Lots of videogames depict war, ranging from the gung-ho realism of the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises, to the completely ridiculous Totally Accurate Battle Simulator. More often than not, these games make you believe you’re the ‘good guy’, even though you just killed a dozen ‘bad guys’ mercilessly to get to your objective. That’s why a small team of five people—James Earl Cox III, Joe Cox, Elliot Mahler, Denver Coulson, and Tyler Stark—decided to create a war game called Our Own Storm that puts you in the shoes of the person who kills you. It’s a way to humanize each character in war, giving you multiple perspectives and seeing how each person deals with the consequences of their actions.
Despite being about real wars, the team behind the game tried to avoid any direct references to any real-world conflicts, in order to avoid inaccuracies and taking sides. However, Cox III discuss the parallels to conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and even the recent failed coup in Turkey, admitting that “it’s hard to not draw comparisons while making such a game.” Instead, Our Own Storm “takes place on the fictional war-torn Isle Tolsia.”
In the trailer, you see a group of people being taken to a place surrounded by military police. However, following their approach to naming any specific conflicts or countries, the team has left the backgrounds of these characters to interpretation, since they’re made up of individuals with varying beliefs and values. “Among the soldiers you see, some see the civilians as refugees, others see them as prisoners, and even others might see them as rebels,” Cox III said. On the other hand, you get to choose your own character’s age, family, background, likes, and their future plans.
Our Own Storm’s tagline is “a war game about compassion,” and all of its narrative and mechanical designs are geared towards that. You begin the game as the prisoner—or whatever you might want to call them—and once you get killed, you automatically switch characters to control the killer. “The player will be on all sides of the war: soldiers sieging the city, rebels holding out, and civilians caught in the middle,” Cox II said.
Altogether the game includes four different areas: the sieging army’s camp across the river, the city under siege, the town square, and rural ruins. There is no wrong or right way to die (i.e. to advance the story), because you can get shot if you try and escape, or by “stray gunfire, purposeful gunfire, people trying to protect each other, being scared, trying to survive.” That said, there are parts of the game that you won’t get to explore unless you do die. One example is a level where you are told to sneak into the city behind your commander, as this is where you get a choice: you can obey your commander and stop walking when he does, or you can continue, which will lead to you getting shot in the head by a sniper. If you do the latter, this allows you to take control of the sniper that is located in the second story window, which is not accessible unless you get killed by him.
Our Own Storm promises to reward those who are curious and who want to see what can happen in each scenario. It’s this goal that inspired the team to not include modes or difficulty settings, aiming instead for “a meditative game, one that encourages interpretation and reflection.” Our Own Storm is about 25 percent done, with only the forest area completely finished at the moment. The team is currently working on designing the city.
Our Own Storm is planned to release fully mid-to- late 2017 for PC, Mac and Linux, with plans to bring the game to mobile devices. The game will also make its first public appearance at Dare ProtoPlay festival, August 4th through 7th. Find out more on its itch.io page.