Fantasy Game Uses Real-Life Mind Control
Stillalive studios' Julian Mautner demonstrates a hands-free terraforming spell in "Son of Nor" with the Emotiv EPOC.
CREDIT: stillalive studios
What does an indie video game developer have to do to get noticed on Kickstarter? That's the question that stillalive studios, a small Austria-based team of game developers, are trying to figure out.
Its game "Son of Nor" looks pretty sharp, with its desert fantasy aesthetic and a game mechanic that revolves around terraforming, or altering the environment. But stillalive studios added another feature, one that it hopes will bring the attention it needs to fund the game: mind control.
The game itself, built using the Unity game engine, is a combination of third-person combat and puzzles in the fantasy desert world of Noshrac. A main component of play revolves around manipulating the surrounding environment — using "telekenesis" to throw rocks, casting fire magic on sand to turn it into glass and using terraforming magic to create sinkholes and mountains out of the sand.
Using the Emotiv EPOC, a headset that monitors electrical signals in the brain, players can perform attacks and other moves within the game by raising their eyebrows, gritting their teeth or merely thinking.
Throughout the course of the game these in-game actions are calibrated to a type of thought pattern triggered by the player that is sensed through the Emotiv. So, when the player thinks that thought again, the Emotiv can recognize it and translate it to the specified in-game move. [See also: 'Beyond: Two Souls' Video Game Challenges Screen Actors]
Adding the "mind control" feature didn't actually take that long, stillalive said. Emotiv provides tools that let developers create apps to work with the Emotiv hardware. So mapping the functionality in "Son of Nor" to the Emotiv EPOC's scanning abilities was relatively straightforward.
Despite this, there are very few games that use Emotiv or similar hardware, such as the Mindwave Mobile, for hands-free gaming. So when "Son of Nor" appeared on Kickstarter, many people thought that the mind control aspect was a scam.
In response, stillalive's founder and lead programmer Julian Mautner released a proof-of-concept video in which he demonstrated casting a fire spell and terraforming the desert environment, both basic components of the game's mechanics, using only the Emotiv EPOC.
The Emotiv EPOC is not necessary to play the game, however.
"Basically, what we are trying to do is provide an additional immersive experience to the player, and maybe build up our name to be associated with Emotiv and other brain-computer interfaces," Mautner told TechNewsDaily.
TechNewsDaily wasn't able to try out the Emotiv EPOC device with the game because we didn't have the device in the office, but we did play a build using just the mouse and keyboard controls. You can check out more screenshots and contribute to the Kickstarter campaign at this link.
Mautner added that he had hoped the use of the Emotiv would bring "Son of Nor" more attention and by extension more Kickstarter funds, but so far, it hasn't worked out as well as he'd like. [See also: How Kickstarter Created a New Generation of Gaming]
"Son of Nor" is currently reaching the end of its Kickstarter campaign; with three days to go, they've only raised about two thirds of its $150,000 fundraising goal.
In comparison, Red Thread Games, a well-established video game studio whose previous titles "Dreamfall" and "The Longest Journey" are considered indie classics, recently finished a Kickstarter campaign for its sequel "Dreamfall Chapters." Its original goal was $850,000 — and it ended up with more than $1.5 million.
A new studio like stillalive has little chance of seeing similar numbers.