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IndieSpotlight: Mark of the Old Ones

By Jon Ireson in Indie Spotlight

Mark of the Old Ones RGN Indie Spotlight

I recently had the opportunity to stumble upon one of the most fascinating titles from the Indie space that I’ve seen in quite some time. Hit The Sticks is a developer who has brought forth one of the most intriguing strategy communities around, and now brings that experience to the 2D world by introducing a compelling story and a unique gameplay experience with Mark of the Old Ones. This game has just launched on Kickstarter today, and you can learn everything about it in the following article which I thank the team at HTS for giving me the opportunity to produce, enjoy.

Concept:

Mark of the Old Ones is an upside-down, physics-based adventure game built around a Lovecraftian theme and yet it is also one of the most unique projects we’ve had the pleasure of seeing come out of the indie scene in some time. Players fill the role of main character Thomas who is injured in a plane crash that completely removes one of his legs when a symbiotic parasite attaches itself to his spine, brain, and nervous system allowing him the ability to escape an otherwise grim fate. The initial horror of such a thing happening, the question of where does the symbiote end and Thomas begin, and the eventual realization that life will never be the same are just some of the things players will experience alongside the main character they control in Mark of the Old Ones.

The game and story of Mark of the Old Ones together form an integrated experience that is made possible by the team at developer Hit The Sticks’ fully modeled muscles and bones (down to realistic joints) that produce gameplay and visuals which allow intense immersion. The setting that this all takes place in is just as epic as the premise though. Thomas didn’t just crash his plane to find one symbiote waiting for him, he has landed in the middle of a location called Namaset which once housed a huge presence “Kraal” who was a living creature known by a thriving society as their ruler, and their god. This being created the “Brood” which are the symbiotic creatures that became one with their hosts; the priests, the worshipers of Kraal; the many members of this functioning society Namaset.

But something’s changed. By the time Thomas arrives Namaset appears to be empty. Everyone else who was bonded with a parasite is no longer living here. Discovering the answers to what happened becomes part of Thomas’ journey through Mark of the Old Ones, and part of the lore that the player will delve deeper in through a number of direct and indirect ways. One thing’s for sure, the visceral control being offered by Hit The Sticks in the location of Namaset aims to be like no other, as an entire society once lived here each member of it sporting the same tentacles as the main character Thomas. The implications are that Namaset will be a fascinating place to navigate, and players will be getting used to their new parasitic companion at the same time as the main character.

Mark of the Old Ones Concept Art

In most games, you’re constantly fighting battles using direct violence. Mark of the Old Ones seeks to offer a thinking gamers’ game, something more complex, rewarding, and challenging while avoiding becoming repetitive and boring. Much of the gameplay will involve figuring out the environment around you and what it all means, surviving the many paths and traps that exist in Namaset, and eventually overcoming enemies while learning how to use your new parasitic abilities. The game not only features Thomas taking control of two tactile tentacles using dual analog sticks for super-human movement, but also new abilities that a human could have never dreamed of attaining on its own.

Thomas is capable of slowing down time (Chronition), propelling himself upward with great force (Boost), and temporarily multiplying his own volume / mass to overcome certain hazards along the way (Increase Mass / “Carapace”). These abilities are also up-gradable throughout the game. Hit The Sticks is a developer with experience, having created JustTactics in addition to staffing members with extensive industry experience in 3D Programming, Game Development, and experience with adhering to high-end Quality Assurance in multiple industries, this registered PS4 development house is set to bring something powerful and of high quality to our industry with this title.

Hit The Sticks has opened a Kickstarter for their game Mark of the Old Ones today, and after the Q&A Interview we conducted with them (seen below) you’ll find a video that they put together which explains the game and shows off a wire-frame physics demo complete with one of the most coherent and to-the-point voice-over tracks I’ve ever seen in a KS project. They’ve also said that they will be making a plotline that Lovecraft would have been happy with by working Mark of the Old Ones into the Lovecraftian Horror tapestry while inventing their own setting and characters.

The entire game takes place in the 1920′s and the Art Direction will maintain a heavy focus on Contrast which is also a parable to the shadows, the unknown, evil, and the suspense of not knowing what’s around the corner. Another way players will experience more of the story is through the journal entries found scattered around Namaset from a side character who perhaps did not have as fortunate of a fate as our playable character Thomas.

Q&A Interview:

RGN: First off, for those who don’t know much about Lovecraft, do they need to know about it to enjoy Mark of the Old Ones?

Hit the Sticks: There is no backstory necessary to enjoy Mark of the Old Ones, although having a rich knowledge of the Lovecraft canon will certainly enhance the experience. While we draw heavily from the Cthulhu Mythos, and our narrative style is informed by Lovecraft, we’ve mostly invented our own setting and characters. As a result, we hope to keep even hardcore Lovecraft fans off-balance and in the dark.

RGN: We know Namaset is a Cavern City in which Chapter 1: The Overseer takes place, what more can you tell us about the terrain’s weather?

Hit the Sticks: Namaset means “dark cloud” in a local dialect. It refers to both the city built for the glory of Mother Kraal, and to the mountain in which she was imprisoned. At the beginning of Chapter 1, Thomas (the player character) is trapped in Namaset. The entire game takes place inside the mountain, in various sections of the city and Kraal’s lair.

