Monday, June 30, 2014

Editorial: Spotlight of Silence [BETA]

>OBEY<_ImageSingle-player games are a rare occurrence on ROBLOX, with a more general focus on massive-multiplayer experiences and ever-growing server sizes (we are up to 50 now!) in games such as Reason 2 Die and many group personal servers.

However, Silence, a game created by Venvious exploded onto the scene, appearing near the top of the popular games category for a period of time. At the time of writing it has received 135,064 plays, has been favourited 8,119 times, and has a very high approval rating with 3,660 thumbs up and 403 thumbs down
Link: Silence [BETA]

*Warning possible spoilers ahead* 

Level design and aesthetics 
What separates Silence from the majority of its competition is the sheer quality has gone into the level design and aesthetics of every room, arena, and battlezone that the player has to navigate through. The thick fog and grayscale colour scheme with deep reds contributes towards a dystopian feel to the single-player experience and provides it with a unique look that no other ROBLOX game really captures. Silence's aesthetics remind me of Killzone - an exclusive game franchise to the PlayStation platforms. The detail that has gone it to the creation of every aspect of the physical appearance of the game is astonishing and is greatly aided by the fact that Venvious applies this philosphy to every single room - whether you are travelling between important venues and walking through dimly lit corridors towards game objectives and taking a break from the action sequences, or standing in front of importance NPC character and undertaking dialogue. The surroundings in Silence never cease to immerse you within the near-future universe that Venvious has so intelligently created. Avert industries - the company you are investigating, is imagined beautifully.

One of many gorgeous backdrops you will encounter in the game

Not everything, however, is made to look like it was born within a grim dystopian universe. In the early chapters of the game you meet one of the scientists working for the company you are investigating. He asks you to enter one of the simulation capsules within his lab in order to take part in a training exercise. You open your eyes and you appear within the simulation on a small floating piece of land built with voxel-like shapes and a bright colour scheme. There are hills, caves and of course bright-sunshine to accompany the fighting that ensues with the training bots. This is your first real taste of combat within the game (and certainly not your last), and it does not disappoint. The great added touch of parts and bricks phasing into existence as the machine initially boots up continues to load  the level is masterful and really does add to a sense of being within a virtual reality. When things start to go wrong (and believe me, they go wrong) within the mainframe and the simulation begins to fall apart, the surroundings are painted in a brilliant white-colour and the sky disappears in white space; this excellently portrays a scene of chaos as the simulation falls apart - an inception-esque addition to the chapter.

Dynamic Lighting
The colour red, permeating danger
Not only does Silence make excellent use of the parts available to ROBLOX developers and the fog feature in Studio, but it also employs a large amount of dynamic lighting to contribute to an eerie feel to the game. Corridors and smaller rooms are dimly lit and larger rooms are flooded with lights beaming from the walls and ceiling. When alarms go off within the game, rooms are painted in thick red lighting to signal that the building has been put under security protocols. Realistic lighting and the way it changes during the chapters of the game contribute to the authenticity of the experience and further separates it from other single-player competition. It helps change the tension of different situations and foreshadows what is soon to come, perhaps in the next room or around that corner. When it seems like something terrible is about to happen to the player and other characters, there usually is.

The lighting helps give the game an 'eerie' feel

You'll be facing a lot of robots
Many fire-fights and other other types of combat situations ensue in Silence and so Venvious has ensured that the combat system is polished and easy to understand. Whilst the game retains the core ROBLOX combat style with simple shooting at other characters torsos and heads, it adds an extra dynamic by including the damage done per hit which floats out of the NPC's body. The numbers that appear indicate the amount of health points taken away from your opponents when they are hit by bullets or your character's fists. The only slight issue with this is that the AIs do not have health bars and therefore it difficult to work how close to death they are during combat. This would be helpful to conserve ammunition and to make every shot count - especially in prolonged fire-fights that you encounter in later chapters. The AI is well-designed with enemies approaching you as soon as you enter their immediate vicinity - they will not immediately spot you from 500 studs away unlike the classic ROBLOX 'zombie' AI. Friendly AIs aid you in combat and attack your adversaries, and when they run out of ammunition or get close enough they will enter into a close combat brawl (you should probably stay clear of these!).

The game makes excellent use of audio to immerse the player within the dystopian universe. As the description of the place states, it is 'borrowed' from Dues Ex: Human Revolution. It suits the world perfectly and changes between action sequences, and walking and navigating parts of chapters. In particular I loved the music track that plays in the first cutscene of the game when it first loads up - it sends a chill down the players spine and immediately sets the sinister, dark undertone that is consistent throughout Silence. Fitting in with the genre and indeed the feel of the way, the music tells a tale of intrigue, suspense and death.

The hover car cutscene is particularly cool
The final, and possibly most important part of this spotlight is the story of Silence. In this field, again, it does not disappoint. With interesting backstory, flashbacks to past encounters with members of Avert industries and a multitude of cutscenes, character development is a key strength of Venvious. The cutscenes master the use of camera tweening and close-ups in order to bring a professional AAA game feel to ROBLOX whilst still retaining everything that makes it grounded and still very much an experience that bears resemblance to other ROBLOX titles. These cutscenes aren't by no means static; you won't always be sitting chatting in a lit-up room, some of which involve the environment and the characters moving around from location to location. This adds a dynamic element to the game with characters talking within a moving hover car travelling to Avert Industries with camera angles both inside and outside of the vehicle to give different perspectives of the scene.

The story behind investigating Avert Industries is particularly industries and raises some interesting ideas about space colonisation and what that means for the inhabitants of Earth whom choose to remain on their home planet. It toys with the idea of what would happen when key Earth authorities leave the planet and corporations are left behind to exploit what remains on the planet surface. The conversations between employees and the inspector are intriguing with an RPG-esque take on them. You can talk to dozens of characters and there are multiple choice conversations much akin to those you will see in Elder Scrolls titles such as Skyrim. There is a whole host of different authorities you can talk to, from the simple Avert guards and soldiers, to their commander and the 'big boss' of the corporation.

Whilst the story is fairly linear in approach, there are a number of different tactics you can employ to reach your objective and navigate your way through chapters; the destination is the same but the route you take is up to you (figuratively speaking).

A nice little touch are the Easter eggs and the finite details put into the story such as the notes and books written by staff at Avert Industries which can be collected in a side-quest style way. Other details include looking back through a broken wall to see the mysterious leader of Avert Industries in a room you had just been in - if you take the time to retrace your steps to find him in that room he will have disappeared again. This is particularly creepy and adds a sinister undertone in the investigation of the company; whilst you are looking for him, he is following your every move, the hunter becomes the hunted.

If that doesn't creep you out, I don't know what will

Silence is a polished, first-person single-player detective and action game; one of the first of its kind on ROBLOX. I would go as far to say that it is the best single-player game I have had the privilege of playing on ROBLOX and would love to see others like it. Its unique blend of suspense, story, and action make it a compelling experience and I would thoroughly recommend giving it a whirl!

Thanks for reading this editorial!

Editor of Roblox News