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Never Alone

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, WiiU, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: E-Line Media
Developer: Upper One Games
Release Date: Fall 2014

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'Never Alone' Included In Field Museum's Native Truths Exhibition

by Rainier on May 19, 2022 @ 5:31 p.m. PDT

In Never Alone, players take on the roles of Nuna, a young Iñupiaq girl and an Arctic fox, in an atmospheric puzzle platformer.

Never Alone combines traditional folklore, stories, settings, and characters handed down over many generations by Alaska Native people whose roots and heritage date back millennia.

Featuring imagery and themes drawn directly from Iñupiat and other Alaska Native cultures, Never Alone features striking visuals, emphasizes the sensibilities and perspective of these indigenous Arctic people and requires players to work cooperatively to succeed in challenging and harsh environments.

Never Alone: Foxtales features three new levels, inspired by another of these amazing stories. Working on Foxtales has given our team a chance to build on the elements of the original game that players really responded to with more complex and varied puzzles, new abilities for each of the characters and new environments.

Foxtales is based on the story of ‘The Two Coastal Brothers,’ as told by Willie Panik Goodwin, Sr. The interdependence between the two brothers in this traditional tale was really compelling because in many ways it reflected the interdependence between Nuna and Fox. One brother is an excellent hunter and fighter. The other is a strong swimmer. To defeat the main antagonist, they must work together, each of their unique talents supporting the other and ultimately proving crucial to their success.

E-Line Media is proud to share that BAFTA-award-winning Never Alone is featured in the upcoming, permanent Field Museum Native Truth’s exhibition as part of the newly renovated Native North American Hall. Previously displayed at the Smithsonian as part of their FUTURES Exhibition, this is another pivotal spotlight on inclusive game development and representation.

The Native Truths exhibit is the debut exhibit from the groundbreaking Native North American Hall renovation that was announced in 2021. The exhibit was created with the guidance of 11 Native American scholars and museum professionals and in partnership with 125 collaborators representing over 100 tribes. Never Alone combines traditional stories, settings, and characters that have been handed down over generations by the Iñupiaq people whose roots and heritage date back millennia. The Never Alone team was comprised of Iñupiaq elders, artists, storytellers, and other community members as well as game industry veterans who have served in key roles on such popular console and PC titles over the years.

“The story of Never Alone continues to grow with its launch on Nintendo Switch and through other promising partnerships,” said Amy Fredeen, EVP of Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) and CFO of E-Line Media, in the previous announcement that also revealed Never Alone 2. “CITC is excited to continue its partnership with E-Line Media and bring new voice to Our People’s stories through pathways that have true impact." 

This exhibit appearance is another accolade for the critically acclaimed Never Alone, which recently was awarded the first-ever Peabody Award for Digital and Interactive Storytelling. It is a historic achievement and the E-Line Media team hopes it will be a beacon to other independent and mainstream game development studios and publishers that games can have a far-reaching social impact.

Known as “Kisima Ingitchuna” in the Iñupiaq language, Never Alone originally launched in 2014 and most recently joined the Nintendo Switch and Epic Game Store libraries. The sequel to the award-winning adventure was also revealed to be underway and will maintain the inclusive game development process established by the first title.

It has been an amazing experience working with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council on Never Alone and we are thrilled to be part of the Futures exhibit,” says Alan Gershenfeld, President and Co-Founder of E-Line Media, when the Smithsonian partnership was revealed. “A key goal of the inclusive development process has been to share stories and practices which have been passed down for thousands of years through powerful new technologies that engage and inspire gamers around the world. Being part of the Futures exhibit and festival has been a great opportunity to continue this celebration of the past and evocative exploration of the future.

Watch the Cultural Insights featured in Never Alone.

This idea of interdependence is not only an important theme in many Alaska Native tales, it also creates opportunities for fun gameplay. Players of the original game responded best to puzzles that required them to use the special abilities of the two player-controlled characters in unexpected ways. Upper One Games / E-Line Media created more interesting and varied puzzles in Foxtales by embracing this approach, casting Nuna and Fox (the main characters of the original game) as the two characters from the traditional story and giving each character new abilities. Nuna, for example, can row and steer an umiaq (a sealskin canoe) and Fox can interact with spirits to change the flow of underwater currents.

As all this talk about canoes and currents implies, Foxtales is set in a different (and decidedly more nautical) environment than the original game: the waters and coasts of Northwest Alaska. At the risk of stating the obvious, Alaska is a pretty big place and is home to a diverse set of terrain and environments. Those environments also change with the seasons, so things aren’t as uniformly snowy as in the original game (which did involve finding the source of an endless blizzard, after all).

Early in our design process the decision was made to set Foxtales not only in a different location but also in a different season: the Arctic spring. This not only let the developers include new game mechanics, but also develop art and level designs that depict the beauty of Alaskan environments that couldn’t have appeared in the original game – like an arctic prairie with the first blooms of spring peaking through the snowpack, the rapids and waterfalls of a river fed by melting snow or the subterranean lair of an unexpected new villain.

Never Alone is available on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One and PC (Steam).

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