The Pitch: An unfinished novel about a polar science station is resurrected and completed with the help of an artificial intelligence.
Current Status: In development, working towards a June 2015 release for PC and iPad
I can confidently say that Ice-Bound is one of the most unique games I've ever come across. With most games, I can see the DNA of their influences clearly as I play them. While Ice-Bound has its roots in the long-running genre of interactive fiction, it is applying modern technology in a way that is poised to create a brand new storytelling experience.
The story of Ice-Bound centers on a polar science station. The warmth generated by its inhabitants causes it to slowly sink into the ice. Instead of abandoning the station, though, new teams have simply built additional layers on top of the old station.
A writer studying the labyrinthine layers of the station planned to write a novel based on the lives of the people who lived there. However, he died before the novel was finished. The partial story was eventually published, and interest in the story led to an artificial representation of the author being created.
As the player, your job is to help the AI finish the story. Here's where the most interesting part factors in - the AI is basing the story off the research of the author, which is collected in an actual, physical book. By holding up the book to your PC or iPad's camera, you can influence the way the story plays out. Various passages in the book can make your version of the polar station's stories play out in various ways.
Rather than a branching storyline, Aaron Reed of Down to the Wire described it as "combinatorial" - the decisions that you make lead you down a path depending on how you group various concepts and passages from the book. The press materials boast "thousands of sculptable permutations to each story."
Each layer of the station represents a different "chapter" of the novel, and Aaron explained that there is an overarching story that ties these chapter together.
As the game involves both a physical object and a game, I was curious as to how it would be sold. Aaron told me that the plan was to sell the book at retail, and the app will be free. To get the full experience of the app, though, you'll need to own the book.
Bottom Line: There have been some exciting new developments in the past few years in the field of video game storytelling, and Ice-Bound seems to be a fascinating experiment in this rapidly evolving field.