In July 2021, District 9 and Elysium director Neill Blomkamp revealed that he had joined developer Gunzilla Games as their visionary director to work on an upcoming online multiplayer game. That game has now been revealed to be Off The Grid, a battle royale with a narrative-driven progression system that takes place in a cyberpunk-inspired world.
“The approach is to try to inject the story in a way where players have the option to directly engage in the actual battle or have the option to immerse themselves in the story and story missions, almost like a campaign where you’d be playing to follow a story narrative,” Blomkamp told GameSpot.
As Blomkamp explains it, Off The Grid allows you to create your character before asking you to join one of the game’s three possible factions. “We are trying to decide the best way to do [factions]Blomkamp said. “But I think the idea of a bigger story being told from different points of view is definitely a key pillar.”
The three different organizations, whose identities and mission statements are being kept secret for now, are fighting over a space elevator located on an island. The elevator leads to an asteroid mining operation that is creating an immense amount of wealth, attracting the attention of a variety of stakeholders from around the world.
Within this narrative setting, you are thrown into your traditional battle royale, where the last player standing wins. However, within the context of each match, players may participate in challenges or missions that support the goals of their chosen faction.
“And I think one of the things that’s really interesting is creating a situation where you have ‘mirror missions’ where [different factions] they are stacked against each other,” Blomkamp said. So players can choose to take missions where their faction may be directly opposed to an opposing faction’s mission, both of which relate to the narrative on a much larger scale. And you’re doing it in an environment where a real battle royale is taking place. So you’re kind of defending yourself against attacks from two different directions and you’re trying to fulfill, if you’re interested, the narrative obligations that you have.”
In the immediate sense, your actions create more of the story, but they could also have long-term narrative effects, influencing how the story unfolds in the future. When I brought up the hypothetical evolution of the game’s story based on player base, such as reflecting one faction as superior if it featured more players with wins than the other two, Blomkamp said, “That’s exactly what we’re trying to do — that’s an idea like this Battle Royale 2.0 concept. Your actions over a large amount of time have an effect on the story, the world, and the environment.”
“I think with [script writer] Richard Morgan and I, one of the things that’s really coming to the surface is this idea of creating an incredibly deep narrative and sort of a story of how this whole place came to be,” added Blomkamp. “So on this island, you have corporate sabotage and espionage and things that are going on that result in assassins being hired, those are basically the players that you embody, and in doing so, you get to see how this world of refugees and contractors and mercenaries- for- Corporate and contracted elites create this really interesting bubbling powder keg of conflict and layers and layers and layers of characters and stories that you can get into in different ways in the future.”
When asked, Blomkamp told GameSpot that the team is not yet ready to talk about what narrative vehicles (traditional cutscenes, episodic radio plays, social media, etc.) it plans to use to deliver the Off The Grid story, nor they want to reveal if players will be able to switch sides or if you’re forced to support whoever you choose. We’ll just have to wait and see how this all plays out.
Off The Grid is expected to launch in 2023.