The decision to dissolve Irrational Games earlier this year after completing the final DLC for BioShock Infinite sent waves around the game development community. As the dust settles, though, it looks increasingly like setting all that talent free may lead to a net innovation gain for game storytelling at large. A group of former Irrational developers has formed Day for Night Games and announced their first project: The Black Glove, a time-travelling narrative game that will hit Kickstarter next month (via Polygon).
Set in a theater called The Equinox, The Black Glove is a first-person game in which the player seeks to improve the present-day reception of an artist, a filmmaker, and a musical act by going back in time to alter their pasts. Characters’ reactions provide hints of what the player needs to change in the past to bring about a more favorable present, but unexpected results from the butterfly effect are meant encourage plenty of playful experimentation.
This kind of non-violent, dynamic approach to narrative structure is particularly reminiscent of The Stanley Parable, which the Day for Night founders cited along with our 2013 Game of the Year Gone Home (also the product of former BioShock devs) as major influences. Project lead Joe Fielder — one of the writers on Infinite — explained that those titles “and other games in the last year have really opened the door for what you can do for narrative-focused games. I think it’s a really interesting space to explore.”
The move towards non-traditional narrative games is very similar to the stated aims of Ken Levine himself for his post-Irrational career. When the studio dissolved, Levine cited the need for a smaller team in order to move away from tested, linear, AAA game models and experiment with more dynamic, repeatable narrative systems that respond organically to player actions and result in meaningfully different stories.
BioShock Infinite received generally glowing reviews for its lush design, mind-bending story, and tight mechanics. That initial praise was soon followed by a critical backlash, however, from players questioning why such a compelling story needed to be shackled to the same rote slaughter of most AAA games today. Clearly there were a lot of people inside Irrational, including Levine, who felt the same way, and are now utilizing the indie-friendly development scene that has emerged in the last few years to break out and try something new.
The developers have remained quiet about the game beyond those scant few tidbits, but what they’ve already revealed is more than enough to show that they’re going for something really different. You can follow the Day For Night’s official Twitter account for more details in the coming weeks leading up to the Kickstarter launch. There will never be no shortage of games to satisfy your itch to stare down iron sights and wreak havoc, but the recent mainstream success oddball indies like The Stanley Parable, Gone Home, and Papers, Please has paved the way for gamers to have a much wider range of possible experiences.