Fourth wall breaking, in which clairvoyant characters acknowledging their fictional status in a book, film or videogame, is pretty common. While this literary device is mostly used for comedic effect in videogames, like when self-professed mighty pirate, Guybrush Thriftweed (Threewind? Threepwood?), speaks to the player directly in the Monkey Island series, it is sometimes used to drive the plot in others. One recent example is Undertale, a game so adept at breaking the fourth wall that the fourth wall doesn’t even feel like it’s there in the first place.
Another game that plans to use this to similar effect is GLITCHED, a roleplaying game currently in development by En House Studios. Its unlikely hero is a young fellow named Gus, whose best friend, Conrad, wanted to leave their idyllic hometown of Betwixt to uncover the truth behind his past.
On the night before his departure, while Conrad is trying to convince a very reluctant Gus to bail out of town together, an inexplicable phenomenon—a strange, glitch-like tear in the sky—corrupted and warped Conrad out of existence. Suddenly, no one in this town has an inkling of who Conrad is…except for Gus. Oh, and Gus is also able to see and speak directly to you.
After fiddling around with its rather sizable demo for an hour, I thought that this premise is pretty compelling due to its masterful use of the fourth wall; it wields the device differently from titles like Undertale. Without spoiling Undertale for those who haven’t played the game yet (that is your homework for this week, guys), the gist of it is that the fourth wall is used to interact directly with the environment, which makes for some very genuine emotions and experiences.
On the other hand, while GLITCHED doesn’t stray too far from traditional RPGs besides a few differences, it shoves the fourth wall aside and pulls the player into its world, turning you into a GLITCHED character just like Gus and the townsfolk of Betwixt. For instance, you and Gus will be having those slightly awkward conversations with one another, like how you would with a new but unfamiliar friend.
Aside from this premise, GLITCHED also places a heavy emphasis on your decisions, allowing you to influence and shape Gus’ personality (although he might occasionally disagree with them). These will nudge his morality according to the game’s “Essence System”, which features six alignments: Zeal, Insight, Harmony, Conquest, Drift and Bastion. Traditional RPG elements such as leveling and random combat encounters have also been ditched.
En House Studios is raising funds for the game via Kickstarter, but it has proven to be quite popular, with the funding goal of US$7,500 already exceeded by several times. If you wish to try the demo out, you can download it at Kickstarter page. Oh, and do say hi to Gus for me, yeah?