171: Brazilian Game Portrays Urban Reality
171 is an open-world action-adventure game set in Brazil.
The game has a large city inspired by essentially Brazilian scenarios, every detail and element present in the game environment was designed to bring a sense of familiarity to the player.
The city comes to life with pedestrians and cars walking around the map that interact with each other and with the map, the player has weapons and can interact with the elements present in the city.
However, it is important to be careful, because every action can create a reaction in the same intensity, acting in an aggressive way can attract attention.
A violent attitude can make innocent people keep their distance and get in trouble not only with the police, but also with local bandits.
Developing 171: Start
171 was released by the independent developer and distributor Betagames Group, with approximately ten members, located in the state of São Paulo.
In mid-2010 and 2011, times when Brazilian mods for games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas became popular, they started thinking about developing a game loosely set in Brazil.
When asked “how did the idea of producing an open world game, especially set in Brazil?”, Diogo Moraes, one of the game’s developers, replied:
“It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like open world games nowadays, isn’t it? We, for example, love the freedom adopted in these games, they are true works of art. When we came across mods that brought content and even environments even if fractioned from Brazil and more and more frequently, this aroused our interest and made us see the possibilities of a dedicated creation for this purpose, as it was not just something cool, but something that over time we saw that all expected to see and not just us.”
The meaning of the title “171” is linked to article 171 of the Brazilian penal code regarding the crime of embezzlement, but which, in a popular way, is used to refer to criminals in general.
Developing 171: 2010-2015
Over the years, between 2010 and 2015, the team used the Blender game engine, until it was later replaced by Unreal Engine 4.
The development of 171 was slow over these years. During that time, in 2015, Betagames released the game Minta se Puder for the Windows platform.
A Patreon page, to raise funds for 171, was also created in 2015. The game’s development process was not carried out in full, as explained by Diogo Moraes:
“Currently 171 is being developed, although we are an Indie team at the moment that only manages to dedicate only free time to its development, and this in fact reflects in its production time, the project is still strongly in creation.”
Developing 171: First Trailer
In October 2015, Betagames Group launched a teaser-trailer on its YouTube channel depicting the game’s setting, gameplay and concept.
This video quickly gained popularity in various media services, including its appearance on television, through the Porchat Program on TV Record.
The song used in the trailer was “Chavão”, provided by Família Shake; this made Betagames Group open space for independent singers, DJs, bands and/or artists to send their songs to the game in order to help with the sound elements of the game, as well as increase the popularity of these artists.
In addition, the developer also made available the sending of graffiti by artists, as they described it as a form of “artistic manifestation” in addition to “a great form of cultural expression” aiming at the recognition of “humble artists to present their art throughout Brazil , with this the artist will be receiving due recognition for his work.”
Two days later, they released a new update, focusing on vehicle changes, new vehicles, and weaponry.
Developing 171: 2016-2018
In late 2016, Betagames Group’s official website featured a countdown to February 2017. Many speculated that the game would be released on that date. However, the date referred to a major update they were planning which was pushed back to May of that year.
The following month, they announced that they had partnered with Mega Provedor, a company located in São Paulo that made its structure available to Betagames Group in order to “support a greater number of users online daily”.
This was due to the large number of public accesses to the page having left it offline twice due to the curiosity of checking the latest news posted by the developer.
The availability of online matches between players was also considered. Finally, in May 2017, Betagames Group released yet another new update, in which a gameplay video referring to “map expansion” is demonstrated.
With a partnership with the Gigaton Games YouTube channel, the gameplay video reached more than 2 million views and more than 170,000 likes by June 2019.
The video shows the protagonist walking over the city, with various details referring to the Brazilian outskirts, such as houses without plaster, trash cans and painted poles.
Two months later, they released another new update, demonstrating the success of their social project carried out in April 2016, with a significant number of artists who sent their songs to the developer, including the Shake Family, Sephion, Paradgma and Quartzo Records.
Until then, the game’s city was being kept secret, however it was discovered that the city portrayed in the game’s gameplay videos is based on the municipality of Sumaré, in the interior of São Paulo, with its fictional name being Sumarití.
Final Stages of Development
This feat was discovered by the YouTube channel SanInPlay, in September 2017, after analyzing some concept art from the game and comparing the fictional map with the real-life map.
In February 2018, they released a new development update, this time with a gameplay video of the game with the protagonist inside a vehicle.
The car tuning process was shown, in addition to new elements in the scenario, HUD and sound elements.
At the end of that year, they released the “Playing to lose is not me” update that featured new gameplay demonstrations, such as shooting mechanics and vehicle destruction.
Along with this, they released a campaign on Catarse to be able to raise funds for 171 in order to present a playable gameplay at Brasil Game Show 2019, as well as providing freebies and extra content for supporters.
Developing 171: 2019-2020
In early 2019, the developer managed to raise more than 68 thousand reais in the collective campaign, managing to place 171 at the Brasil Game Show that year.
On April 13, 2020, a new fundraising campaign was opened in Catarse. There were two goals in it; the first was an amount of BRL 57135.00 and the second was an additional amount of BRL 21632.00 (BRL 78767.00 adding the two amounts together).
Additional money from the second goal will be invested in motion capture equipment to improve character animations.
The campaign turned out to be successful, with the team raising more than 30 thousand reais in the first 24 hours and beating the estimated total value in just 2 days, allowing the team to accelerate the production of the game. In total, the developer raised more than 197 thousand reais in this second campaign.
