IndieHangover is a passion project for me, not my day job. While I wear more than a few hats at my work, my title is officially “IT Manager”. So, perhaps its understandable why I was a little bit hesitant to to spend my game time playing a title called Tech Support – Error Unknown:
I’ve done the tech support thing. Game time is for dragons and dungeons and extraterrestrial adventure.
However, after hearing Orchid talk about the game and suggest it multiple times, I trusted her judgement and dove in. I was rewarded with well designed, intriguing and surprisingly free form game that felt like one half narrative game and one half puzzler.
Title: Tech Support: Error Unknown
Developer: Dragon Slumber
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Provided by Publisher
Interface: Keyboard and Mouse
Available on Steam
Tech Support: Error Unknown is an adventure game with simulation and puzzle mechanics, which places you in front of a virtual computer. As a tech support specialist new to the job, use a wide array of computer software to solve customer issues or choose to manipulate programs for personal gain. Hack your system to unlock its full potential, GPS track lost phones, scan profiles to blackmail customers, or simply propose they reboot.
While on the job, you discover a conflict between your corporate employer and an anonymous rogue hacktivist group, trying to take them down. Will you climb the corporate ladder, secretly join the hacktivists, or help the police expose them? Alternatively, will you pursue a more personal agenda?
Tech Support: Error Unknown is one of that genre of games I’m going to call immersives. These are games which make it a goal, perhaps even their main goal, to get you completely immersed in the experience they are presenting. Immersives include not only Tech Support: Error Unknown, but the Emily Is Away series and Hypnospace Outlaw.
Tech Support: Error Unknown opens with you making an account with Quasar Telecommunications. You are going to providing first tier tech support to Quasar’s customers through a new program, allowing you to work from home. The Spectrum OS will have all the tools you need: Email to receive updates and feedback from management, the Help Desk application to actually provide customers with tech support, a wiki full of rules and procedures, and a checkout application to get paid.
Each Day, you will login, check your email, switch on your Help Desk application and try to help customers with their problems as efficiently and correctly as possible before clocking out and getting a payout based on your performance. Each game of Tech Support: Error Unknown takes place over 30 days, which may seem arbitrary, but is actually one of the most brilliant pieces of this game. While the first couple days pass by uneventfully, soon you start getting a sense that Quasar is hiding something, you’re contacted by what could equally be a terrorist organization or a vigilante group, and things spiral from there.
Tech Support: Error Unknown is a snap shot of a story, where your choices and actions play a pivotal role, even if it doesn’t seem that way at first.
The vast majority of your time in the game will be spent answering customer complaints and issues on the Help Desk. Your software doesn’t allow you to type directly to the customer, but has a drop down menu of pre-programmed answers you’ll have to choose from. This makes each call feel more like a puzzle than a conversation. This was absolutely intentional, based on conversation with developer Kevin Giguere at PAX East, and I have to say it is pulled of brilliantly. Some of the calls are as easy as suggesting a customer turn their phone off and on again, or call themselves to find a lost number, but as warranties come into play, problem customers start calling and more nefarious technologies become available, these puzzles can be incredibly difficult! I took the hit of a bad review more than once by simply hanging up on a customer because I could not appease them (in one case, I think this was the actual solution).
I’ve only played through the game in full once completely, and ended up walking the path of the good citizen/employee, following corporate policy and working with the police whenever asked to. However, it is very clear to me that there are a bunch of branching paths in Tech Support: Error Unknown, providing the game with substantial bit of replayability if you want to see every side of this story.
My criticisms of Tech Support: Error Unknown largely come down on the game’s aesthetic: The visual design and audio design of the game come across as exceedingly bland, which may very well be the developer’s intent (a.k.a. mimicking the corporate aesthetic and elevator music). If this is the intent, then I certainly can understand the choice, but cannot help but feel that it could have used a little something more to distinguish itself and make it stand out.
I also found my self frustrated about the inclusion of a number on “non-tech support” conversation you are forced to have, yet still stuck to the limitation of the Help Desk Application. This ends up meaning you cannot actually respond to the questions being asked in any meaningful way, though there are some pretty hilarious, dark humor responses for certain conversations.
If you’re looking for a self-contained and immersive text adventure steeped in the world of IT support, with multiple options and narrative paths to explore, Tech Support: Error Unknown is a great choice, as long as you don’t mind the corporate aesthetic and being frustrated by virtual customers and some of the mechanical limitations of the game itself.