The Fanatical Blog
How real-life protests inspired RIOT - Civil Unrest
By Sam Jones - 6th Dec 2017Games
How the dramatic scenes in Italy paved the way to an indie game
Cries, chants and screams bellowed out from the highways of Susa Valley in Italy as protestors from the No-Tav (no high-speed train) movement clashed with Italian police over a long-standing feud regarding the construction of rail networks close by.
Demonstrators and police officers were injured, tear gas was thrown and water cannons were fired at the large crowd to control the mayhem that had erupted. Whilst the world watched on from afar via news bulletins and articles both in print and online, one man was stood within the chaos - Leonard Menchiari.
It was here that the cogs began to turn, that the concept of what was happening would, someday, be portrayed in a different light – in the world of video games. This week, Leonard and the Merge Games indie team released RIOT – Civil Unrest on Steam Early Access, a simulation strategy game which puts players in control of either a group of protestors or armed police in a variety of rioting scenarios.
In an exclusive interview we spoke to Nick Clarkson, of Merge Games, about the game’s origins and its journey.
“The first inspiration came in 2012,” says Nick. “When Leonard Menchiari [RIOT – Civil Unrest’s creator] joined the NO-TAV Riots in Val di Susa, Italy. As Leonard faced the police, he understood that fear wasn’t exclusive to the protesters.
“It was during the clashes that Leonard had the opportunity to talk to some of the police tasked with managing the situation. It turned out that much of the law enforcement personnel shared the same points of view as the protesters.
“As an avid gamer himself, Leonard had the idea to simulate the situation in a video game. With his professional art skills, he decided to create the game in an instantly recognizable pixel art style. As he started to show the game to the public, he caught the attention of a wide range of people - not just gamers - activists, photographers, journalists and the like, all of whom contributed a lot to the idea.”
The game has an 8-bit pixel theme, which allowed the developer to create intense and large scenes of chaos across the four main campaigns, whilst retaining a retro feel to it.
“Leonard’s a skilled animator and the pixel style allowed him to display big crowds superbly,” says Nick. “He created an editor that allowed him to create thousands of different appearances, thus making the crowd look like groups of individuals rather than just cut and pasted images (cough, FIFA).”
With the game in Early Access, we asked Nick what the feedback has been like so far and where the game might potentially go based off the back of user feedback so far.
“Feedback’s been good,” he said. “As you know, the game’s been in development for some time and the last six months saw some giant leaps in the stability of the code. Feedback has largely been to do with tweaking the playability.
“There’s a bunch of additional stuff coming during Early Access. The biggest one for me will be the editor.
“Allowing people to use Leonard’s pixel art graphics on their own backgrounds, positioning police, protesters and even the odd tank! Being able to create either historic or imagined clashes will be great – imagine it kicking off outside Rugeley power stations! [a location near Fanatical’s headquarters].”
The game focuses on two aspects; attack or defend. Protestors or police must either stand their ground and hold the opposition at bay, or use tactical movements to push through walls of protestors and riot shield-wielding police officers to complete their objective.
We asked Nick how the developers have kept each level fresh and engaging whilst using the basic attack and defend mechanics.
“The balance makes a big difference and the use of aggression will make the gameplay far more challenging,” he said. “As players get further into the game, even more equipment becomes available. Fire crackers are all well and good, but a Molotov cocktail really gets a party going.
“Equally, a truncheon is useful, rubber bullets pack a punch but a water cannon or even a tank really disperses a horde of angry protesters.”
Buy RIOT - Civil Unrest now at fanatical.com