Klei Entertainment talks design philosophy and gameplay for the rogue-like strategy title.
Klei Entertainment’s Invisible, Inc. is one of those games that embodies the spirit of 50’s and 60’s spy fiction while also mixing procedurally generated rogue elements and strategy. Did we mention that it’s fun? Released recently for Mac OS X, Linux and PC, the former Incognita garnered strong critical acclaim and is scheduled to release for the PS4 in 2016. That being said, what other plans in the pipeline for Klei?
GamingBolt spoke to programmer and technical designer Jason Lantz about Invisible, Inc. and what fans can look forward to. We also spoke to Lantz about the design philosophy for the game and how it promotes replay value.
"We work really hard to give all our games a distinct and unique style and animations, which helps differentiate Invisible from a more generic cyberpunk aesthetic."
Rashid K. Sayed: Klei Entertainment has developed an eclectic range of titles since 2005. From the maddening difficulty of N+ to the hack and slash of Shank and the survival mechanics of Don’t Starve to the strategy stealth of Invisible Inc. What inspired your current project?
Jason Lantz: We were inspired a lot by the gameplay of X-COM and FTL and wanted to build off of those in a unique way using some of the lessons we’d learned on Mark of the Ninja. In terms of feeling and environment, Syndicate was also a huge inspiration for us.
Rashid K. Sayed: The stealth genre is hard to pull off as is since it relies so much on not committing mistakes and getting spotted. With randomly generated levels, how does Invisible Inc. balance the fun of being stealthy with the tension of getting caught?
Jason Lantz: Invisible gives the player a lot of tools to either rewind mistakes or predict enemy behavior, which allows players to make smart decisions. Risk vs reward holds the whole thing together — it’s fairly simple to get out of the level, but your greed for extra money or loot is often what kills you.
Rashid K. Sayed: The art style is an interesting mix of cyberpunk and spy noir, standing out from previous games. What helped influence the art style and how does it distinguish Invisible Inc. from the competition?
Jason Lantz: Like you said, the art style on Invisible was inspired by 50’s and 60’s spy noir and cyberpunk classics like Neuromancer. We work really hard to give all our games a distinct and unique style and animations, which helps differentiate Invisible from a more generic cyberpunk aesthetic.
"Invisible Inc is all about mastering the systems of the game, and beating the campaign on beginner is just learning the basics."
Rashid K. Sayed: How long does the campaign usually last in Invisible Inc.? Also, outside of the main story, what other challenges does Invisible Inc. hold for the erstwhile spymaster?
Jason Lantz: The game is designed to be replayed over and over like FTL or Spelunky, so the first beginner campaign might take around 5 hours, but it’ll take many dozens of hours for players to master the systems and be able to beat the game on the expert difficulty.
Rashid K. Sayed: What are your thoughts on introducing co-op elements to Invisible Inc.? Is such a feature in the works or has there been any thought towards introducing the same at some point?
Jason Lantz: We don’t have any plans for co-op or multiplayer Invisible. We feel that the mechanics work best for single player and would rather improve the single player and make it the best it can be than dilute it by working on a multiplayer mode as well.
Rashid K. Sayed: Will Invisible Inc. see any post-release DLC a la Don’t Starve?
Jason Lantz: Yes, we’re currently working on a pack of new agents.
Rashid K. Sayed: Is it encouraged to replay the game’s campaign due to the randomly generated levels and other agents that can be unlocked? How do these agents provide for further variety?
Jason Lantz: Yep, Invisible Inc is all about mastering the systems of the game, and beating the campaign on beginner is just learning the basics. The new agents allow players to start with a new set of abilities and items that will completely change their experience with a new campaign.
"The PS4 build needs a lot of love, especially in creating intuitive and natural controls, before we'd feel comfortable calling it a finished product."
Rashid K. Sayed: Invisible Inc. is primarily a stealth game but how does it cater to different play-styles? For example, how will the experience differ for more aggressive players as compared to those more interested in hacking?
Jason Lantz: Unique play-styles will emerge in Invisible, but they might be different than what you would expect from a traditional stealth game. It’s not so much a question of going in hot or quiet, but more of how aggressive your strategies are, how greedy your team is and how you value different items, augments and agent loadouts.
Rashid K. Sayed: Invisible Inc. will be out on the PlayStation 4 in 2016. That seems like a rather long way off, especially since it just released on PC, Mac OS X and Linux, but why the long development time?
Jason Lantz: We’re a small team, so we focused our development the PC/Mac OS X/Linux builds rather than trying to simultaneously develop on a lot of systems at once. The PS4 build needs a lot of love, especially in creating intuitive and natural controls, before we’d feel comfortable calling it a finished product.
Rashid K. Sayed: I feel like, over the last five years, many companies have dropped the graphical fidelity and stopped trying to push graphics and have left it to the realm of blockbuster guys. What is your take on this?
Jason Lantz: I think we’re seeing an explosion in indie talent and in the quality of tools that is allowing smaller teams to make high concept games. Teams are getting smaller overall as new teams pop up all over the place and becoming more confident about making interesting, small games that aren’t necessarily busting GPUs.