Mike Traficante of Schell Games dreamed up the idea for side-scrolling shooter Enemy Mind after another horrible commute.
"I had a strange dream that there was some way to commute to faraway places by casting your consciousness into robots," he told Polygon. "It's weird. I have a long commute and I think that's what started it. I had the dream a long time ago, and it's a thought that always occurs to me.
"Once a year, our company does game jam week, where we do our own thing. So I made a prototype of side-scroller shooter and thought, 'I'll do that thing from my dream and make you jump from ship to ship,'" he added. "We put it together in a week and the company liked it."
Traficante amassed a team of five people to further develop his game. Four months later, had Enemy Mind.
In Enemy Mind, players become a bodiless entity that has the power to overtake ships. This consciousness controls the ships and can use their ammo to shoot down other ships. Once the ship is out of ammo, the entity can take over another ship and use its resources, and so on and so forth until the level ends or the entity is killed.
This mechanic is the basis of a dark single-player campaign, in which players must manage their resources — the ships available for them to take over — in order to maneuver to the finish line. But in multiplayer, the game becomes chaos. Up to four players can participate, and although there is no friendly fire, there is something even more frustrating players can do: jump into the same ship as their comrade and fight for its control. During our hands-on time with the game, this resulted in a lot of shouting and swearing, a drastic party-game spin on the game's more serious single-player campaign.
Players will encounter 25 different ship types over the course of the game, including ones that shoot lightning and cast shields around each other, but they can't upgrade them. There is no progression system, no numbers to keep track of — just shooting and stealing, snapping up new ships to take their ammo and discarding them once they are empty.
The initial prototype for Enemy Mind was single-player, but Traficante knew from the start that a multiplayer component would heighten the experience. Or as he put it, be "totally insane."
"When we first implemented multiplayer, we thought, 'We don't know how this is going to work with more than one person in a ship,'" he said. "So we thought we'd just program it that way and scale it back if we needed to. But it was just so ridiculous and fun and we thought, 'Why would we want to change this?' People just play and laugh hysterically. So we left it alone and it turned into a controlled chaos party game."
Enemy Mind will launch later this month on Steam Early Access with local multiplayer only. While Traficante feels the game works better as a local co-op game, he's not opposed to making an online component if there is demand.
"If the game comes out and the fans are really beating the drum asking, 'Give us a server!' I'd be willing to try it," he said. "But I'm really skeptical the game would work if you're not all in the same room playing.
"Certainly development time is an issue, making it multiplayer is not trivial," Traficante added. "But not all games work that way. It's more fun to play this if you're sitting next to someone and you can bump them because they took your ship. Maybe you could do it if you had a voice server and could talk to the people, but I can't imagine it'd be good with people you don't know. You don't know them, so it's not funny."