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Why Resident Evil Fans Should Pay Attention to République
The Initial Encounter
In August 2011, Ryan Payton began following me (@cvxfreak) on Twitter. I was very surprised at first because he was a prolific industry figure whose name was attached to mega hits Metal Gear Solid 4 and Halo 4. We had never met or corresponded with each other before then, but I always knew of him, and my friends over at 8-4 always said nice things about the guy. I was also aware that he recently had founded his own company, Camouflaj. So, I followed back, thinking that we'd tweet at each other from time to time and perhaps run into each other at an industry party here or there. However, I didn't think I ever become closely involved with someone of Ryan's stature.
Then, on the eve of Tokyo Game Show, Ryan sends me a direct message on Twitter: “Wanna meet and check out Bio together?”
He wanted to see me. Personally. I jumped at the opportunity.
We meet at the Revelations booth on the first day of TGS. The timing wasn’t great as Ryan got in line just as Capcom began a stage presentation on Revelations. But he was really awesome about it, letting me pull him out of line to watch the demonstration together. (We both speak Japanese, so we knew what they were talking about.)
Learning of République
After the talk demo ended, Ryan and I had coffee near the show floor and he told me about his plans for his new company. I won't get into much detail, but the gist of it was that Ryan needed my help because, in his eyes, I’m the biggest Resident Evil out there. (I do actually get shy in real life when people bring that up). He wanted to make something inspired by Resident Evil in terms of level design flow and atmosphere. I didn't have much to say at the time, particularly because République wasn't concretely formed at the time. With other obligations to attend to, Ryan and I parted ways. I told him that if he ever needed my help, I would be there.
The Strange Request
Turns out, three months later in December, I was given the opportunity to visit Seattle. Upon finding out, Ryan contacted me again with this funny – and very direct – direct message: “You will come to my studio and play my game on December 21.” I pulled a few strings and extended my stay in Seattle by a day (this was right before Christmas). However, I couldn't just show up to their office empty handed. Ryan had a task that he felt only I could do – it involved doing a little research on a particular Resident Evil game and then presenting that to his team for analysis.
I did as Ryan asked me to. I initially thought the info he wanted was a little strange (I'm not a game designer, so I didn't realize its significance until later). It was a pretty interesting task that involved me playing the remake of Resident Evil in a way that I had never done before: count the number of camera angles in the game, give size estimates of each room, as well as the number of doors and floors in them. It was far less tedious than I expected it to be. (In fact, I'd like to do it for the other games in the series if time ever permits.) Turns out, he needed that data to draft the production scope and budget estimates of the game as they wanted their new game to have a comparable amount of content as a first playthrough of the mansion.
I gave Ryan the information he needed in Seattle, and his team finally showed me a very early build of the game they were developing called “République.” I’ll be honest: it screamed of “humble beginnings.” I played it, offered my feedback, and then we parted ways again. I left excited for the game's development. I would go on to meet Ryan again in March 2012 on the sidelines of GDC in San Francisco (interestingly, up to this point, each time we met was always in a different city), where I finally saw a more advanced build. "This is definitely something I will pay attention to as a Resident Evil fan," I thought to myself.
République and Resident Evil
Now, for the sake of clarity, République is NOT a Resident Evil game, nor am I an actual game designer. But the throwbacks to my favorite game series are undeniable: the high quality pre-rendered camera angles and the rough look of the environment. As much as I adore the newer Resident Evil games, République brings back that feeling.
For me, it's about how the environments come together, how a camera angle transitions to the next, what I can and cannot see merely by looking at the screen, the placement of doors, windows, furniture or other objects, and where enemies await the protagonist, Hope, as she makes her desperate escape (she reminds of Jill Valentine in this sense, but without the overt sexualization). République is doing what Capcom hasn't wanted to do since Resident Evil Zero came out nearly ten years ago, and that alone, has me excited.
And lastly, it also doesn't hurt that République can be abbreviated as "RE."
Still, République has plenty of non-Resident Evil elements to it. So, I asked Ryan to elaborate on how he was intending to meld elements from other properties, as well as his own visions, into the visual framework. Specifically, I asked Ryan:
"Stealth isn't a major element in the Resident Evil series aside from sneaking around zombies undetected. How does the camera design, which differs from the Metal Gear Solid series among others, influence how you approach the stealth element?"
And Ryan replied:
The camera design in République not only gives us cool, voyeuristic angles into the game world, but they allow players to warp to various views to do recon and get different perspectives on the situation. A huge theme in the game is "perspective" which ties not only into the gameplay, but also the story as well.
One of the things I really love about the design is how agile Hope is. She slips from cover to cover, ducks behind bookshelves to avoid detection, hides under desks until the coast is clear. It feels great.
Without ever referencing the original Resident Evil, I think it's interesting that Logan explored darkly lit rooms in a similar vein to the Resident Evil mansion, and I think they're beautiful. The thing I'm most excited about are the next rooms we're going to show off, as they will communicate the 1984 vibe a lot more strongly and introduce a lot of mysteries as to what this place actually is…
What Kind of Survival Horror Elements?
I'm a strange breed of Resident Evil fan because I'm not crazy about zombies, I don't like the controls and some of the puzzles don't make sense to me, but with that said, I absolutely love two aspects of the game: item management and the process of exploring and unlocking the mansion.
I'm a sucker for any game that forces me to think about my inventory and make strategic choices about which enemies I should take down and which I should leave alone. In this Call of Duty-era where players are a one-man army that kills anything in his path, this is really refreshing. We want players to think deeply about what items they've got on hand, what item combos work well and when combat is best avoided.
Another major theme of République is "control," which is great as players work with Hope and gradually unlock every room inside the facility she's locked inside. One of the things the team is working on right now is a wireframe map of the facility, which should allow players to really understand the strategic choices of what areas they should unlock first. And with our touch controls, players will easily be able to rotate the world and then warp to any camera they've unlocked in the facility. We're hoping this will significantly cut down on the travel time that tends to be frustrating in Metroidvania-type games.
And that is why République is my currently most anticipated game release in the future - I'm looking forward to it more than RE6.