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Snooping Around March 32nd [PAX Prime 2011]

Taking my time to explore the exhibition hall at PAX, I had a chance to take a look at a few indie developers working on really great, unique games - one in particular that hit a note with me was Chromed, the developers of a pretty cool game called March 32nd.

Boasting itself as the bridge between television and video games, Chromed seeks to make a 12-episode film noir point-and-click as immersive as it is visually striking. Set at 12 episodes, players will guide the decisions of Detective Jake Deschler who is working to solve the disappearance of a teenage girl while delving into supernatural events that are affecting reality itself. Speaking with James Youngman, game designer and writer for Chromed, I couldn't get much more information on the plot than that because (understandably) the point of the game is its mystery.

Visually, the game implements rotoscoping animation to give the game a unique flavour and smooth flow. It was definitely striking, if a little creepy to see a bunch of brightly-coloured silhouettes interacting with each other. 

As far as the aspect of rotoscoping goes, it is an art style not seen too much as of late. For readers not keen on the technique, it is live-action motion capture drawn over to give the animation a more realistic flow - a different technique than the commonly-used motion capture of games these days. Notable examples would be Ralph Bakshi's animated films of the 70s and 80s, and of course the classic He-Man cartoon. James Youngman had this to say on the studio's idea of using the technology.

"There's really no way to get better, more natural animations than just recording people moving as they do. There's simply no beating that. It helps us with the way we're doing our processing; it gives us a unique art style that really stands out. It's very visually arresting, it looks very good, and it doesn't look like anything else that's out there, so it helps us stand out."

March 32nd will be a heavily story-oriented game at its core, favouring a point-and-click gameplay style over the ever-popular sandbox style detective stories we've seen over the past few years. I've personally always enjoyed that style of mystery game over more recent fares like Heavy Rain and L.A. Noire, as it seems more realistic to find clues in a room and put a story together than to make an avatar wander around and press X to try and pull something out of the air. It was also explained that the game emphasizes the idea that even the smallest decision made has an entirely different consequence - and a different ending. A lot of emphasis was put on the idea that no two players would experience the game the same way, which has been the focus of a lot of different story-driven releases in recent times. However, if they manage to expand on that concept more than Heavy Rain did, I will be most impressed.

Production on this game started in about 2007, so this is something that they have been crafting to perfection for quite some time now. Production of the game has really been ramped up earlier this year, and they hope to have the game released around mid-2012.

I love a good detective story as much as I love a point-and-click adventure, so this will be among my top releases to look for in the next year. Indie studios are coming out with increasingly distinct and amazing games as of late, which is one of the reasons I love talking about them and playing them so much. Chromed is no exception with this one. If you are a fan of graphic adventure games like the old days, definitely check this out in the coming months.