It has been about a year and a half since I first posted something about this game, I figured it was well past time for an update on this gorgeous game!
The story of the Obra Dinn is set in 1808, 6 years after the merchant ship "Obra Dinn" set out from London for the Orient. Six months into her voyage she disappeared. She never reached her rendezvous point at the Cape of Good Hope and was declared lost at sea. Early on the morning of October 14th, 1808, the Obra Dinn drifts into port with sails and rigging damaged damaged and no visible crew.
As an insurance adjuster for the East India Company's London Office, it's your job to find means to board the ship and recover the Crew Muster Roll book for assessment. But it wont be quite that simple to figure out this story. There were sixty crewmen on board, each with their own story to tell, and you must use clues that you find to reconstruct exactly what happened. One of the tools at your disposal is a “magic clock” that will allow you to see the last moments of life of each member of the crew. Which I suspect is where the unique look and feel of this game comes from.
Obviously the first thing that drew me to this game is the art style. It is quite a bit different than anything else in the Indie gaming scene today, and reminds me of the games that I grew up playing. Lucas Pope, the games creator, recently showcased a brand new build of his game at the Day of the Dev's area at GDC 2016 in San Fransisco.
I looked through several Youtube videos, but I could only find one that had a look at Return of the Obra Dinn. You can get a glimpse of the game showcase starting at 2:18 in this video from GDC.
Obra Dinn is rendered in 1-bit graphics, which may sound fairly simple to do at first. However, Lucas has ran in to many unexpected problems in choosing this format, and has had to find some unique solutions to solve them. One of the problems is straight line looking too straight. He had to find a way to make those lines look more natural without simpler modern tools, such as Photoshop algorithms, to work with. Turns out mazes are the answer.
You can read about this, and his ultimate solution, in much more detail over on his Dev Blog HERE!
Another one of the challenges he faced is how to make each characters face recognizable with such limited graphic detail. Dithering is a bit more difficult when your working in only 1-bit. For this solution, he had to have some help from the community to give him a hand.
You can read more about his issues with characters, and his community backed solution, in THIS post over on his Dev Blog.
In the GDC video above, the scene that is shown is a boarding scene. Here is a animated GIF of part of that scene. Since this one might be a bit disorienting for some of you, I have hidden it in a Spoiler
You can read about that one on his Dev Blog HERE.
There is a whole lot more to this game than I first thought, and it's creation is much more challenging than you may think at first glance. I have only covered a brief part of it, but you can follow Lucas through his Dev Blog or you can find out a bit more about the game, see some greet screen shots, and download the demo over at the official web site HERE, and Lucas Popes Twitter feed HERE!
A few years ago, Pope created another game with an equally unique art and gameplay style called “Papers, Please.” He describes the game as “A Dystopian Document Thriller.” That game received a lot of critical acclaim, and won many game awards.
The game was introduced on Steam Greenlight in 2013, and has overwhelmingly positive reviews. You can buy it on Steam Store page HERE.