Some of our favorite films feature bomb defusal as a key plot driver, and Shockwave: Land of the Blind is looking to deliver similar thrills in an upcoming video game that combined sim-like bomb mechanics with stealth gameplay. We talked to game director Jamal Bnayat of Bnayat Games to find out more.
What inspired the core gameplay ideas and setting of Shockwave: Land of the Blind?
The biggest overriding inspiration was to create a game that isn’t like other games, we wanted to create a game that hasn’t really been done before with the narrative structure that also utilizes the power of Unreal 5 to drive that sense of realism and storytelling. Sure, there have been games like SWAT, Full Spectrum Warrior and Ready or Not that cover a more intimate look at the military trained specialists but nobody has really tackled Bomb Disposal. In relation to the game’s setting, Syria is where I was born so there’s a very personal connection to the game in that sense, it’s a country often misunderstood with an incredibly rich history of culture and social importance. I felt that the modern perception of Syria tends to overlook that since it’s overshadowed by the current situation.
How are you approaching narrative development for a game like this?
We’re sensitive to the notion that this is unlike a game anyone has done before, and no doubt that comes down to the subject matter, we’re not oblivious that we need to tread carefully with this subject matter but if books and films can exist and contribute as forms of entertainment that cover this subject then so can video games.
Pacing is important for the narrative, we’re connecting the story to a military specialist that has grown weary of the mental and physical challenges of his job as an EOD operator that gets yanked back into it in a way where he doesn’t really have a choice. We’ve got a story with a twist, but present the players with the power to make decisions for themselves as well.
We’ve seen bomb defusal used very effectively in thriller movies, but how do you keep the suspense up and the stakes high in a video game setting?
I think Katherine Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker was fairly instrumental in bringing bomb disposal into a more conscious level of understanding for many people in a cultural sense. There are countless books too, but I think we’re the first to build in the type of narrative we have and that’s really important since we want to bring something that isn’t readily available. With Shockwave: Land of the Blind we’re using the narrative to propel the tension and adventure, we’re being careful not to glorify it too, which we think is also extremely important for a game like this.
What kind of real life knowledge are you using for the bomb defusal mechanics in the game?
Since we’re going for a good deal of realism we felt it was important to understand what the complexities of bomb disposal were, and the challenges that EOD operators face in the day aspects of their role, sometimes under incredibly difficult circumstances. Overall it really opened our eyes that there’s a whole psychological aspect to this kind of warfare between the bombmakers and the guys who defuse them. Our own consultant served in 2 active combat tours in Afghanistan and came across a lot of different types of devices so it was useful for us to appreciate the nuances of this type of warfare. We’ve used a good deal of creative license as it would be irresponsible of us to depict real life devices, but understanding how they were built and what countermeasures are used was very insightful to us. For example, we saw firsthand how water charges are used to minimize damage and how they can disable devices but leave enough evidence afterwards to find out how the device was built and maybe even who made it. What we all think we know about bomb disposal doesn’t even scratch the surface.
How long do you expect a typical playthrough of the game to be?
I think it will be about 20-25 hours although we are looking at mission structure in a way that extends the replayability so that the game is different if you were to play through it again.
What are you currently focusing on at this stage of the development process?
Most of the work is going into the structure of the gameplay, that is to say we’re really focusing on getting to a playable build and ironing out some of the necessary bugs that go with that process. From there we’ll be able to refine the working playable version so that we can see how the narrative, design and gameplay are fitting together.