Inside (video game)

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Inside
INSIDE Xbox One cover art.png
Developer(s) Playdead
Publisher(s) Playdead
Director(s) Arnt Jensen
Producer(s)
  • Dino Christian Patti
  • Mads Wibroe
  • Forest Swartout Large
Designer(s) Jeppe Carlsen
Programmer(s)
  • Mikkel Svendsen
  • Mikkel Gjøl
  • Thomas Krog
  • Lasse Jon Fuglsang Pedersen
  • Søren T. Madsen
Artist(s)
  • Morten C. Bramsen
  • Jeremy Petreman
  • Marek Bogdan
Writer(s) Laurids Binderup
Composer(s)
Engine Unity
Platform(s)
Release
  • Xbox One
  • June 29, 2016
  • Microsoft Windows
  • July 7, 2016
  • PlayStation 4
  • August 23, 2016
  • iOS
  • December 15, 2017
  • Nintendo Switch
  • June 28, 2018
Genre(s)
Mode(s) Single-player

Inside (stylized as INSIDE) is a puzzle-platformer adventure game developed and published by Playdead in 2016 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows. The game was released for iOS in December 2017. The player controls a boy in a dystopic world, solving environmental puzzles and avoiding death. It is the spiritual successor to Playdead's 2010 game Limbo, and features similar 2.5D gameplay.

Playdead began work on Inside shortly after the release of Limbo, using Limbo's custom game engine. The team switched to Unity to simplify development, adding their own rendering routines, later released as open source, to create a signature look. The game was partially funded by a grant from the Danish Film Institute.

Inside premiered at Microsoft's E3 2014 conference, with a planned release in 2015. The game was released for Xbox One on June 29, 2016, Microsoft Windows on July 7, PlayStation 4 on August 23, for iOS and Apple TV on December 15, 2017 and for Nintendo Switch on June 28, 2018.

Gameplay[edit]

Inside is a puzzle platformer. The player character is an unnamed boy who explores a surreal environment presented as a monochromatic 2.5D platform game. The game is dark, with color used sparingly to highlight parts of the environment, and mostly silent, with occasional musical cues. The player controls the boy who walks, runs, swims, climbs, and uses objects to overcome obstacles and progress in the game.[1] The boy gains the ability to control bodies to complete certain puzzles, a mechanic that IGN's Marty Sliva compared to a similar mechanic in The Swapper.[2] At various points in the game, the player may discover hidden rooms containing glowing orbs. If all the orbs are deactivated during a playthrough, the player unlocks the game's alternate ending.[3]

The boy can die in various ways, such as being shot with a tranquilizer dart, mauled by dogs, ensnared by security machines, blown apart by shockwaves, or drowning. As in the predecessor game Limbo, these deaths are presented realistically and are often graphic. If the character dies, the game continues from the most recent checkpoint.[2]

Plot[edit]

A boy slides down a rocky incline. While running through a forest, he encounters masked guards with flashlights, as well as vehicles with mounted spotlights, and fierce guard dogs. He escapes the guards, then crosses a road where a block has been set up with more vehicles and guards, to a farm where parasitic worms cause pigs to run rampant. The boy uses the farm animals and equipment to escape to a seemingly-abandoned city where lines of zombie-like people are moved through mind control. Beyond the city is a large factory of flooded rooms, a shock wave atrium, and a laboratory environment where scientists perform underwater experiments on bodies.[4]

While traversing these areas, the boy uses a mind-control helmet to control lifeless grey bodies. The boy eventually comes across an underwater siren-like creature that attaches a device to him, allowing him to breathe underwater.

Continuing through the office and laboratories, the boy sees scientists observing a large spherical chamber. The boy enters the chamber and discovers a large blob-like creature, the Huddle,[5] made of humanoid limbs connected to four control rods. After disconnecting the rods, the boy is pulled into the Huddle.[4]

The Huddle escapes confinement, crashing through offices, killing some of the scientists in its path. The scientists trap the Huddle in another tank, but the Huddle escapes again and breaks through a wooden wall. It rolls down a forest hill and comes to a stop at a grassy coastline bathed in light.

Alternate ending[edit]

If the player deactivated the hidden light orbs in the various bunkers, the boy returns to one of the bunkers and gains access to a new area. He reaches an area that includes a bank of computers and one of the mind-control helmets, powered by a nearby socket. The boy pulls the plug from the socket, upon which the character takes the same stance as the zombies, and the game ends moments later.[6]

Theories[edit]

Journalists and players have offered several different theories about the game's main ending (the freeing of the Huddle) and the alternative ending.

