Frostpunk developer 11 Bit Studios revealed its next game at the PC Gaming Show today, a “classic sci-fi” tale of survival among the stars called The Alters.
The Alters follows the adventures of Jan Dolski, who volunteers for a high-stakes mission to find and extract a rare element called Rapidium that allows for the creation of alternate versions of organic matter. But the mission goes wrong: the ship crashes and Jan is the only survivor. Alone and trapped on a hostile alien world, he is forced to use Rapidium to create alternate versions of himself – the Alters – in order to survive and ultimately find his way home.
The Alters are not clones: each is Jan at heart, but effectively a version of him who has made different choices throughout his life. These choices have led to different results: each Alter has a unique set of skills and traits, but also different attitudes, beliefs and personalities. They are fabricated individuals, a dichotomy that is at the heart of the game.
“We as people are shaping ourselves every day with every decision we make,” game director Tomasz Kisilewicz said during the show.
“This process, the whole process of becoming who we are, can be quite painful at times. But in our game, Jan, the main character, he has this unique possibility of not only molding himself, but also reshaping himself, countless times, with every Alter he’s creating.”
Like previous 11 Bit Games, The Alters is built around the studio’s “significant entertainment philosophy, so it’s a game that we hope will make you think even after you stop playing.” It will feature elements of horror games, thrillers and mysteries, and a “thick layer of surreality,” Kisilewicz said. “I mean, how surreal would it be one day waking up next to a slightly different, alternate version of yourself?”
I know it’s not likely given 11 Bit’s penchant for relentlessly dark experiences like this my war (opens in new tab) (the horrors of war) and frostpunk (opens in new tab) (the horrors of climate change), but I feel like there’s room for some real humor in The Alters too. I may not be the most read member of the PC Gamer team, but the first thing that came to my mind when hearing about The Alters was the infamous Duplicator (opens in new tab) of Calvin and Hobbes, a device that allowed the main character to create multiple copies of himself to lighten his load in life, which, of course, quickly led to chaos.
This might be a long shot, but what I’m hoping to see are some tricky ethical questions about sentience, humanity, and what it means to be alive. The Alters also features echoes of Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids dream of electric sheep? (opens in new tab), which served as the basis for the film Blade Runner. And like the book and movie, the questions are stark: The Alters are Jan’s creation, but what does that mean for them as individuals? Are they individuals at all? Are they mere organic automatons, created to serve a purpose, or are they genuine people?
“It’s very classic science fiction in the way we approach a relatable topic, and we’re using the science fiction theme, we’re using the science fiction setting, to look through the magnifying glass and investigate it. take a closer look.” said Kisilewicz. “But when we were choosing the tools, this is a very contemporary game, and we’re leveraging what video games are as a medium. So, we’re using tools like systematic design and non-linearity to put players in the middle of the experience, and in the end , allow them to create their own stories within the game.”
11 Bit said that The Alters has been in development for two years now, but doesn’t yet have a release date.