Game Name: The Desperate Mile
Interview with: Simon Harrison and Dayle Keiron
Current version: Pre-alpha
Intended Release Date: Q4 2016
Intended release platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Nineslice. No, it’s not the name of a novelty pizza. And running The Desperate Mile isn’t a descriptor for the act of acquiring said pizza just before the store closes. Nineslice is an up and coming game development team comprised of three second-year students at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment- Simon Harrison, Dayle Kieron and Alexander Ferguson- and The Desperate Mile is slated to be their first large scale commercial product.
The Desperate Mile caught my eye at the homegrown gaming section of EB Expo this year, so I caught up with two of the creators (Simon Harrison and Dayle Kieron) in an attempt to understand the game, where it came from and what it will become.
“The Desperate Mile is a top down, 2 dimensional game with survival horror inspirations,” explains Harrison. “Picture Hotline Miami but reimagined as a brooding supernatural thriller.”
“Players take on the role of Irving Jackson, a stranger in a small town in the American Southwest. He rolls into town and on his first evening within the town, a grizzly murder occurs and he is fingered for the crime. The player has 7 days in order to clear their name or they will find themselves at the end of lynch mob justice,” continues Kieron.
“We’re aiming for a 12-hour experience. The game will feature a mandatory story path but also some ancillary side content. Players who want to experience the depth of the world, get to know the people who inhabit it and understand exactly what is going on will find a lot of material they can explore but those who really just wish to play the game for its combat and reach the end can just play through the core story.”
The game sounds impressive and explaining it seems like a fairly easy task for the pair, until I press for a genre. “We call it survival/horror, but then people get angry at us because we have checkpoints,” says Kieron. “We call it an RPG because of the different narrative paths, but then people expect quests and skill trees. Really, this game has its finger in many pies.” They settle on calling it an action/adventure title.
What immediately drew me to The Desperate Mile were the 2 dimensional, film noir-inspired graphics that are reminiscent of the Walking Dead comics. There is certain finesse about the graphics that you wouldn’t usually associate with horror titles, and what I can only describe as refreshingly mature. I’d even argue that it is almost on par with popular titles like The Long Dark and Shelter in terms of aesthetics.
However, the gameplay sustained my interest. There is a measured pace to this game which serves to create a realistic feel. For example, when using the gun, a button must be pressed to reload every individual bullet, and it takes time for the aiming arc to accurately lock on to a target. I appreciate these aspects for the sense of anxiety they elicit and the level of skill they encourage (button mashing is not rewarded). Harrison notes, “we wanted to create a top-down game, controlled a bit like a dual joystick shooter, but where a lot of those games were really frantic and fast-paced and action heavy it was fun to do something a little more subversive, more methodical and slow. That’s sort of the first touchstone we had to survival horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. A lot of the tonal stuff just came out of that.”
There are other features of the gameplay and design that are appealing, such as the weapon toggle system (similar to that employed in the Ratchet and Clank games), and the fact that the tutorial hints and tips are built into the environment (thus not impeding view, acting as a distraction or changing the pace of the game).
Ultimately, even though it is currently in pre-alpha, this is a very attractive looking game with some great design features. It is surprisingly well put together for a first effort. Harrison gives some insight as to why- “The three of us have a very similar work ethic but also our skill set is really nicely divided. All three of us are design students so we all have a pretty good core game design knowledge but Dale is very familiar with Playmaker (a means of scripting inside of unity, the game engine we are using), Alex is a fantastic 2D artist, and I have a background in audio production. We have a really nice even skill set between the three of us.”
The mind boggles when you realise this team has only been together for one year! I’d recommend you keep your eye out for The Desperate Mile (to be released Q4 2016) and more titles from Nineslice in the future.