One theory speculates that the boy is controlled by the Huddle throughout most of the game, leading him to help free the Huddle from containment.[7] As described by Jeffrey Matulef of Eurogamer, the game impresses that the Huddle has a magnetic-like draw that leads the boy to endanger himself and unquestioningly enter the tank where the Huddle is kept so as to free it.[6] Kotaku's Patrick Klepek noted that players speculated on theory that taking the alternate ending is working contrary to the Huddle's goal, and the act of unplugging the computers is to release the Huddle's control on the boy.[8] A similar theory has the boy being controlled by one or more of the scientists, evidenced by how some of the scientists appear to aid the Huddle in escaping the facility. In this theory, the scientists put the boy through many dangers to gain strength and intelligence, so that these qualities can be absorbed by the Huddle when the boy frees it, improving the creature in a desirable manner for these scientists.[6]

A more metafiction interpretation of the game from its alternate ending, and considered the most popular among players according to Klepek,[8] is based on the notion of player agency. Matulef summarizes this theory as "the boy is being controlled by a renegade force represented by the player".[6] The act of pulling the plug in the final area is similar to the concept of The Matrix, as described by PC Gamer's Tim Clark.[9] Matulef explains that the location of the alternate ending is only known to the player with knowledge of the main ending and not to the Huddle or the scientists. With knowledge of the game's true ending, achieving the alternate ending is to reach a conclusion to the game that "ostensibly puts an end to the boy, the blob, and any inhumane experiments being conducted".[6]

Development[edit]

Playdead released the monochromatic Limbo in July 2010,[10] which was critically praised and sold over one million units.[11] Within a few months of its release, Playdead began development on their second game under the working title "Project 2".[12][13][14][15] As a spiritual successor to Limbo,[16][17][18] Inside reclaimed assets from Limbo's development.[11] Playdead said that the two games were similar, though Inside is more "crazy", "weird", and 3D.[13] The Danish Film Institute provided one million dollars in funding towards the game.[19]

While Playdead had built a custom game engine for Limbo, they chose Unity to reduce their workload.[11][20] The developers created a temporal anti-aliasing filter for the engine, entitled "temporal reprojection", to create a signature look for Inside. In March 2016, Playdead released the source code under an open source license.[21]

2010 concept art of the Huddle by Morten Bramsen. The art helped animate the Huddle and drive Inside's art direction.

The Huddle, the amalgam of body parts that the player controls at the end of the game, had been an idea for the game since 2010, when animator Andreas Normand Grøntved had been brought aboard Playdead to do preliminary animations for it based on a drawing by artist Morten Bramsen.[22] Bramsen's drawing of the Huddle served to guide much of the visual nature and art style for the rest of the game.[22] To animate it, Grøntved took inspiration of the motion of Nago the demon form of the boar god from Princess Mononoke, the squishiness of the main character of the game Gish, and human behavior during crowd surfing.[22] Grøntved developed initial animations using what he called the Huddle Potato that simplified the geometries to demonstrate how the being would move and interact with the environment.[22] Whereas most of the other game animations were based on a combination of pre-set skeletal movements along with the physics engine, the Huddle had to be animated nearly entirely by a custom physics model developed by Thomas Krog, and implemented by Lasse Jon Fulgsang Pedersen, Søren Trautner Madsen, and Mikkel Bøgeskov Svendsen. This model uses a 26-body simulation of the core of the Huddle, driven by a network of impulses based on the direction of the player and the local environment, which allowed the Huddle to reconfigure itself as it needed in certain situations, such as fitting into tight spaces.[22] They then added six arms and six legs with some pre-set animations that would also help to drive the impulse in the main body simulation.[22] The skin of the huddle was a mix of art styles borrowed from the sculptures of John Isaacs, and the art of Jenny Saville and Rembrandt.[22] The vocals and bodysounds were performed by the renowned Danish-Austrian performance group SIGNA. [23]

Microsoft announced Inside during its E3 2014 press conference.[10] Prior to this, the game had been planned for release on non-Microsoft platforms, including the PlayStation 3 and OS X.[11] Playdead had purposely waited four years so as to give little time between the announce event and the launch.[13] IGN's Ryan McCaffrey wrote that the announcement was a sign of Microsoft's commitment to indie game development[24] and said it was his biggest surprise of the year.[25] The developer later delayed the game from its expected early 2015 release for further refinement of the game, but provided no expected launch window.[12][26] A playable demo was prepared for an August 2015 Microsoft event before PAX Prime.[27] With the delay, Playdead only planned for initial release on the Xbox One and Microsoft Windows,[10] but had expressed interest in other consoles in the future.[13]

Playdead announced Inside's release dates during E3 2016, and as a limited-time promotion, let players download Limbo for free in advance of the title's release. Inside was released for Xbox One on 29 June 2016, and for Windows via on 7 July.[28] Ports for other platforms followed: the PlayStation 4 version was released on 23 August, [29][30] the iOS version on December 15, 2017,[31][32] and the Nintendo Switch version on June 28, 2018 alongside the release of Limbo.[33] 505 Games published Inside and Limbo as a dual-game retail package for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, which was released in September 2017.[34]

