We’re officially excited about The Outsider - despite the fact that it’s still a loooong way off yet. Penciled in for ‘09, Frontier’s plans for its all-action freeform thriller are so large it’s going to take all that time and more for them to realise its obvious potential. Big cheese David Braben refers to it as the first true open world game, where you genuinely do have freedom of choice over what you do and where you go, how you do it and how you deal with the consequences. More than that, he reckons they’ve taken their experience in creating classic freeform space adventure Elite and its sequel, watched how Rockstar have set about adding to the template in GTA, and bettered both with The Outsider.
We’ve been here many times before with games that purported to out-GTA GTA: Saints Row, Scarface, Just Cause, and Crackdown; they’ve all had a stab at it, and they’ve all come off second best. But one of the most intriguing things about The Outsider is that Braben isn’t busy talking up his games’ “living, breathing city” (Washington DC), or the hundreds of missions, or millions of songs on the soundtrack. For him, and for his development team, what is key is how everything you do in the game, every decision - however small - sends a ripple somewhere else in the world.
Basically, even the tiniest choice you make can have a huge effect on other characters in the game. Like The Elder Scrolls, the NPCs have their own lives - they live, work, eat and go out - and, if they’re caught in the crossfire, injured (or killed), or you nick their car and prevent them getting somewhere, other parts of the world are affected. It’s like a great big digital snowball: every decision you make - and especially every decision that goes bad - means things start getting more and more out of control. And the more out of control they get, the deeper in the mire you find yourself.