Normally, a press release announcing that a number of former triple-A developers have opened a new studio is something you can safely ignore; releases like this normally go on to explain that the developers in question have made the jump to the profitable but infinitely less imaginative world of mobile and/or social games. Not so with the newly formed Hinterland Studio, however.
Hinterland Studio is an independent Canadian development studio made up of former staffers from outfits such as Relic, BioWare, Volition, Riot and numerous others. Specifically, it was founded by Raphael van Lierop, a 13-year industry veteran who helped launch the Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War and Company of Heroes series as well as contributing to a number of other high-profile projects including the excellent Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine and Ubisoft's Far Cry 3.
Van Lierop is joined in his new venture by technical director Alan Lawrence from Volition, who previously worked on the Saints Row series; art director Hokyo Lim from Riot Games, who has also worked on the Sly Cooper series and arty PSN title The Unfinished Swan as well as Riot's hugely popular MOBA League of Legends; award-winning writer Marianne Krawczyk, who penned the God of War series as well as working on L.A. Noire, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands and the Star Trek game; audio director David Chan, who previously worked with BioWare on its RPG titles stretching all the way back to Baldur's Gate; and composers Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan who, between them, have worked on a number of well-known franchises such as Quake, Borderlands and Mass Effect over the years.
Hinterland's self-proclaimed goal is to produce top-notch narrative experiences that extend outside of games and into other media, and which explore mature, socially aware themes. The studio's debut project The Long Dark is intended to primarily be an episodic first-person open-world survival sim, but the company is already in discussions with other outfits to bring the game's story, setting and characters to other forms of as yet unannounced media.
The game itself explores the "what if?" scenario of a geomagnetic superstorm destroying America's technology infrastructure. In the first season of the overarching storyline, players will take on the role of bush pilot William Mackenzie, who finds himself stranded in the northern wilderness of America with a few other survivors. Gameplay will involve exploring the world, scavenging resources necessary for survival, finding out more about the setting and, of course, making "difficult moral choices that will affect the outcome of gameplay, story, and ultimately, the course of humanity’s recovery." There will be both Story and Sandbox modes, allowing you to ditch the narrative altogether in favor of simply seeing how long you can hold out against the elements if you so desire.
The Long Dark is an enormously ambitious-sounding project, and as with most other projects of its type, Hinterland is intending to run a Kickstarter campaign to help with funding. The game isn't solely dependent on crowdfunding, however, since it is also supported by the Canada Media Fund to the tune of $697,414 CAD ($671,623.63 USD at today's exchange rate) and as such won't be starting from scratch. Van Lierop does note, however, that he's keen for the studio to involve itself with the community as soon as possible, and that he believes a Kickstarter campaign is a good means of doing that.
The Long Dark certainly sounds interesting, but as with most Kickstarter projects, it's likely to be quite a long time before we see anything substantial about the game. The crowdfunding campaign itself will kick off on September 16, and in the meantime you can find out a little more about Hinterland's vision for The Long Dark on the official website.
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