Music[edit]

Martin Stig Andersen, with SØS Gunver Ryberg, composed and designed Inside's soundtrack, returning from Limbo. Andersen was inspired by 1980s B horror films, often using synthesizers, but did not want to compose an actual soundtrack. Instead, he created the music by routing sound through a human skull and recording the result, a "bone-conducting sound" that created a "sombre, chill quality" that often complements Inside's visuals.[35]

Inside has tighter integration of the gameplay and audio, with some puzzles set directly to visual-musical cues. This required Andersen to work more closely with the gameplay developers than he had in Limbo. This enabled additional visual elements tied to the audio; Andersen noted that the boy's chest movements related to breathing are tied to the sound effects he created for his breathing, which themselves are influenced by where the character is in the game, with differences being calm and panicked emotions depending on location.[35] Andersen suggested the design team on the game's overall structure and pacing to provide scenes where the music builds up atmospheric tension.[35]

The soundtrack is still unavailable to purchase.

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate score
AggregatorScore
Metacritic(PC) 87/100[36]
(PS4) 91/100[37]
(XONE) 93/100[38]
Review scores
PublicationScore
Destructoid9.5/10[39]
Edge9/10 [40]
EGM9.5/10[41]
Game Informer9.75/10[42]
Game Revolution4.5/5 stars[43]
GameSpot8/10[44]
GamesRadar+4.5/5 stars[45]
Giant Bomb5/5 stars[46]
IGN10/10[47]
PC Gamer (US)76/100[48]
Polygon9.5/10[49]
VideoGamer.com10/10[50]
TouchArcade4/5 stars[51]

Inside received universal acclaim, according to video game review aggregator Metacritic.[36][37][38] Critics favorably compared the title as a worthy successor to Limbo.[52][53][54][55] The game was one of Polygon and IGN's most anticipated 2016 releases.[56][57] From previewing the game at E3 2016, IGN's Marty Sliva considered the title to be "Super Limbo", polishing and improving from Playdead's first game into the new title in the same manner that Nintendo had done for its previous games in bringing them to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.[2] Kirk Hamilton of Kotaku called the game an "evolution" on what Playdead has succeeded to do with Limbo.[58] Jaz Rignall of USgamer previewed Inside and wrote that it was one of the best puzzle platformers he has played, even better than its predecessor.[59]

Accolades[edit]

The game won the awards for "Golden Cube" and Best Desktop/Console Game" at the Unity Awards 2016, and it also won the award for "Best-Looking Game" at the Giant Bomb 2016 Game of the Year Awards, whereas its other nomination was for "Best Moment or Sequence".[60][61] At The Edge Awards 2016, the game came in second place each for "Best Visual Design", "Best Storytelling" and "Studio of the Year", and it came in third place for "Game of the Year", while it won the award for "Best Audio Design".[62]

Year Award Category Result Ref
2016 Game Critics Awards 2016 Best Independent Game Won [63]
Golden Joystick Awards 2016 Best Original Game Nominated [64][65]
Best Visual Design Nominated
Best Audio Nominated
Best Indie Game Nominated
Best Gaming Moment (The Ending) Nominated
Game of the Year Nominated
Xbox Game of the Year Nominated
The Game Awards 2016 Game of the Year Nominated [66][67]
Best Narrative Nominated
Best Art Direction Won
Best Music/Sound Design Nominated
Best Independent Game Won
2017 D.I.C.E. Awards 2016 Game of the Year Nominated [68]
Adventure Game of the Year Nominated
D.I.C.E. Spirit Award Won
Outstanding Achievement in Animation Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction Won
Outstanding Achievement in Game Design Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction Won
Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Story Nominated
National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Camera Direction in a Game Engine Won [69]
Independent Games Festival 2016 Seumas McNally Grand Prize Nominated [70][71]
Excellence in Audio Nominated
Excellence in Visual Art Nominated
Game Developers Choice Awards 2016 Game of the Year Nominated [72][71]
Best Audio Won
Best Design Nominated
Best Narrative Nominated
Best Visual Art Won
Innovation Award Nominated
2017 SXSW Gaming Awards Excellence in Design Nominated [73] [74]
Excellence in Art Nominated
Excellence in Animation Nominated
Excellence in SFX Nominated
13th British Academy Games Awards Best Game Nominated [75][76]
Artistic Achievement Won
Audio Achievement Nominated
Game Design Won
Music Nominated
Narrative Won
Original Property Won
2018 2018 Webby Awards Action Won [77]
Best Game Design Nominated
Best Music/Sound Design Nominated
Best User Experience (People's Voice) Won
Best Visual Design Won
Best Writing Nominated
Puzzle Nominated

References[edit]

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External links[edit]