Hello all! We at The Imaginarium are delighted to finally bring Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier to Xbox One. If you don’t know much about the game, it’s a cinematic narrative adventure based in the same universe as the recent film trilogy, but not the same story arc. For the game to be unpredictable we needed a completely new cast of characters with their own stories to tell. Whilst the ape group are part of the original San Francisco tribe, the events of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” have necessitated this tribe to move away, several hundred miles into the Rocky Mountains.
When The Imaginarium set up its games publishing arm, its ethos applied to games was the same one used in the TV and Film arms: storytelling is key. Rich, compelling narrative is at the center of everything we do, and with our Co-Founder Andy Serkis, being such a major part of the new era of Planet of the Apes, it seemed a perfect, and ambitious fit for our first title. Andy worked with the developer on proof of concept work combining his astonishing performance capture knowledge and the underlying tech of UE4, to convince Fox Next Games that this wasn’t just going to be a completely interchangeable narrative choice-based game, but that this was going to be fully cinematic adventure and include some bold gameplay mechanic decisions.
First, our game tells the same story from both sides of the conflict, which means that you play as both Apes and Humans, seeing the same story unfold from two perspectives. Furthermore, that’s not an either/or choice, this goes back to the cinematic element of the game, one playthrough switches between the apes and the human’s perspectives. Next was the core mechanic. With many games of this style, the player has up to four responses during dialogue, but in reality, only one or two make the impactful decision that moves things forward, so we opted for binary decision making. Shades of grey dialogue choices are fine, but when you want your game to feel cinematic, the reduction to two choices means that the game, and as such the story, flows more seamlessly.
Similarly with timed action events, we wanted it to flow and we wanted no choice to be as impactful as making one, so, for example, a fight might take place and you are given the choice to pick up a weapon, but in doing so your adversary moves to attack first, whereas sitting on your hands for two seconds means you can block them and counter-attack in one action (or inaction). Then there’s local multiplayer, a concept which seems counter to these sorts of games, but it promotes debate during the game, especially when you have an even number of players and the decision is deadlocked. Again, if you have a strong compelling story with believable characters, it makes you pause and think about your decision and even get into a discussion with those you are playing with as to what the best course of action might be.
When we planned the launch of the game, we had a plan of hitting all platforms simultaneously. Time and logistics can quickly make fools of us all and as such, we split the launches. The upshot of this has been the longer development schedule has afforded us time to apply the feedback and reactions to make enhancements to the Xbox One version, obviously, a bunch of these are technical and polish, but we also made specific improvements around the console’s functionality. One of the key enhancements made for Xbox One is player engagement, which previously, the community felt it was not apparent enough in the feedback they received, it was a challenge to the development team to come up with elegant solutions to the problem for Xbox One.
The intention from the start has always been to avoid duplicating what Telltale had done in displaying an obvious “XXX will remember that” type of message, and so we came up with solution which would now lock out certain conversational decision points to a fixed response, based on both your current relationship with that character and the choice you had made. This meant that your subsequent automated response would be obviously positive or negative depending on the relationship. This makes it clearer to the player how that relationship is panning out. Obviously where a relationship is more neutral, the player choice would still be a manual one.
The second thing we did to improve this is the addition of relationship screens at the end of the main chapters (Chapters 1-4), these show the state of the relationships between you and the other principle characters. It displays one five states (Great, Good, Okay, Poor, Awful) and the change positively or negatively from the last chapter. It’s a small thing, but when every single conversational decision made impacts on relationships in a micro to macro level, portraying the reaction to your choice at every occurrence would make the game feel like you’re directing one of those person-reacts-to-thing videos.
Talking of videos, since its initial arrival, Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier has had a healthy streaming community, with hobbyists, influencers, reward hunters, and reviewers all playing a part on various streaming platforms. The arrival on Xbox One brings Mixer support, too; however, unlike the other platforms, Mixer support will feature interactive community voting, so streamers can engage with their audience and let them help steer the story by voting on the choices you should make. It’s similar in some ways to the local multiplayer, but instead of four people on sofas in one room, it’s everyone on their sofas everywhere. We have our own channel (mixer.com/Imaginarium_UK) which we will be planning to stream voting sessions, playthrough and other interesting sessions periodically from launch, we’d love you to join myself and Head of Games Gina Jackson and be part of our community. We’re excited to see how the everybody responds to it
Last, but by no means least, we added to the achievement implementation with the inclusion of the hero stats, but I don’t want to give much away about them, otherwise there’ll be nothing for you to discover.
We’re so happy with the response of the Xbox community to the game’s forthcoming launch, they are a very patient bunch of people and we hope you enjoy Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier.