Psychopathy, Subtlety and The City’s Finest

It’s no secret that videogames and power fantasies are a perfect match. If you want to blast your way into a heavily-guarded fortress, leaving nothing but red stains and widows, videogames have you covered. If you want to be the ultimate race car driver/future soldier/fighter pilot/dancer/farmer/truck driver or princess, then there’s a game for you.

What they’re not so good at is subtlety. Take a typical, well-made AAA game like Bioshock Infinite, for instance. Infinite paints an incredibly rich and detailed world, but if the only way you can view that world is down the barrel of a gun, then everything is reduced to threats and scenery. If it moves, shoot it. If not, then move on. It’s a shooting range, and they’re only targets.

The problem with that is, within the context of the game’s fiction, they’re not just targets; they’re people. By treating them as nothing more than targets, you’re basically playing a psychopath on a killing spree. The narrative attempts to cater for this, mainly by playing on the moral ambiguity of the character, but if the only stories we can tell are about psychopaths, what does that mean for gaming?

I’m not trying to say that we should stop making these games. First-person shooters can be immensely fun, the stories they tell can be entertaining and rewarding, and a virtual killing-spree can be the catharsis that gets you through a hard day. But is that really it? In the evolution of the first-person shooter, have we already reached the end of the road, as far as narrative goes?

I think not. I believe we have a long way to go yet, and many different directions we can travel in.

Which brings me back to The Hit.

In The Hit, I want you to hesitate before you draw a weapon. I want you to be aware of who is around you, and having assessed the risks, and made your decision without perfect knowledge, I want to make you breath faster and your heart quicken when you reach for your pistol. I want you to feel it.

These guys are going to be a big part of that.

Police in The Hit will be smart, fast and deadly. Firearms and damage will be fairly realistic, and you won’t be a bullet sponge. If you do find yourself in a shootout with the cops, you won’t have anything like auto-aim, magical shields, infinite bullets or regenerating health to help you, but neither will they. 

There will be a few more twists to this system, but I’m not ready to reveal those quite yet. I’m aiming to make the game as entertaining as possible, but I’m not making a power fantasy, and I won’t be encouraging you to play a psychopath. Those games don’t interest me as a developer.

So just like in real life, if you’re up against the police, the best thing you can do is drop your weapon. The second best thing to do will be to run and hide.

Of course, the absolute best thing to do is find out who your competition is, and make sure the police are after them instead.

How to play The Hit, in one-year-ago-vision

Hi. Dan here.

Seeing as this is the first blog post, I figured I’d explain the core game loop. I’ll be putting out a video in the next week or so which shows the same thing, but with the game’s current graphics, and a lot more sound and motion. For today though, these are my original mockups, and show how the game looked a year ago when I first started.

When you start the game, you’ll find yourself on the streets of the City, armed only with a pistol and a mobile phone. Keep that pistol out of sight for now, and take out the phone, ’cause you’re about to get a message.

1. Get a contract

The contract system is the pivot around which everything else turns. Hopefully you’ll be given a nice, clear photo of the intended target, but you might only get a description, or even just a hotel room number.

2. Travel to Target

Once you’ve been given a photo of the target and their current location, you have to make your way there. At the moment, walking is the only option, but taxis, driveable cars, motorbikes and trains will all eventually be available.

3. Travel to Target

Tracking down the target plays out like a tense and lethal game of ‘Where’s Wally?’ First find the target, then figure out how to take them down without arousing too much attention.

4. Complete Contract

When you do find the dark alleyway that’s right for you (and wrong for the target), seal the deal as fast and as quietly as you can. but be careful…

5. Look out for other players

You’re never alone in the City. There are thousands of people around you, and some of them will be other players. If you’re very sharp-eyed, or they’re just incredibly careless, you may spot them before they become a threat. You can choose to kill them, or…

6. Take Photographs

…you could take their photo! Not as lethal as a bullet, but shooting people with a camera won’t raise as much attention.

7. Call hits on other players

If you’re ultra-sneaky, you can send a player’s photo back to the Agency, and call a hit on them! There’s nothing better than keeping the other players busy fighting each other while you concentrate on the main target.

8. Don't get caught!

It’s not just the other players you have to worry about. There’s also a full compliment of police in the City, and several thousand NPCs who know their number. It’s possible to get away from the cops, but it’s best not to get in their way in the first place.

So that’s it for the core mechanics. I’ll try to expand on these systems in later posts, and most likely say something about how and why the visual aethetic has changed over the last year.

Thanks for reading!