President Thomas Jefferson has commissioned you for a mission that will change the destiny of the United States. Along with your co-captain, William Clark, you are to lead the Corps of Discovery--three dozen intrepid volunteers from the United States Army--from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. That's over 3,700 miles of rivers, plains, forests and mountains you will need to cross: and then retrace on the journey home.
Meriwether is a single-player, first-person RPG that combines the narrative richness of adventure games with resource management, hunting, and exploration to offer a unique play experience. The game implements the best parts of open-world design and customized content to give you an experience that is driven by your actions, yet remains true to history.
The dangers you will face are incalculable. You'll have to draw your own map as you go, for no reliable one exists. You'll have only the supplies you can carry with you to fend off starvation, exposure, disease, and mischance of every variety. Given the difficulty of the journey, you are the only man in America to which the President would entrust this mission: you. And you are Meriwether Lewis.
A decade ago, I spent two weeks with my wife on a road trip from St. Louis to Astoria, Oregon, exploring the Lewis and Clark Trail, and reading their journals along the way. That fateful journey made me fall in love with the American West, and with this monumental piece of history, in all its grandeur and weirdness--warts and all. As a game designer, most of my work has focused on system design, but I needed to make a game about the Lewis & Clark expedition, and it’s one hell of a story. Meriwether therefor became my opportunity to explore narrative and character. We deliberately did things different from the standard conventions of game stories; there’s not a single cutscene, it doesn’t start in media res, and the character is far from a tabula rasa allowing the player to do anything they want. Instead, it starts off slow, takes its time in a literary fashion, and shows the player who Meriwether Lewis was. My process was more important, personally, than the end product. It allowed me to travel and explore the American West in person, and meet a plethora of collaborators who contributed in all sorts of ways, many of whom have never made a video game before, and never will again. Our goal was to create a game as baroque as the period of history and the Jeffersonian characters it depicts. Players have to slow down to truly appreciate this game; you’ll need to look up words and history details to fully appreciate it, much the way I might read a novel. I pride myself on making games that distill the gameplay to its essence, for example the 90-second RTS gameplay of Killer Queen. Despite its length and stately pace, Meriwether is no exception: the polite, florid conversations and the long slow meanderings across the continent are the epitome of the Corps of Discovery’s experience.