If you’ve been reading Indie Haven since our launch three months ago you’ll likely remember seeing us cover a game called Redshirt. Inspired by classic space sci-fi series like Red Dwarf and Star Trek, the game follows the life of a new recruit in a bottom of the career ladder position on a star-ship, wasting away their days on social media. After an interview with the developer and a brief hands on with the game at EToo in early June, we’ve finally got the game’s Alpha in the office to play about with for an extended period of time. I’ve put a good ten hours into messing around in the Alpha and have a lot of thoughts about the game and how it stacks up when played for longer than fifteen minutes at a press event.

Redshirt takes part almost entirely through a Facebook style social networking interface. You can search for people using the search bar, keep up to date on what your friends are up to by checking your wall, check in to events with friends and post or like statuses in an attempt to cultivate your slowly blossoming social circle. The user interface is incredibly intuitive when it comes to these social networking interactions, however the game at times overloaded me with too much information to digest. Each activity you take part in ends with a large stats screen detail who did and didn’t attend your event and the effect that had on your social standing, but there are often multiple parts of the screen scrolling with different information which can make it more difficult to understand the implications of your choices.

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The game features an unexpectedly dark sub plot running underneath your social media exploits, appearing fairly early in the game and giving you a time limit and structured reason to want to climb the star-ship’s ranks. As your co-workers begin to discuss rumours of a catastrophic event being only 180 days away, you suddenly find a pressure to climb the ranks of the career ladder and lower the chances that you’ll be called on for the most noble of Redshirt duties, death on away mission. It adds a nice amount of pressure to the experience and the variety of ways that this story is revealed through NPC interactions does a great job of teasing at an incoming event without outright telling you that the game has a time limit in place. It’s just a shame that there’s not really enough content to get through that 180 days without seeing statuses starting to noticeably repeat, but this could still change before launch.

All of the characters you encounter throughout the game are randomly generated NPCs. By randomly generating the character set you do get the benefit of being able to replay the game and have a fresh set of characters to figure out how to win over, but this approach does come with some issues. Firstly, the NPC’s will at times give clues as to how to win them over that may not line up with the tactics you need to employ to get them on your friends list. If someone tells me they love hanging out with me in our quarters and I then proceed to invite them to my quarters I expect them to show up. Unfortunately sometimes they will say things of that nature then proceed to stand me up for the activity they appeared to be asking to be invited to which was at times frustrating. That said, more often than not those instances just left me more desperate than ever to win that character over and work out how to make them my imaginary BFF.

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Also, as many of the NPC names will be repeated between playthroughs but with differing personalities. I at times found myself getting confused between two versions of a character I’d tried to make friends with and which friend liked which things. Astra in playthrough one may be a human who loves comedy, but in playthrough two she might be an Emoid with more of an interest in schematic diagrams and mechanics. There were times I’d find myself trying to win someone over and inadvertently lowering my happiness because I invited them to something that they hate but their previous namesake loved.

What initially hooked me was the game’s brilliant sense of humour. From the way it pokes fun at sci-fi tropes and archetypes, to the way it satirically dissects social media conventions, the world developer The Tiniest Shark has created feels incredibly lively and is a pleasure to inhabit. What kept me playing the game wasn’t the sense of humour. It was the addictive balancing act of trying to keep your happiness, health, finances and friendships balanced while climbing the career ladder. There’s only a limited number of actions you can complete per day (explained in game as part of a crack down on social media addiction, possibly a subtle jab at facebook game monetization strategies), meaning that you inevitably have to sacrifice one of your characters needs each day in order to try and seize opportunities in other areas. You might have to skip food for a few days to go out on an expensive date, but winning over the boss who decides if you should get a promotion will likely be worth while in the long run as you begin to make enough money to work on rebuilding your health bar with meals.

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Very much in the spirit of Redshirt expendability shown in Star Trek, every so often you’ll be dragged away from whatever you’re doing to join some of your friends and co workers on an away mission, which will almost always result in some or all of the people you’re drafted with facing a horrible death as soon as they arrive. This creates an interesting dilemma, as while it’;s tempting to put all of your effort into winning over the person who would best help you advance your career, all it takes is a single bad away mission for them to be the smoldering remnants of a person, leaving your character depressed and forced to start building their social group over from scratch. I felt encouraged to cultivate as many relationships as possible, before praying to the space gods that at least a few of my friends were still alive down the line.

This leads me on to the scenario that can completely plague some playthroughs, spiraling depression. In one of my early attempts of playing the game I found all of my friends killed on a single away mission. This made my character understandably upset, lowered their ability to be an effective social host, lowered their effectiveness at their job and ended up causing them to spiral into a terrible service job based depression. The game also doesn’t signpost very well the importance of buying food (from the shop, not by going to a restaurant). While that wasn’t helping me complete the game, it did tell a gripping story of someone alone and afraid, struggling to overcome the hardships of combat and war, which was in it’s own way an interesting tale to experience. It can get in the way of progression, but it can also be a great tool for unexpected gameplay triggered storytelling.

Redshirt is shaping up to be a really interesting social gaming experience in much the same way The Sims was in the mid 90’s. I can’t wait to play the finished game as it’s a game that, while it has some problems, also has a huge amount of potential and is well worth getting excited for.

About The Author

Founding Member

Laura’s gaming journey began in the 90′s when she was given a SNES by her older brother with Mario paint. From that day video games were all she thought about day or night, be it playing them, designing them, discussing them or writing about them. Why does she want to write about indie games? Because indie devs are awesome and she wants to be their new best friend by telling them how terrible their games are. That’s how it works right? Twitter: @LauraKBuzz Email: Laurak@indiehaven.com

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  • JosefesoJ

    Some suggestions:
    – (from the shop, not buy [by] going to a restaurant).
    – that they hate [,] but
    – More importantly and unexpectedly, what kept me playing the game wasn’t the sense of humour, but more importantly [this is a repeat]
    – crack down [one word]
    – some playthroughs,[:] spiraling depression.

    Great article, thanks!