911 Operator – Preview
911 Operator is a high-wire game about the work of emergency line dispatchers. We got to play a bit of of the alpha, and here’s what we think.
Despite satellite-based map data being available online for well over a decade now, we haven’t seen a great many games use it. Polish studio Jutsu Games, however, is composed of self-professed map lovers, and their newest game, 911 Operator proves it.
The title of the game is self-explanatory: you are an emergency services operator, and your job is to respond to emergencies as they arise in a city of your choice. You also pick up calls from distressed citizens, who come to you with a variety of quandaries, from the trivial to the lethally serious. With an army of policemen, firefighters and medical teams at your disposal, it’s up to you to decide which team goes where.
For a job that sounds so high on tension, the game itself felt remarkably easy to pick up. The game is divided into two phases: Management, and Duty. During Management, you use your (usually very limited) funds to ‘purchase’ equipment, vehicles and personnel and assign them into teams. Once you’re ready, you start off the Duty section, in which your role is to actually move all the pieces on the board.
Emergencies appear on the map as little icons, coloured either blue (police), white (medical) or red (firefighter), depending on which team you will have to send to resolve that emergency. Some emergencies require multiple teams, requiring you to assign two or more teams. Your teams high-tail it to the location you’ve designated for them, but depending on the distance, they may not always make it.
Apart from emergency reports, you pick up calls from people in need. According to the developer, these are largely based on real-life calls. The selection of calls in the Alpha I got to play was very limited, but included a man who accidentally chopped his leg off, plenty of back-to-back car collisions and a 4 year old who wants maths help. In the final version game, there will be 50 different call types according to the developer, which should hopefully cut down on the repetition of it all.
The game becomes very hectic, very quickly, however, as you find yourself scrambling police cars, fire engines and choppers to and fro across the city. Each type of vehicle has its benefits and drawbacks. A police bike for example, is faster than a car, but it cannot be used to take in criminals.
As you successfully resolve situations using the men and women at your disposal, you earn money (it seems 911 operators in this universe don’t earn fixed salaries). While my first round was usually profitable, I’d soon go in the red. There does not seem to be a penalty for having negative funds in your account, at least at the moment. Considering the frantic, almost brutal pace of each Duty session, this seemed like a blessing.
One of the unique features of 911 Operator is the ability to play the game in any city of your choice. The game has to download the map off the Internet, and supports a very large number of cities from all over the world, thanks to OpenStreetMap. I played in Mumbai, London and Tokyo, and apart from a glitch in the Mumbai map, I found that it worked really well. The street names in the game are sourced from the same resource, however, so non-English speaking countries will have non-English street names. This is not a major concern, I found, as you ultimately don’t need to remember the street names in gameplay.
911 Operator is in Alpha, and it shows – despite the graphical polish and all the parts of the game being in place, there were a number of bugs in place. One self-referential call in particular got very annoying, in which one of the game’s developer calls you for an interview about your job. I won’t elaborate on the other bugs, because they were mostly obvious and will almost certainly be fixed soon.
Less than 26 hours remain for 911 Operator’s Kickstarter to end. Set at a modest $9,110 CAD goal, the game’s Kickstarter has secured well over $34,000 and has hit a number of stretch goals already. The game will now feature support for tablets, virtual reality and also have a co-op mode. It should be interesting to see how that one works.
If you’re interested, do consider backing 911 Operator on its Kickstarter page. The game is currently set to release on Steam for Windows and Mac, with a Linux version in the works. While the mobile stretch goal has been reached, no operating systems have been announced. No compatible virtual reality headsets have been announced for the planned VR mode, but Jutsu Games reportedly has the support of Oculus on this, so the Rift sounds like a good bet.
Will you succeed at responding to emergencies, or will you crumble under the pressure of it all? You’ll find out when 911 Operator releases later this year.