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After telling stories about shapes then even a teenager, the fella behind Thomas Was Alone and Volume has taken another step up the consciousness scale for his next story with a game about robots. Bithell’s studio today both announced and launched Subsurface Circular [official site], a short text adventure starring a robot detective investigating missing robots. It’s a text-based story-o-puzzler where you gather new words rather than items, an expanded vocabulary opening new opportunities. While it’s all wordy-like, it does have some nice pictures to go along with it. (more…)
Mike Bithell, the brain behind Thomas Was Alone and Volume, says he's working on two new titles but they might mark the end of an era. That's according to a new interview over at MCV, where Bithell surveys his career up until now, roughly six months after the launch of the aforementioned Volume.
Asked what he's working on at present, Bithell mentioned both a small and large project, but didn't offer much in the way of details. I have a smaller project which I think will surprise people by how quickly it comes out, he said. It s something I ve been fiddling with since the end of Volume, so about six months. A little idea a few ideas I ve bashed together, actually.
On the topic of the larger project, Bithell had this to say: there s definitely seismic, massive stuff as well which is super exciting and completely secret, he said. Volume opened some very cool doors. We were already talking to various people about various things but once Volume came out and sold well and reviewed well, a lot of people became interested in working with us.
Still, Bithell said the smaller project might mark the end of his coding career. It s probably the last thing I ll code if everything goes to plan, and that s a horrible thing to say. That s a quote that some smart ass will throw at me in ten years time when I m sat in my shed. You can count on it, Mike.
Of course, not coding doesn't mean "not making games" those "cool doors" Bithell mentions in relation to the larger project could indicate anything. Indeed, it could mean he'll take a more directorial, less hands-on approach on the next major title. Who knows.
Volume was a beautiful, polished stealth-action game, but according to our Tyler it had a few problems. "[Volume has] fun, not-too-hard stealth puzzles that look great, wrapped up in a humdrum story with a boring protagonist."
Volume [official site] is a third-person, sci-fi stealth game, in which you direct a little dude around VR-styled, maze-like levels, dodging guards with wits and with gadgetry, with the aim of grabbing all the loot and getting out again. It’s out now.>
I hope Mike ‘Thomas Was Alone’ Bithell’s new game wasn’t hoping to pre-empt any ‘turn down the…’ gags by hiring a celebrity voice cast, because sadly it wasn’t long before I started muting things. … [visit site to read more]
Originally released in 2012, Thomas Was Alone is, at its core, a puzzle-platformer built around rectangles. It was also quite a good game, "entirely too touching for a platform game about bouncy squares," as we said in our review (via Metacritic), and it actually built up quite a fan base, evidenced by the nearly 5500 positive user reviews (compared to 229 negative) on Steam. And so now, to mark the upcoming three-year anniversary of its release, there are action figures.
No, seriously. Thomas Was Alone action figures: Officially sanctioned, and, as you can see, almost exactly as they appear in the game, except in three dimensions instead of two. "Lovingly handcrafted from the finest materials [plastic], these figures offer the full articulation possible for toys based on the reasonably popular indie game, Thomas Was Alone," the product description states. "The Claire figure even floats. Seriously. That's not a joke. That took time to make work."
Further evidence that this is not a joke (and it's not!) came from Thomas Was Alone creator Mike Bithell himself, who sent us an email saying that it's actually something he's been asked about quite a bit. He also noted that it's a "very limited run" of figures, and while he didn't say how many of the sets have been made, the counter on the Kerry Dyer website indicates that more than a third of them have already sold.
The Thomas Was Alone action figures come together in a set of four that sells for 20/$31. They're not very big—Claire, the blue block, is 3.2 cm tall—and thus should not be given to children to play with because, as the site notes, "they are small cubes of plastic."
It will probably be the only time in my life when I have no responsibilities, didn t owe anyone any money, didn t have staff that I had to worry about. Absolute freedom to do what I want. I wasn t going to use that to make a sequel to a reasonably well-received puzzle-platformer.
I ve asked Volume lead Mike Bithell if he s been worried about over-reaching himself. 2012 s Thomas Was Alone was one of several break-out indie hits around that time a era of Steam that many of today s PC developers are increasingly worried they ve missed the boat on but it was a simple game.
It was, as the man says, a reasonably well-received puzzle-platformer, and it blew up because it was charming and funny, effectively anthropomorphising the textureless, two-dimensional rectangles it starred thanks to well-judged narration and very human writing. Volume, by contrast, is a full-on, 3D stealth game which will ship with around 100 levels, features an array of tricsky sci-fi items, has a full level editor and has hired Andy Serkis to voice its lead villain. Conceptually, it s a huge leap.
When I last spoke to Mike Bithell, we were in the caf at the National Media Museum in Bradford. He had just delivered a talk about his upcoming Virtual Robin Hood game, Volume, but we found time to discuss Thomas Was Alone as well. Bithell said – and I agree – “I thought I was writing a competent story with an amazing platform game. It turned out it was the other way around!” Presumably, the previously Playstation-only prequel episode, now available on Windows and Mac (Linux build soon), elevates plot over platforming. A cursory examination reveals a possible interpretation of the Icarus myth, with an AI in place of daddy Daedalus and a jetpack in place of waxy wings.