Nostation, a game inspired by late-night train rides across China

In China, years ago, Bubble is riding a train late at night. “In the [past] the train was slow and dirty, it [would] take a long time to arrive at the destination,” they say. Bubble is far away from home and the train is almost entirely empty. “Just me alone,” Bubble tells me while recalling the memory. “Probably at 2 a.m. I opened the window and looked out, it [was] a fantastic feeling.” Bubble can’t describe the feeling further than that, other than saying it wasn’t loneliness, and it wasn’t fear, it was something else.

The experience left a deep impression on Bubble. In fact, that quiet and desolate train ride is the inspiration behind Nostation, an upcoming game about riding a train—possibly forever.  Those mysterious and long hours on a lonesome train is what Nostation is being made to capture. And so, in the game, you board a train with five other passengers. Your destination is unknown to you and the others on the train. As the game goes on the train will stop four times. You may or may not be permitted to get off any one of these stops. Regardless, whoever is left when the train leaves that final station will remain on it forever.

“I want to let the world see China [can make] great games.”

“This will be an unpredictable trip,” Bubble explains. The train and the destinations are procedurally generated with each playthrough in an effort to create what Bubble describes as a “story game with some rogue-like elements.” It’s expected that you’ll play the game over at least a few times to explore the different story branches and endings. It might even take a few playthroughs before you can actually escape the train. When I ask Bubble if it’s possible to escape on the first try, they respond cryptically: “Ah-ha, it’s a secret! I can’t tell you anything.”

Bubble is the nickname of the founder and lead designer at Chinese studio Bubble Games Paradise. The studio was formed in 2015 and is spread out across the country. The employees of Bubble Games Paradise coordinate via the internet. Developing a game this way can be tough, but Bubble explains that Bubble Games Paradise is made up of longtime friends. “We are very successful at communicating and understanding, and they are very trust[ing of] me.”

Making a game using the web can be tricky enough, but doing it in China makes it even more difficult. Bubble describes making games in China as “Just like Hell.” The market in China is focused on making money, usually with free-to-play games. Bubble isn’t looking to make that type of game. They want to focus on the story and art of games, something they say is hard to do in China. Many of the studios and publishers are looking for profits over story. But Bubble and the people at Bubble Games Paradise are determined to finish Nostation and to make more games after that. “We will not stop making games,” Bubble says. “[This] is my dream. Games [have no] borders, I want to let the world see China [can make] great games.”

Nostation is currently on Steam Greenlight. You can also check out the game’s website.