

While currently still a little rough on its execution (it’s only approximately 80% finished), it’s an exceptionally novel concept that should be experienced when it arrives on Steam Early Access later this year for PC, Mac, and Linux. Until then, if you’d like to know more, check out the site.

 

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