Monday, April 21, 2014

PAX East 2014: FRACT OSC (Phosfiend Systems)

Spring has arrived, and with that, another PAX East has sprung up, inviting gamers and game developers from all over the world to Boston, all to show upcoming games and revel in what the industry has in store.  We at Third Rate Minion were there, and we got to try out a sampling of what was there on the showfloor!

Interview with Henk Boom:

Showfloor Gameplay:


In the Indie Megabooth, developer Phosfiend Systems was present to demonstrate their upcoming release, FRACT OSC, a music-based first-person adventure.  At the showfloor, we got to interview programmer Henk on the game as well a take a trip into the game itself.  From what I have played, this game is going to be an atmospheric overload, and I mean that in a good way.

FRACT OSC takes place in a forgotten world, and as a traveler to this unique world, you must travel around the land and try to discover how the world functions and what happened to it long ago.  You begin with no knowledge as to what is happening, and over the course of the game, you learn how the ancient technology works and, through that, how to create music within the world.
I played through the introductory sections of the game, and I must say, this game overflows in its own style.  The game begins by throwing the player straight into the world with a barrage of heavy bass sounds and deep synths, and but as soon as you land, the music ends, leaving a hushed echo of the last note and the emptiness of the world before you.  The world is rich in colors and yet seems desolate and cold.  Technology was modeled with seemingly basic geometry, fitting into the geometric tone of music played around the game.  All the while, the world is basked in a coating of light that emanates from lasers and musical apparatuses that appear to do nothing, at least until I got my hands on them.
Interaction is as important to FRACT as exploration is.  Upon clicking a button or a trigger on the controller, you enter an interaction mode of sorts, and the machinery around you glows with the need for use.  In my playthrough, I saw a number of dials hanging on a wall, and as I switched to this edit mode, I could see and manipulate the dials, changing the trajectory of electrical beams.  These beams, when manipulated right, would hit generators to open the doorway before me, and at the same time, a steady rhythm and melody began to emerge.  I suspect that this game will continue to act as a conduit for musical generation, with puzzles acting as the tool to create those melodies.  
As you unlock more instruments and pads over the course of the game, the instruments become available in the Studio Mode outside the adventure.  In Studio Mode, you can use these instruments and the tools you’ve learned over the course of the game to modify and design your own songs through a series of sequencers, equalizers, and other in-game machines.  If there is a song you particularly like, you can even export the data and music files to your computer or straight to YouTube, as Henk described.  Unfortunately, I did not have time to experience this mode, but I have suspicions that it will be a very in-depth experience, especially if these tools were also used in the game’s puzzles.
Of course, the audio of such a game is paramount to the quality of the end product, and from my short experience, it is nothing to worry about for Phosfiend.  The world is full of a cool ambiance, and the hum of instruments further punctuates the emptiness of the world around you.  The abandoned technology blips and whirrs with an intense level of bass which adds to the ominous yet chilled design of the world.  In the demo, platforms emerged with a sudden chirp, and a particular elevator moved upward in a crescendo of tones.  Needless to say, I’m sorry the gameplay video’s audio was distorted a bit; this is definitely a game for the ears as much as it is for the eyes!
FRACT OSC has been a long-time coming.  The game started with Richard Flanagan as a game submission in 2011’s Independent Games Festival, and after it won Best Student Game, Flanagan went on to see it progress to a full commercial release with his wife and a small development team.  In those three years since, the game has expanded its scope greatly, and with the help of the Indie Fund, the game has now seen the end of its development.
FRACT OSC releases on Steam, GOG, and Humble Store on April 22nd (tomorrow!) as well as its official soundtrack by Mogi Grumbles.  For more information on the game, go to 

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