Developed by Tower of Guns and Mothergunship creator Terrible Posture games, 3 out of 10 is a kind of comedic love letter to the video game industry and all its quirks. Although a title with a low score in it may turn out to be a prophetic or ironic, depending on how well take to this surprise summertime treat, I hope that it’s the latter, given the game’s charming sense of humor, its characters, and gameplay variety. Perhaps the best reason to give the game a try and find out one way or the other is the fact that all five weekly episodes are releasing for free starting today, August 6, on the Epic Games Store.
That’s right, episodes will release for free each week starting on its official announcement day. You can support the development studio by purchasing the soundtrack, but otherwise all of season one will be available for free with no strings attached.
“It [3 out of 10] is an experiment in not just what a game could be, but it is also an experiment in how to create a new game for players,” said Joe Mirabello, Terrible Posture Games creative director, who spoke to PC Invasion alongside technical director Chris “Zuko” Zukowski.
Being experimental applies to the game on several levels. The most obvious being how it’s a free weekly episodic game that’s launching on its announcement day. At another level, the playable cartoon sitcom is a major departure from Mothergunship. Instead of finding new and inventive ways to blast your way through a first-person shooter bullet hell, you spend the first episode playing as Midge, a newly hired animator at a terrible video game development company called Shovelworks Studios.
The company is so notoriously bad that it has never released a game that scored higher than 3 out of 10, and its cast of outlandish characters seem intent on keeping that streak going. Office issues include everything from having a terrible game concept to personnel who spontaneously combust and leave behind animator job positions. Things get much weirder from there, with hints toward something strange and dark behind the company’s existence.
Getting accustomed to 3 out of 10
The truth about this game is that it isn’t just one type of game. In one sense, it’s a relatively straightforward point-and-click adventure where you talk to your goofy co-workers to gain a better sense of the surroundings. But 3 out of 10 is also filled with several mini-games that break up the predictability. For instance, the first thing you do is play the company’s latest project – Surfing with Sharks – which starts mid-cutscene. It’s a 2D not-quite-endless runner game that seems to have been plucked straight out of the ’80s, and you move a 16-bit surfer around to avoid rocks and a pursuing shark until you crash on the beach. In other words, it’s pretty terrible, as expected.
From there, a series of random events occur. You’ll have to play everything from a pattern-matching game, to a toy posing challenge and a sliding puzzle to acquire a caged intern. Each puzzle is relatively short, and although I didn’t think any of them were difficult, you have the option to skip all of them without penalty. In fact, you can skip practically every aspect of the game and move at any pace you choose. You do earn stars for completing puzzles, finishing tasks, and finding special objects, but they only apply to a joke leaderboard.
“Some games are jokes, some are homages to gaming history, and some are pure experiments in game design,” Mirabello explained. “We want to see something different. We want to see what happens if you have a first-person shooter with different random elements in it.”
He added that although each game is unique, they’re easy to pick up and play, so players may be surprised but not frustrated. Also, you can retry a game as many times as you want.
“We want people to feel comfortable knowing that, when a new episode pops up, it’ll take about half an hour to enjoy and that it’ll be a low-stress comedy,” he said.
A modern old school adventure
If you couldn’t tell, 3 out of 10 doesn’t have a lose scenario the way adventure titles such as the ones once made by Telltale Games do. The game is designed to let you get through the game at whatever pace you want, including skipping everything and jumping to different chapters. Other differences include having no pivotal moral choices, no branching dialogue trees, and no carryover events from one episode to the next. That may sound like a somewhat sparse, linear adventure game, but 3 out of 10 somehow makes it work because it’s so short. The first episode took me about 30 minutes to play without skipping anything. Also, new episodes are released weekly — like an actual sitcom show — instead of months, so you don’t have to wait too long to continue the story and risk forgetting about what happened before.
Zukowski explained that it also helps that everything was assembled using Unreal Engine. No third-party tools were used to create and animate the characters, which are rendered in real-time. Since there is no pre-rendered video content, this method allows for seamless switching from playing the mini-games, to the cutscenes, and exploration mode. Having a unified platform also provided a means for the small team at Terrible Posture Games to quickly develop and release content. This unique use of the Unreal Engine caught the attention of Epic Games, which stepped in to help launch the game as a free exclusive.
Although there are no carryover decisions, that’s not to say that there isn’t a narrative thread that continues throughout the episodes. The Shovelworks office will change in both obvious and subtle ways with each episode, including how Surfing with Sharks looks and plays. Players may also switch characters in future episodes for different perspectives. Mirabello said that elements such as branching quests may appear in future seasons, but if Terrible Posture does it, they’ll own the gameplay design by making fun of it.
A burst of fun
The first episode of 3 out of 10 turned out to be the game I didn’t know I needed. A short, low-stress comedy that pokes fun at various aspects of video gaming and fandom was a welcome break from all the serious games that I normally play. I look forward to seeing how the narrative continues to unfold across the remaining episodes and experiencing their eclectic collection of mini-games.
“We know that a lot of gamers these days only spend time with one or two games,” Mirabello said, “but they still have time to watch their favorite shows, podcasts, and other media. This game is designed to be respectful of the player’s time and let them dive into it at their own pace while keeping it short, funny, and accessible. Now, with Epic’s help, free.”
3 out of 10 is available today for free, exclusively on the Epic Games Store.