After leaving BioWare last month, Knights of the Old Republic and Dragon Age writer Jennifer Hepler announced that she was going to pursue freelance projects -- the first of which has now been revealed. Well, assuming all goes to plan.
Ambrov X is a science fiction RPG developed by Cincinnati-based developer Loreful, and an adaptation of Jacqueline Lichtenberg's long-running Sime~Gen series. It's being part-funded through Kickstarter with a target of $500,000, and if it reaches its $750,000 stretch goal, it will bring Hepler on board to serve as lead writer and narrative designer.
For those who have never come across the Sime~Gen series -- I'll confess I'd never heard of it prior to today -- here's the gist. In the future, humanity is divided into two distinct subspecies: Gens, who look like ordinary humans and possess excess quantities of a life energy called selyn, and Sime, who have tentacled arms and must feed on the Gens' selyn in order to survive. If a Gen resists or is agitated when a Sime takes the selyn from them, they die. The series, which has been running off and on since Lichtenberg wrote the first short story as part of a creative writing class in 1969, follows the two subspecies' attempts to coexist with one another.
Ambrov X sounds to be a remarkably faithful adaptation of the series' setting and lore. Taking on the role of a single character -- either Sime or Gen, and one of four different classes -- you'll spend most of the game accompanied by a companion of the opposite species whom you'll be able to choose the gender of. The narrative will unfold over the course of five discrete episodes, each of which will last between three and five hours each, and has lofty BioWare-esque ambitions to feature a dynamic story with difficult and meaningful decisions throughout.
The game's conversation system makes use of an Alpha Protocol-style mechanic whereby you choose the "paradigm" of your response rather than picking from a dialog tree. There are four main paradigms to choose from -- Military, Diplomacy, Scientific, and Philosophy -- and the intention is to allow players to choose how they want to play various situations rather than being railroaded down a single path. The designers also note that there is no gameplay benefit to always picking the same paradigm each time -- unlike, say, Mass Effect, where it was to your benefit to go all-out Paragon or Renegade for at least the early part of the game -- and thus the game has the flexibility to be significantly different each time you play. It's a good fit for Hepler's talents.
Ambrov X has been developed with the full cooperation of Sime~Gen, Inc, and the team has been afforded a considerable amount of creative freedom with the license. This will perhaps be unsurprising to Sime~Gen fans, however, since the series has always attracted and encouraged fan works, a selection of which can be found on the rather Geocities-esque official fansite.
Loreful is aiming for a June 2015 release for Ambrov X, so this is a large-scale, ambitious project -- and as ever with Kickstarter, there is, of course, little in the way of guarantees that it will come to fruition. The concept and early work certainly looks promising, though, so this may well ending up being one to watch. If you want to find out more and/or show your support, check out the official campaign page.