Return of the Obra Dinn update details the challenges of 1-bit rendering

Since announcing it a year ago, Lucas Pope has been hard at work on the flashback-driven mystery game Return of the Obra Dinn, his follow-up to Papers, Please. Last October, he released a rough build of Obra Dinn to play for free, showing off the primary dynamic of the game’s puzzle. You are an East India Company insurance adjuster armed with a magical pocket watch and a logbook. The watch allows to replay moments from the bloody story of a ghost ship as you investigate its crew’s disappearance and try to track the details.

“Of the characters in the demo, you won’t find out who one of them is until near the very end of the game. So the challenge is remembering how this guy died when you finally figure out who he is,” said Pope in an interview with Kill Screen when the demo of Obra Dinn was initially released.

According to his new update, Pope has found designing 80 unique characters in the distinct 1-bit rendering to be more challenging than he had initially anticipated. He has cut the number of crew to 60, and shared a bit of his designing process. Pope used vintage portraits in some cases to inspire his character design, digitally carving the weather-worn faces of the sailors.

As Pope sorts through the bugs to get Return of the Obra Dinn up and running, you can play the free rough build available on and marvel in the surprisingly smooth low-res graphics. Pope’s animation selections for this game make the desolate sea seem even more sparse, lonely, and dangerous—a threat confirmed by the grisly fates of those aboard the Obra Dinn.

To follow development of Return of the Obra Dinn, go to Lucas Pope’s website.