NieR:Cogito is available on itch.io to download for Win10, Linux, and macOS, and is playable in browser!
An Unofficial Derivative Game By A Human
Based On A Game Series By Humans
About Monsters And Machines Who Think They Are Human
To Promote A Game About Humans And Machines And Monsters
Inside A Machine Held By Humans
Winner of the NieR:Re[in]carnation Content Creator competition 2021Aug!
NieR:Cogito is a short interactive novel from the perspective of a machine in the NieR universe. You are tasked with answering Yes/No questions about identity, purpose, and existence. Your choices will determine the fate of all Machine-kind…
Cogito is a fan-game set to establish a hypothetical lore bridge in the unknown time between NieR:Replicant and NieR:Automata, developing and posing possible origin theories surrounding the nature and development of NieR elements such as Machine Consciousness and the Logic Virus. Despite this though, the game stands on it’s own feet, approachable by players with no previous experience with the world of NieR.
Despite only presenting a binary input system, the game works to push the player’s engagement with unique and surprising mechanics alongside witty and thought-provoking dialogue. The game guides the player through a series of thought experiments carried out over a few acts, each surrounding Descartes’ philosophical concept “Cogito, ergo sum”, known in the modern world as “I think, therefore I am”. The game works through aspects of this discourse, addressing concepts of thought, identity, and consciousness, and attributing these ideas to artificial intelligence. Do machines ‘think’? If so, does this equate to ‘consciousness’? If not, what distinguishes the ‘calculation’ of a machine intelligence from the ‘thought’ of a human? If a machine can not trust it’s own thoughts, can you trust yours?
Cogito was produced for the NieR:Re[in]carnation Content Creator competition, announced on the 29th of July 2021 and running for 3 weeks plus an extra week of voting. The competition was open to all art submissions that represented or promoted the NieR series. At first, I didn’t think much of it, but after reflecting for a short while (and reading through the legal fine-print), I realised that I could submit a game. I thought about it; what could I write and develop in 3 weeks, and even then what story within NieR could I tell? I did some research, read through the NieR timeline, and reflected on my old philosophy studies from when I was younger. I settled on three points; a text-adventure (since I had experience building them and their mechanics could tell a large story in a simple set-up), the NieR Machines, and the idea of “I think, therefore I am.” Having long been a fan of artificial intelligence, this was already a story I was prepared to explore!
I set to work, hired a musician, and started planning everything. After a few days I had drafted the story that was split into 4 acts (plus an intro sequence), and so began the tireless efforts of game development. For the following two and a half weeks I worked non-stop; writing code, drawing art, producing audio, and working with the musician to get that sound-track finished. It was tough, the entirety of August felt like a blur to me, but in the end, a couple of days before voting closed, the game was published and submitted!
The following week was filled with post-dev and marketing; pushing patches and new builds for other systems, posting and promoting the game wherever I could, and talking with the amazing community on the NieR:Re[in]carnation Discord group. The game was going amazingly; the competition was run as a popularity contest, where anyone could come in and vote for their favourite submissions. There were so many truly stunning pieces in the competition, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t intimidated by the other submissions, but by the end I had a solid lead and many people talking about my game, comparing notes on endings and theories.
At the end of August, voting closed and Cogito had won! Myself, along with the other top four highest voted works, had won the prize of a highlighted user-title in the community Discord group, and promotion via the Re[in]carnaiton social platforms! Unfortunately, the competition suddenly ran into some legal issues. For myself, the legal teams of Square Enix/Applibot were concerned about promoting a game they had not produced, particularly one brandishing the ‘NieR” logo, as they could not vouch for the safety of the application. Understanding this, I worked and published the browser version, but sadly to no avail. Understandably so, Cogito was not promoted, though I was allowed to keep the game live, and luckily the promotion did roll down to other very deserving runner-ups!
After this, I applied the final patch to builds, and began a final push of promoting the game myself, and I luckily found fortune in two sources! The Reddit community over at r/nier were thrilled by the fan-game and, just as the Discord community before them, they began discussing theories and secrets throughout the story! Additionally, my story was picked up by Kotaku, and this journey I have regaled here was published for the world to see. Between the two, Cogito saw unprecedented traffic, and I was overjoyed to see so many people playing and loving the game!
Since then the hype has died down, though I do still get a handful of players come through on the daily. The soundtracks, which are available on YouTube, also continue to still draw views as people enjoy the stunning works my musician composed! All-in-all, it was a stressful but wonderful journey, and I am absolutely glad I took that plunge to produced this game, and thankful to both the communities for their support, and Square Enix/Applibot for giving me the chance to work on this project in the first place.
- NieR:Cogito on itch.io
- Kotaku Article
- SocraTetris; A Fan’s Philosophical Deconstruction of Cogito
- Cogito – drive.A:\
- Cogito – drive.B:\