For Invisible, Inc. players, failure is sometimes an option.
Don't Starve developer Klei Entertainment's new game doesn't expect players to succeed all the time, and it's not about to punish the occasional slip-up. Invisible, Inc. is a game about information: what you know, what you don't and the uncertain shades in-between.
Players control a team of spies as they creep through procedurally generated levels. As spies progress, peeking around doors and disabling guards and cameras as they go, the level's layout gradually becomes clearer.
But like navigating an individual level itself, Invisible, Inc. is about the larger picture — gathering enough resources to complete the game's final mission. Invisible, Inc. requires thinking on your feet. Still, if you trip just before the finish line, Klei Entertainment founder Jamie Cheng told Polygon, you've got no one to blame but yourself.
"Suddenly, you'll get into this no-win situation where it's just terrible," Cheng said, "but it's always your fault. Everything I'm doing is my fault.
"I have the information I need as long as I'm careful, because I can look through doors. I can observe guards. I know what they're going to do, as long as I'm careful about it — but I can get myself into pretty bad situations."
"Greed is a very easy way to die."
Succeeding, then, is about being observant and monitoring your threats. The longer you scope out an area, the higher your alarm level rises; the higher it rises, the more security pours in. During a demo of the game, Cheng explained that while he was close to saving a hostage and completing a mission, he still hadn't snooped around the full floor. There are bonuses to be found in every level, but they're what the developer jokingly calls "more reasons for you to screw yourself."
"There's a pro and con to [exploring a full level]," Cheng said.
"What I haven't done is see if there are more safes I can loot around. By the same time, my alarm level is going up. Do I want to risk it? Do I want to push it and see if I can get further? Greed is a very easy way to die."
As players get deeper into the game, the difficulty level will gradually ramp up. Turrets become harder to hack. Guards are trickier to trick. It's an arms race of espionage, with players working to upgrade their spies as they go. More agents wait to be found as well, giving players the chance to carefully select their teams and build up agents they find useful. Or, replace downed agents they've lost.
Invisible, Inc. includes permadeath not only for its spies, but its hostages as well. Cheng gave the example of failing to rescue a courier in time. Even if the courier died, players could still forfeit the reward and escape, as long as they pulled their people out.
"We're not prescribing you these missions that you have to beat," he said. "Just like a spy agency ... if you bunk a mission, you're not just dead. You can keep going.
"The longterm problem is you're not getting any rewards. You're not preparing properly for your final mission."
Invisible, Inc. itself is still preparing for its final appearance. The game's alpha is currently closed, but Klei expects it to reopen to players around PAX Prime next month. Cheng says the game has undergone several changes based on the feedback already received from players, and the developer temporarily pulled back to add more polish.
The game is expected to launch late this year or early next, but it's a tentative date at best, Cheng said, citing Don't Starve's delays as evidence.
"We expect to ship an excellent game," the developer said. "We can't let the time dictate that."