Not long after the release of their latest game Pendragon, indie developer inkle teased their next project via the twitter hashtag #UntitledHighlandGame. The clue's in the name—the game, which inkle promises does have an actual name that's yet to be revealed, is set to be about hiking in the Scottish Highlands. "In some ways it's very similar to our previous games—it's about travel, it's replayable, and has a strong branching narrative," inkle co-founder Joseph Humfrey writes on the game's development blog, "In other ways, it's very different. This game has a side-on perspective and has 2D platforming elements, which is very much uncharted territory for us!"
So far, the blog has charted the game's development through the art, starting with concept art for the main character, which has evolved from a red-haired girl designed by inkle's in-house artist Anastasia Wyatt to a different girl developed by illustrator and art director Paul Scott Canavan. "In all of our past games the art direction has been primarily my responsibility. I’m a bit of a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, and although I love art and I have artistic opinions, I’ve often been stretched a bit thin, especially on Heaven’s Vault," Humfrey writes, "[...]So, we dropped Paul Scott Canavan an email. Just a few minutes later, and we had an enthusiastic yes!"
I've been Art Directing @inkleStudios' upcoming game set in the Scottish Highlands! I've been a fan of their work for years (80 Days is a big fave), it's been such a pleasure so far.Here are a few concepts to whet your appetite ❤️#gamedev pic.twitter.com/6jVncOaZ3VDecember 21, 2020
Humfrey says Canavan's art style fits the team's desire for "a painterly aesthetic, to give the sense that you’re playing inside a rich, lush landscape painting. Our players don't all need to be fans of the Scottish highlands of course, even if we are! The point is to create a unique and strong aesthetic that's not just 'generic green hills and rocks."
You can see some of the resulting concept art, both for the main character and the background art, in the gallery below. Inkle have always been an interesting studio because, while their games are known to have a strong narrative focus, as expected from a studio that developed their own narrative scripting language, they also always come with a unique gameplay aspect, such as the translation gameplay in Heaven's Vault. As such it will be interesting to see how their idea of hiking plays out.
Inkle has said it wants to be "more open with the development process than we ever have in the past. We're trying to post regular updates. So please hold us to account if we haven't posted in a while!" Keep your eye on the Highland blog for more as the game evolves.