A few weeks ago, Convict Games announced its first title, STONE, a “hip-hop stoner noir” where you play as a private detective koala. Needless to say, all of that certainly got the attention of gaming media. While company head, Greg Louden, is an Aussie himself, it turns out he’s actually based in Helsinki, where he moved to pursue the project and start the small studio. I jumped on a Skype call with Greg where he guided me through a demo of STONE and talked me through its influences and what lead him to create such an original game.
While STONE is extremely Australian in tone – there’s even a glossary to explain our wild slang – it’s a total melting pot of influences, ranging from The Big Lebowski, Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Bukowski, and a bunch more.
“We wanted to push interactive storytelling further,” Greg told PEDESTRIAN.TV. “I’m also a huge fan of Tarantino, Bukowksi, Kanye, Chandler, Godard, techno, PTA, Hunter S. Thompson, Hemingway and Pynchon. So with this cocktail, I had to make a stoner noir.”
“To bring noir to 2018, it had to be hip-hop. Hip-hop to me also is about wordplay and STONE is filled with references and throwbacks. The whole koala anthropomorphic concept came from the fact it’s a great metaphor.”
Convict Games has a wealth of talent from places like Moscow, Helsinki, Texas and Sydney and Melbourne hard at work on STONE, all of which have pretty impressive resumes. “Before Convict, our devs worked on Quantum Break, Control, Paperbark as well as feature films such as Gravity, World War Z, Prometheus, Happy Feet 2 and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Gahoole and more,” Greg said.
During the demo, which starts the same place the trailer does (you can watch that below), I was given very little information other than I’m a koala who’s love, Alex, has been kidnapped and that I was so fucking wasted the night before, I have absolutely no idea what happened. We’ve all been there.
After a quick chat on the phone with whoever kidnapped Alex, I got to have a walk around STONE’s flat, looking for clues as to what to do next. There’s a number of things to interact with, including a drum machine, a record player, and a TV, which actually contains a bunch of old Aussie movies you can watch from the public domain.
“You can watch these movies in full, and there’s Night of the Living Dead, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Häxan,” Greg said. “On the Aussie front, we have The Sentimental Bloke, Australia’s first blockbuster and The Story of the Kelly Gang. So in the world of STONE, there’s cool music, classic cinema and a great story to play.”
Music is also a big part of the game and something that’s obviously very important to Greg. There’s a wide variety of techno, hip-hop, techno, and some stoner rock throughout STONE which is all licensed from real-world artists.
“I dug through the internet, reached out to my friends that are musicians and cool record labels to secure the tracks. I’m stoked with the selection and I think people will really enjoy the music,” Greg said.
For the overall vibe, an American hip-hop producer named Ryan Little provided 5 tracks, and for the techno club, an amazing techno artist from Helsinki named Ilkka S provided an epic sound. From the Perth trap scene we’ve got Luchii involved and he’s very cool. We also have Grand Oyster Palace and Golden Grove on the Aussie rock front. I think people will discover a lot of sounds and artists when they play, which is something I always love myself.
After finding a clue which took me to the local pub, I was greeted by the bartender, Cockie, who is, of course, an actual cockatoo. After essentially telling me to fuck off, I have a quick look around, order a beer and light up a durry, which you can do at any time by simply hitting the spacebar. Cockie is sassy as hell and also has a few visible tattoos, which add a nice touch to her character. I’m told she’s not the only one sporting ink in the game.
After a little more interrogation, she tells me I left the pub the night before to hit up the nightclub, so that’s where we went next. Inspired by big European nightclubs like Berlin‘s infamous Berghain, the digital establishment was blaring techno by the aforementioned Helsinki artist. I headed straight for the bar and spoke to the crocodile standing behind it, who also told me I should leave. Instead of the standard talking volume you’d get in most games, the voice acting in STONE is yelled, because as Greg says, that’s exactly what you’d have to do in a nightclub in real life.
After having a bit of a dance and speaking with an English boy band consisting of three foxes, I tried to leave but was punched in the face by one of those foxes. Greg told me that this is one of the only violent acts in the game.
“At Convict, we like telling alternative stories,” Greg said. “In games, those types of stories are very rarely played and usually you evade, attack and shield as mechanics. We wanted to push interactive storytelling further.”
For Greg, STONE is all about telling an interesting story that no one else can.
I feel it’s a statement against how globalised games are. I love how in cinema, music, TV, literature, you can see international stories and languages. In games, everyone is creating globalised stories usually. I’m also an Aussie living in Helsinki, and as an expat, I think it locks your identity. In Australia, no one asks you where you’re from every day, so after 6 years of that, it locks your identity even more. STONE is also a story only I could tell. I’m an Aussie that loves alternative culture, so why not add to it all by making an Aussie version? I thought watching a stoner noir is cool, but playing a stoner noir that would be even cooler.
Stone is due out in our spring on PC and MacOS, so the good news is, you won’t have to wait too long to give it a whirl for yourself. You can follow @ConvictGames on Twitter to keep up with the latest news.
Discover more of the latest in video games and Nintendo news with Pedestrian TV.