Fullbright may not have invented the walking simulator with Gone Home, but they perfected it. Released in 2013, Gone Home set the standard for a genre with its engrossing narrative and laid back gameplay. The gameplay was so laid back that people dubbed the game a “walking simulator,” and the label stuck.
But the “walking simulator” genre has come a long way since 2013, with games like What Remains of Edith Finch and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter pushing the boundaries of what can be done. If Fullbright wants to remain top dog within the genre, they’re going to have to do a lot more with their next game, Tacoma. So far, it they seem to be doing just that.
Microsoft revealed during their E3 press conference yesterday that they would be publishing Tacoma for the PC and Xbox One.
The game is set on a space station 200,000 miles away from Earth. You play an astronaut named Amy who’s stationed there on her own, but you are far from alone. On the ship is Odin, and advanced AI that Amy can communicate with. There’s also an extensive augmented reality system that lets her see previous crew members interactions throughout the ship. She can listen back to their conversations and see their multi-colored silhouettes interact, playing them back whenever she wants.
But Amy is no passive observer. Eventually, you’ll learn of an explosion that rocked the station, and get to see how the crew handled it. It’s at this point that Amy becomes part of the story herself. Being a narrative game, Fullbright is keeping details of the plot under tight wraps, so it’s hard to say just how involved the player will be this time around. What we do know is that the story is inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey, so you can bet Odin is going to end up being the main antagonist. Of course, it would be a lot more interesting if this didn’t turn out to be the case.
Will Tacoma Play Differently from Gone Home?
Right now, it’s hard to say if Tacoma will have any different gameplay elements from Gone From. People are expecting, or at least hoping for something more than walking around and passively experiencing a story. Look no further than The Occupation to see how a studio is turning the formula on its head.
In The Occupation, you play a reporter covering a terrorist attack. The government is about to pass a bill that will allow them to spy on their citizens, and you have to try and stop it. But it’s not a game of walking from point A to B. The game features a real time clock, so not only will you have to gather information to report, you’ll also have to decide what clues to follow and when, because you’re going to miss out on some clues thanks to the clock.
Even something as slight as a ticking clock makes The Occupation feel like a huge step for the walking simulator. It’s not just about watching somebody else’s story unfolding, it’s about creating your own story. Gone Home is a great story, but the player has no influence or control over it whatsoever. Players expect a lot more than that these days. Whether or not Fullbright delivers it looks like we’re have to wait and see.