Simulacra: Will the real owner of this phone please stand up?
By Chong Jinn Xiung January 4, 2018
- Builds upon earlier demo Sarah Is Missing to deliver a mystery/ horror game with a unique twist
- Design of the game takes into account YouTube in bid for viral marketing push
SMARTPHONES have become such an integral part of our lives that they almost have become digital extensions of ourselves. With that premise in mind, Simulacra is a game on mobile and Steam for PC, that poses the question: What would you do if you found the smartphone of a missing person?
If the concept sounds vaguely familiar that’s because the game was developed by Malaysian indie studio Kaigan Games, the same minds behind the game Sarah Is Missing (SIM). Released on Android and iOS devices, SIM was a free demo that the team experimented with and that eventually formed the DNA of Simulacra.
The team of six at Kaigan certainly has outdone itself as Simulacra bagged two categories in Level Up KL 2017’s SEA Games Award for Best Storytelling and Best Innovation. The game has also gained recognition on Google Play as a featured game and has received critical acclaim by online mobile gaming media.
In an interview with Digital News Asia, Kaigan Games’ lead game designer Jeremy Ooi (pic, above) explained how Simulacra took inspiration from classic point-and-click adventure games and found footage videos.
The main difference between Simulacra and SIM, apart from the former being a paid game, is there are a lot more things to do within Simulacra with more “apps” to play with. These apps mirror real life apps with everything from social media, vlogging, a web browser and even a dating app.
Ooi explained how the game broke many conventional designs by offering a very immersive experience of being inside Anna’s phone that some people forget that they are actually playing a game.
This was intentionally done as Kaigan Games needed to create a unique game no one has seen before in order to stand out in the market.
Embarking on a unique new genre is indeed risky, admitted Ooi, so the team decided to test the waters first with SIM which has a similar premise but is smaller in scale. Once they were sure that gamers were accepting of the concept, only then did they proceed in producing the full game that would eventually become Simulacra.
A veteran of the games industry Ooi said the team decided to take a different approach to marketing the game. Interestingly, they decided to play towards the fancy of the YouTube generation by making the game very playable for YouTubers.
As most YouTubers love to play horror games, Kaigan Games changed the tone of the game from mystery thriller to horror, a step that wasn’t too hard given the similarities of the genres.
“YouTubers who game, typically need to find a game that is interesting, especially during Halloween. With that in mind, we had to design a game that breaks the conventional rule of thumb, making it something YouTubers and even normal players can interact with and react to,” explained Ooi.
That unorthodox approach helped elevate the game’s status prior to its launch and it worked. With multiple endings to uncover and a plan to add more content, it looks like gamers are going to have to keep coming back to uncover the mystery surrounding Anna’s phone.