Overview

The story of The Old City is philosophically founded and is absolutely the focus of the entire game. Everything else is secondary (see the section below). Above all, the story is about choice. Set in a decaying city from a civilization long past, The Old City puts the player in the shoes of a sewer dwelling isolationist. You progress through the game by simply exploring the environment, and, while the initial stretch of the game is a linear string of semi-open levels, the later game divides into various pathways that all communicate something entirely different about the world and the story. The story itself is told via the musings of your character (in relation to where you are or what pathways you've chosen) and, chiefly, the environment itself.

There are no weapons, no items, and no skill-trees. All that exists is you and the world. You will make choices simply by the pathways (which will be described in detail to you whilst ingame) you choose to walk down, and each of said pathways is independent of the other. You will not loop around to another pathway or go through other pathways for the duration of that playthrough. Thus, to understand the game fully, you will need to play through it multiple times to explore all the other avenues that exist.


The Old City - Trailer - Indie DB

Goals

The Old City is an interactive story that attempts to deal with existentialist themes in a way that is typically neglected in the medium. Generally, and especially within the context of “indie” projects, the overall objective is to maximize the originality and complexity of gameplay and to minimize reliance on cinematic appeals or aesthetics. This is in response to what a lot of people refer to as “shallow” titles. There is (in our opinion) a well deserved frustration with titles that have little to no plot value and somewhat disappointing gameplay. However, this frustration is often translated into an undue neglect for aesthetics and story. A common phrase used in this context is “gameplay first.” The assumption is that anything other than the gameplay mechanics themselves is secondary and even unnecessary.

We would like to challenge this assumption.

Our basic goal with this game is two-fold. First, we want to deliver a meaningful and philosophical message using what is currently the best combination of media available (i.e, a game). Second, we want to take the elements of what make this medium great and highlight those that are often ignored. That is to say, while interactivity is generally praised over visual, audio, and conceptual aesthetics, we plan to minimize interactive complexity (gameplay) and maximize aesthetics to prove this point: any part of what makes a game a game can be the focus, as long as that element is of substantial quality, and as long as the other elements that support it are not nonexistent, but rather are just what they need to be to help the highlighted element stand out further. Thus, for our game, gameplay is simply a vessel that helps users immerse themselves in the world. It is not the focus. Story is our focus here.

This does bring into question the usage of the word “game.” If we do not subscribe to the literal definition of the word, then it is sufficed to say that the word means something different than it did twenty or so years ago. “Game” now describes a genre of media. It is essentially synonymous with “interactive media.” However, if you insist on adhering to the literal definition of the word, then we would suggest that the “object” of the game is to understand the world. This world is not presented to you in a linear and digestible format. You will need to process it. You'll need to play through the game over and over taking different pathways and discovering different parts of the environment to understand what is going on. So, in that sense, you are a player whose task is to understand.