Rob Hewson about Hydrophobia

Rob Hewson about Hydrophobia

Feature

Hooked Gamers talks to Dark Energy Digital's Rob Hewson on their water-thriller Hydrophobia.

Rob Hewson about Hydrophobia
Hooked Gamers: The back-story for the game revolves around overpopulation in a time of dwindling natural resources, a theme that has been a strong topic of debate for the past decade. In a time in which many modern games revolve around a post-apocalyptic setting why go with such a focused theme?

Rob Hewson: We wanted to create a wholly original storyline, but we also set ourselves a remit of making what we call a ‘tangible future’. We wanted to completely avoid the clichés of space marines or Nazi zombies and create something grounded in reality, but still set in the near future to provide some elbow room for creativity.

There’s a huge elephant in the room in world politics at the moment; the UN itself is projecting well over 9 billion people on the planet by the middle of this century, and we’re already running out of resources. We’re headed for some serious problems; mass poverty and global conflict over the earth’s precious resources – in particular water. Climate change only intensifies the issue; rising sea levels will reduce fertile land and deserts around the equator will expand massively.

There are two political factions which exist today (try Googling it) which will rise to the fore in this scenario; the Malthusians and the Cornucopians.

Rob Hewson about Hydrophobia
Malthusians follow the theories of Thomas Malthus, a very famous political economist who wrote an infamous paper in 1798, which was very influential in the thinking of people like Darwin and Marx. His central argument was that human population always rises above the resource capacity, and controlling or limiting population growth is the only way to prevent what he called a population crash.

A Cornucopian would argue that continued technological and scientific progress allows mankind to raise the resource level to feed the population. Since Malthus death they have been winning the argument; pesticides and other modern agricultural methods have massively increased food supply and world population has exploded as a result. However the pendulum in beginning to swing back to the Malthusians, and they would argue that the problem has merely been delayed and the explosion in the population means the crash will be far worse when it finally does hit.

Hydrophobia is set on-board the Queen of the World, the largest ship ever built, a city at sea where the wealthy elite live in exile from the chaos of the outside world. It is a Cornucopian society created by the Five Founding Fathers – mega corporations dedicated to research and progress who can carry out their work free from regulation on this stateless vessel.

The contempt of the outside world for the Queen of the World is counter balanced by NanoCell; one of the Five Founding Fathers. NanoCell is a nanotechnology company dedicated to purifying water at the molecular level (again if you look into nanotechnology this is a genuine area of research which is expected to be targeted in future). The promise of NanoCell is to ‘make the desserts bloom with the food of the world’.

On the 10th anniversary of the Queen of the World the whole world is watching the so called ‘party of the century’ because NanoCell is expected to make a breakthrough announcement.

A group of Neo-Malthusian fanatic choose this time to attack, they see Malthus as a prophet and have a rather chilling creed; Save the World, Kill Yourself.

Rob Hewson about Hydrophobia
Kate suffers from hydrophobia and a fear of drowning, hence the game's name. Most games only have your character's view flash red as they lose health and eventually die if they don't reach the surface of a body of water. In a game so heavily focused on water simulation, what was Dark Energy's take on drowning and how to implement it?

In reality, people cease to process colour vision when near to drowning, as the brains resources are diverted to other areas, and peripheral vision becomes blurred. Similarly in Hydrophobia you will begin to see colour drain from the scene and the edges of the screen will distort. Once the character begins to lose health, the red haze will begin to encroach around the edges of the screen.