Namaset is many things. Namaset is dark, lit by fire and luminous fungus. Namaset is dangerous, filled with unsafe working conditions, death traps, and biological remnants of Namaset’s civilization. Namaset is alien, built for the pleasure and convenience of Kraal’s Brood of parasite-bound upper class.

The main driver of our story and gameplay is exploration.You’re never forced down a particular path. If you’re paying attention, you should be able to deduce your next goal from the clues we leave. We’re a little studio, so I’m not claiming it’s some kind of open world sandbox. But, it’s not a sidescroller, either.

RGN: The video in the Mark of the Old Ones Kickstarter reveals dual analog sticks are used to produce unique and realistic limb control. Can you tell us some of the other actions available in the control layout?

Hit the Sticks: When you first begin, you’ll have your hands full with the tentacles. They’re a lot of fun, but they’re definitely challenging. That said, you have three additional powers: Chronition, Boost, and Carapace.

Chronition represents the heightened senses and reflexes granted by the parasite, and manifests as slowed time and expanded radius of vision. This is your “oh sh#%!” button, giving you a bit of space to plan escape before you’re slammed into that patch of firebush.

When you Boost, your parasite uses a stored charge of [CENSORED] to cause an intense explosion beneath your feet. The main effect is to shoot you upward like a Quake rocket jump. But, it also has the important secondary effect of igniting nearby flammable objects.

Finally there’s the Carapace ability, where the parasite wraps Thomas in a temporary protective shell. This makes the player much heavier and impervious to some kinds of damage. The additional weight helps in a variety of ways as you interact with the Crude Tech contraptions scattered through Namaset.

Mark of the Old Ones Linux Mac Windows PC

RGN: Since the game is only for controllers, is there a specific controller(s) recommended for an ideal experience?

Hit the Sticks: Anything with two analog sticks and a few buttons should work okay. But controller quality varies, and some work better than others.

The first-party big name console controllers are the best we’ve seen. On Linux and Mac, PS3 controllers are plug and play via USB. On Windows, wired 360 controllers are plug and play with the right adapters–and there is an adapter for the wireless 360 controllers.

We’re doing our very best to support as many controllers as possible. Basically, on PC, we should support every dual-analog controller that your operating system supports. We have a decent budget item for test gamepads, so most controllers available between now and release should be mapped. Even if you have something we haven’t mapped, you can always just map the controls yourself–so long as your OS recognizes it.

RGN: In what ways can gamers look forward to having direct control of 2 tentacles of the symbiotic creature change the gameplay of MotOO?

Hit the Sticks: Well, gameplay-wise, MotOO is a physics platformer–a bit like Little Big Planet, but not as cuddly. Your tentacles are how you interact with the world.

So at the core, you have movement. Basic movement is swinging. As you get better at that, maybe throw in the second tentacle, you realize you can go *really* fast. And once you’ve built up some authority and momentum, you can pull off some incredible moves. The level of control is superb, especially given how alien it feels at first.

That dovetails into the story as well. Thomas is completely freaked out at the beginning, as you would be too if the scariest critter you’d ever seen inserted itself into your spine and brainstem. The parasite is under his control, but he’s never controlled a parasite before. You and Thomas are having the same experience, in that way.

Mark of the Old Ones Kickstarter

Once you’ve mastered the basics, we turn you loose in Namaset. You’ll interact with the natural environment, plus bizarre and ancient technology. You can pick up and move objects, control machinery, disarm traps, fire yourself from catapults… the Namasetians were very imaginative in their primitive technology, an aesthetic we’re calling Crude Tech. And all of it is built around tentacles, because of course the Namasetians had tentacles.

None of this is pre-animated, by the way. All of the contraptions I’m talking about are simulated in real time in Box2D. The tentacles are controlled with your stick inputs and our IK solver.

RGN: Does MotOO currently have a targeted level of quality for the graphics, such as resolution?

I want this on your TV, looking beautiful at 60 inches in 1080p. MotOO is a game for your Big Picture box. So, that’s the minimum quality we’re shooting for.

We’ll definitely support lower resolution textures, which should help on lower-spec’d graphics cards at lower resolutions. Higher quality textures *might* happen, but I think that looking beautiful at 1920×1080 is the sweet spot for the monitors most people have.

RGN: Since this game relies heavily on horror and suspense, we certainly don’t want to be spoiled about anything. Are there any other technical aspects of the game your team is prepared to elaborate or re-iterate upon slightly for prospective backers and fans?

Hit the Sticks: I don’t think we’ve mentioned this anywhere before.

We believe Mark of the Old Ones should be about natural player skill instead of artificial skill progressions. There are power upgrades, but for the most part Thomas undergoes his transformation at the beginning of the game. As a result, the major factors in his capabilities are your own abilities. Maybe it’s even a little old school that way.

In order to support that pursuit of natural skill, we’re working on a pretty neat statistics package. If you opt in (it’s totally optional), we’ll keep track of your stats on our servers. Those will include all sorts of metrics about your own performance in the game, allowing you to track your mastery of the parasite. Examples: best times, top speed, “stunts” pulled, longest swing combo, etc. And if you’re the competitive sort, you’ll be able to compare your stats to your friends’.

Official Kickstarter Video of Work-In-Progress Game:

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Mark of the Old Ones Indie

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