Fan the Sea is a noncombat, interactive story game, (think Firewatch, Gone Home, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, To The Moon) that uses the tension and uncertainty of lying to invoke contradicting and competing emotions from the player. You play as Isaac, a master spy, who's trying to uncover the secret operation "Fan The Sea" while maintaining his cover. At it's core, Fan the Sea is both a love story and a conversation about authenticity.
As you progress through the game by uncovering secrets through interacting and manipulating those around you, you begin to witness the interconnected effects of how the lies you tell and the choices you make impact the world. The challenge of the game lies in the player being forced to keep his lies straight: remembering and managing what he's said, left unsaid, promised, and behaved all impact the game. Isaac's "Consistency", relationships with the NPC's, and choices determine the ending of the game. How many masks can you wear?
What makes Fan The Sea unique is the "Suspicion" system. The "Suspicion" system works like this: it starts off with every dialogue option and physical action available to the player having a characteristic associated with it. Yes you read that right, every dialogue option and physical action. Embodied is obsessed with story and prioritizes immersion: If Isaac can touch it, you can interact with it. There are four characteristics and their opposite effect, for total of eight, that the player will balance over the course of the game. Each dialogue choice will result in a +1 in whatever category they acted in. Isaac gains +1 "Suspicion" if any of the categories below fall into the red.
The catch is that each character is different, with their own personality, backstory, and judgmental tendencies. The chart above belongs to Harold: an old war vet who's living out his days a farmer. His chart shows us that it's harder to appear wise in his eyes, and that it's pretty easy to annoy him. Be mindful of that!
What one character would consider wise because of life experience and worldview, another would consider stupid because of their experience and worldview. This draws reference from real societies and encounters today, and takes into account generation gaps and different societal and cultural upbringings.
Now before you think: "Ah, why that's easy Josh! That's simply a matter of finding out NPC tendencies and preferences, then going on fetch quests!" I say "Ha! Good luck with that!" The game is intentionally designed to mirror reality. Let's say that you found out that your neighbor has a fat crush on Selena Gomez, yeah? So then you go out and buy them a bunch of paraphernalia. Cool. At first they might appreciate it and you'll get some real life thoughtful (but maybe flirty) points. Yet if you keep it up, that neighbor is definitely going to feel like you're schmoozing them, and begin to wonder why you'd want to schmooze them in the first place.
The world we live in is becoming more cynical every day, and Embodied is dedicated to mirroring reality in Fan The Sea. If you can't see your actions working in real life, don't try it in game. These NPC's are human: you have to truly get to know them and their stories in order for them to trust and open up to you. The purpose of these eight characteristic traits is to effect the NPC's behavior towards you, more than it is to get you "Suspicion" points.
The "Suspicion" meter is the holy grail of indicators. Each NPC's "Suspicion" meter will be unique to them, with different sized zones. What zone you're in determines how they interact with you. If you convey any of the negative four characteristics enough to cross their characteristic threshold, your position on the "Suspicion" meter will rise. Of course, if you exhibit any of the four positive characteristics and cross a threshold, your position on the "Suspicion" meter will go down. For Harold here, you see that it doesn't take much for him to suspect you: just 10 points. By giving "Suspicion" a numerical value, we ensure that the player knows exactly where they're at with each NPC. If Isaac does something inherently suspicious, like avoiding eye contact, giving indirect answers to direct questions, and loitering, he'll get a "Suspicion" point right then and there.
In addition to the NPC's varied "Suspicion" meters, there's a larger "Suspicion" meter that represents the town's view of you as a whole. If the town "Suspicion" meter is completely filled, you lose the game and have to restart from a save point. The town "Suspicion" meter is literally just a summary of all your "Suspicion" points pooled together. Yet be warned: just like real life, some people (NPC's) have more sway and authority than others. If the Captain of the Guard suspects you, it'll carry a lot more weight than if the baker's kid thinks you're the coolest cat in town. If one NPC's "Suspicion" meter is filled to the brim, don't panic! (Not yet, anyway) Just because that one person suspects you doesn't mean it's over: just like in real life, if you're the only person in your group that thinks Jake from Statefarm is an obnoxious pig, but everyone else loves him to death, they're going to dismiss you if you bring it up.
What Isaac really needs to worry about, is if three NPC's acquire max "Suspicion". At which point, they will bring their concerns to the Captain of the Guard, who will hold a special town meeting. During the meeting Isaac is going to have to bank on his other relationships apart from the three that are accusing him, and those others are going to have to defend him. If Isaac can make it out of a town meeting, where the sole purpose of its gathering is to determine his credibility, it's a miracle. These things are tough, but not impossible. But be careful: just having a town meeting raises the entire town's "Suspicion" of you, and damages the few positive relationships you have. Avoid this.
Oh hello there, reader! Thanks for dropping by and reading that wall of text. We at Embodied sincerely thank you for your interest in understanding our game.
We're glad we've kept your interest long enough to keep you scrolling, and hope we've peaked your interest and hyped you up for all that Fan the Sea will be. For details about Embodied's plan to bring this game to life, and more about who makes up Embodied and how you can help us make this game a reality, head over to our kickstarter.
Want to hear what Fan The Sea and Embodied Productions are all about from the developer himself? Check out this interview with Josh Myer's done by Gamerzunite! Fan The Sea is an indie, interactive story, relationship management, lying simulator of a game, and is Embodied Productions debut title.
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