Gunpoint is a slapstick infiltration indie game that tasks you with sneaking into carefully-guarded facilities, securing data, and high-tailing it out again without getting shot.
You’re a freelance spy and you’ve been given a set of missions. In order to complete them, you get to use an arsenal of tools to rewire buildings, crash through plate-glass windows and endlessly confuse security guards. “You can connect things up so that security guards end up trapping themselves, opening doors for you or even shooting each other,” says the game’s creator, Tom Francis.
The central mechanic is a gadget called the “crosslink”. This lets you attach almost any electrical object to anything else — so if a security camera is attached to an alarm, you can rewire it so it opens a locked door instead. “I got thinking about what it would be like if hacking made you like a level designer, choosing which objects in the level activated the other ones,” said Francis in an interview with Wired.co.uk.
It gets more complicated too — you could turn off the lights in an area to send the security guard running to a light-switch in another room, then rewire that switch so that it locks him in that room instead. The possibilities in an area aren’t always immediately apparently, but after playing for a short while you’ll quickly get a feel for what dastardly tricks you can pull.
There’s a selection of other toys to play with, too. Your “Bullfrog” jacket lets you jump great distances — often on top of unwary guards so they go crashing through plate-glass windows and fall to the ground. The “Prankspasm” lets you set electrical traps, with deadly results. The “Deathfluke” gives you a chance of avoiding bullets shot by guards.
One of the most interesting, however, is the “Longshot”, which lets you use the crosslink to rewire security guards’ guns. “If you wire their gun to a door, when he tries to shoot you the trigger will open the door instead,” says Francis. “If you wire a lightswitch to a gun, you can make him fire when he didn’t mean to. And if you’re about to come up against two guards, you can wire the nearest guard’s gun to the other one. When he tries to shoot you, it’ll set off the gun behind him, shooting himself in the back of the head. While the other guard tries to figure out what the hell just happened, you can pounce on him and smack him in the face.”
Francis isn’t a game designer by trade — he’s actually a journalist at PC Gamer. “I love writing about games, and I love playing armchair designer on my blog and stuff, but in both cases you sometimes feel like a bit of a jerk just shouting about how it should be done without ever trying it yourself,” he told us. “It’s the analysis part I really love: looking at a game and coming up with ideas for how its systems could generate more fun, lead to more interesting situations, create more exciting possibilities. I always enjoyed coming up with those ideas, but now I get to find out if they really work and if other people like them too.”
Gunpoint has been nominated for an IGF award, which Francis says he merely entered to get some feedback on the game. Having recently added more sophisticated artwork and some tasteful jazzy music, the former created by John Roberts and Fabian van Dommelen, and the latter by Ryan Ike, Francisco Cerda and John Robert Matz, Gunpoint is almost finished. It just needs a script, some tweaking of the music and then polishing, finishing and fixing.
“That’s the part that keeps knocking the release date back,” says Francis. “When it does come out, I’m sure there’ll be even more of that from the increased volume of feedback. If and when I can free myself up from that, I want to see if I can make a level editor, then a replay system, and some other nice freebies. I’m also really keen to bring it to Mac, Linux and eventually iPad — the first I can do myself, the other two I may need help with.”
If you want to help in that regard, you can send him an email. Otherwise, sit tight: Gunpoint should be arriving sometime in the summer of 2012.