Many great games are inspired by their developer’s own real life experiences. Miyamoto famously drew on his experiences of hiking around the Kyoto countryside to conjure up a sense of exploration and wonder in The Legend of Zelda. Nina Freeman wrote Cibele as a reflection on her own first romantic relationship developed online. Even Will Wright found satisfaction in rebuilding his home after the Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm of 1991, inspiring his creation of The Sims franchise. But not all memories, as we know, are good ones.
Foreclosed, a game about a man robbed of his identity in a dystopian cyberpunk future, is also inspired by a real life event that its Antab Studio co-founders Lara Gianotti and Andrea Tabacco went through together, and though neither are eager to share the full details of what happened, it doesn’t sound like a particularly envious experience.
“It gave us the opportunity to think about the relationship between the legal identity of a person and the actual identity of the same person,” explains Gianotti, “because legal identity is like an artefact in a sort of way, but it actually defines you inside the society. So it’s of premium importance, but of course, you are not the bunch of data and numbers that bureaucracy uses to describe you. And at the time, we actually had to face these problems in person.”
But every cloud, as they say, has its silver linings. In this case, that silver lining was the basis for Antab Studio’s first new IP since 2011’s Gridd, with the studio galvanised by its unexpected life event to explore those themes of identity politics and bureaucratic obstinate in a cyberpunk setting.
Players in Foreclosed will take on the unfortunate role of Evan Kapnos, who is forced to flee the only life he knows after his rights and liberties are stripped away without warning. The third-person shooter draws liberally from games such as Max Payne and Deus Ex, but take one look at a single screenshot, and it’s also clear that the world of comic books are an equally formative inspiration driving Foreclosed’s structure and style.
“We often have many comic panels at the same time on screen, and you will be able to perform different actions or experience different gameplay styles depending on where the camera is. Basically, the comic book style is completely connected to the game we are making – it felt absolutely necessary,” Tabacco explains.
“We have something to say with this game,” continues Gianotti. “The story is important. So we choose comic books, because we think it offers a very interesting way to tell your stories. So it felt like a very natural choice for this game.”
To make his escape, Evan will have to fight through anyone who gets in his way, and is more than capable of doing so via an arsenal of high-tech, modifiable firearms and skill-tree based “Firmware Upgrades” that allow him to perform God-like abilities, such as telekinesis. Though Foreclosed won’t be all-action (much of the gameplay revolves around its narrative), its third-person shooting promises fast-paced, futuristic gunplay augmented with plenty of cyberpunk twists.
The game isn’t launching until 2021, meaning it’ll arrive to a landscape that has finally experienced the genre behemoth that is CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077. Foreclosed will hopefully prove an even more attractive option for those who are still feeling the cyberpunk buzz after their extended stay in Night City, then, but Tabacco believes the genre’s appeal to both creators and consumers alike goes well beyond the current zeitgeist of 2077 hype.
“Sometimes it feels like you can throw a concept into a cyberpunk environment, and just see what happens,” he tells me. “You can imagine society with this restriction or that new technology, and explore how humanity reacts to something. And since cyberpunk is exaggerated, you can also indulge the fantasy elements that many of us enjoy. When we talk about the bureaucratic paradox, identity and other concepts in Foreclosed, of course we are exaggerating, but everything in cyberpunk is based on something we are already facing as a society.”
In addition to launching on PC, PS4, and Xbox One, Antab Studios also plans to bring Foreclosed to the PS5 and Xbox Series X. While the team isn’t utilising any new features like the PS5’s haptic feedback or Xbox’s Dolby Atmos Audio, it’s the consoles’ high-powered SSDs, and the promise of little to no loading times, that offers real potential for fulfilling Foreclosed’s ultra-stylised vision.
“Our comic book style, and the use of multiple panels means we move the player from one situation to another quite quickly,” says Gianotti. “We often introduce a new comic panel or make something happen in another one, for instance. So having this very flexibility on processing power is actually helping us to achieve this stylistic result without being hampered technically.”
As you’d probably guess, my conversation with Antab Studios takes place over Zoom, given the nature of well… 2020. Before we log off the call, I wonder whether the team ever looks at the morning news headlines, and finds ample inspiration for enriching Foreclosed’s vision of the future.
“I do sometimes look at the world and think ‘Oh, we’re pretty close!'” jokes Gianotti. “But I think another important aspect with addressing controversial topics, when those topics are pretty real, is that actually, you can start to see them from a different point of view.”
“So in our case, our topics are pretty serious. But in all the challenges that Evan has to face, he actually finds the strength inside himself to take control of his own life, to change things that he doesn’t like. So in the end, life can be tough, but there’s always a way to transform a challenge into something good for yourself.”