Gunpoint was a slapstick stealth game that made emergent puzzles of its environments’ security systems. The upshot of which was that you could a) remotely plunge the next room into darkness, so that b) the guard would reach for the lightswitch and c) instantly concuss himself into with a nearby door which you’d rewired to open at 50mph. Like Mouse Trap, then, but for dicks.
Creator Tom Francis is working on something with grapplehooks, which sounds like Gunpoint’s true successor. But this second game boasts a concise concept just as immediately compelling: space stowaway shenanigans.
“I’m really hot now,” says Francis. He’s referring not to his newfound position in the indie stratosphere post-glowing PCGN review, but the temperature of his ship. In the below video, Francis flies a tiny vessel with access to incredible speeds and near-immediate changes in trajectory. The downside of which is, yup, its heat signature:
The plan is to board and rob target ships. The stats of those ships, including their vision radius, heat sensors and general state of alertness, are randomly generated.
The more power and speed you ask of your vessel, the hotter it’ll get. Making your approach, then, is a matter of zooming in close and relying on very slight thrusts and course corrections to latch onto the weakpoint of your moving target.
Once aboard, the game switches to top-down control of a human character, with a gun. Gaining control of the ship isn’t a matter best-handled by streams of pew-heavy stormtroopers, though; instead, it calls for more stealth.
Like hijacking a plane, causing a lot of noise and trouble will only cause the crew to seal off the cockpit - and probably, too, any high-priority subsystems or valuable technology: the stuff you want. So you’ll knock people flat (with a slaptick SMACK sourced directly from Gunpoint, from the sounds of it), avoiding open warfare until you’ve got what you’ve wanted.
The ships are yet to be filled with turrets and convincing defences - or, indeed, objectives. But Heat Signature’s procedural generation is already capable of building modular vessels ranging from square tubs to capital ships.
“They have random colours as well, and the interiors are also a random colour, and that’s chosen independently of the exterior,” says Francis. “So you can get some really horribly tasteless ships.”
Eventually, players will be born with an assigned role - assassin, thief, spy, tailor, etc - and an objective, like an item to retrieve or VIP to murder. By exploring and boarding ships, they’ll uncover clues as to the whereabouts of their eventual target - their ship type, for instance, or geographical system. Ace.