Media and Release
A prominent way for the Betagames Group to promote 171 is through the YouTube platform, with videos showing the development process.
In addition, some channels dedicated to electronic games have partnered with the developer in order to publicize an update to the game.
A fundraising campaign on Catarse was created with the objective of accelerating the development of the game and promoting it at the Brasil Game Show (BGS) 2019.
In it, depending on the amount donated, the player could win a copy of the then-future pre-alpha version, in addition to some freebies, such as a T-shirt, a mug, a poster and a mini sculpture of the game’s protagonist.
171’s promotion at BGS 2019 prompted media related to the gaming industry to make articles dedicated to the game.
IGN considered 171 as one of the highlights of the convention, especially highlighting how much he was generating visibility among the public.
On the fact that it was dubbed the “Brazilian GTA”, some of the developers admitted: “we don’t like to call it Brazilian GTA”.
However, they agreed that such a comparison was “inevitable” and that they were sometimes “flattered” by the comparison with “Rockstar’s billionaire franchise”.
Developers demonstrated the first pre-alpha version at BGS 2019 in October of that year, which consisted of a number of ten cars and two weapons in a limited part of the city.
The developer released a second development build, pre-alpha 2, on March 25, 2020.
Originally, the developers predicted this version for the end of 2019, however, they had to postpone this release in order to propose a “better quality level” experience for players.
This version was available for PC via Steam only for those who collaborated in the campaign from December 2018 to January 2019 in Catarse (donating an amount above BRL 50.00) and for some media personalities to promote the game.
These personalities include YouTubers, such as those who have previously partnered with the developer, and others who have expressed interest in the game.
Unlike the first version seen at BGS, pre-alpha 2 includes a wanted system similar to the Grand Theft Auto series, in addition to dubbing and the possibility of changing clothes.
Many players praised this version primarily for its setting, vehicle play, and voice acting.
Scams and Controversy
After the launch of pre-alpha 2, some websites and, mainly, YouTube channels used the name of the game in order to carry out scams, saying that the title was available on other platforms (such as Android) and that there was a version available for free for download, both on mobile devices and for Windows.
Some people have reported that viruses have entered their devices, with some capable of stealing personal user data.
Betagames Group and several other personalities were completely against such attitudes. Denounces were made to these channels, with some of these videos finally being deleted from the platform.
This showed that several people were interested in acquiring the game in some way. Betagames Group then announced that they would make a new fundraiser available in the near future.
Early Access and Alpha Version
The distributor predicted the launch of an alpha version of the game in the second half of 2020. A second successful campaign in Catarse made this version possible in May 2020.
This version has new mechanics, as well as a dynamic day and night system, new weapons, and new vehicles (such as motorcycles). It also featured improvements to the police and characters, new moves, weapon shops, more clothes and bug fixes seen in the pre-alpha version.
The COVID-19 pandemic also impacted the game’s production. The team postponed the alpha release to March 23, 2021 due to complications related to the pandemic.
Due to other production issues, the alpha release has been postponed to an unspecified date.
The developer stated that it would avoid disclosing new dates before being “fully sure of its completion in its best state of polish”.
On October 12, 2022, the team released a trailer for the alpha version of the game. The distributor released the alpha version on November 17, 2022 for Windows via early access on Steam.
Versions for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and Nintendo Switch consoles are planned for release at a later date.
On the day of its release, the alpha version reached the top of Steam’s best selling games.
Accusations of Fraud and Embezzlement
On November 20th, an investigation was organized into the game’s developer.
This investigation took place after the distributor suffered several accusations of fraud and embezzlement, according to the publication of a MixMods website developer.
The following day, the company published a disclaimer rebutting the accusations.
171 Beta Version
In the January 2019 Catarse campaign, Betagames Group commented that, upon reaching the goals, the distributor would launch a beta version of the game sometime in 2021.
In the May 2020 campaign, the team reaffirmed that the beta launch would still be scheduled for 2021. With the alpha being pushed back to 2022, the beta is currently undated.
Cultural Impact of 171
171 appears in the fifth episode of the first season of the television series Pico da Neblina (2019). HBO Brazil broadcasts the series co-directed by Fernando Meirelles.
The director was nominated for an Oscar for the film City of God (2002).
Despite the sales success shortly after the release on Steam, many users were heavily critical of the game.
Criticisms include performance-related issues, with reports of poor optimization even on stronger graphics cards like the RTX 4090.
Another very strong criticism was regarding the bugs present in the game, being considered the second biggest problem in the game, after performance problems.
Bugs are very frequent, on the trail bike the protagonist is completely on his feet, for example. The movement of turning the handlebars is also problematic, looking like it’s in slow motion.
It is also possible to witness several bugs with the walk of the NPCs. Several players commented on the characters’ physical blocking and on some pedestrians sliding instead of walking.
The gameplay is very stiffy, with the protagonist’s walk being very weird. Any car, even a VW Beetle, rears up when you ride in them.
The motorcycles are front-wheel drive, something totally different from real life. When it’s time to rear the bike (for a cool ass effect), you don’t have any control, making it impossible to know when the bike is about to fall.
Although the city resembles a low-income Brazilian city, with shops and houses typical of our country, the map is extremely small.
Pedestrians are overreacting at times and at others not at all, passing through fire as if it didn’t exist.
It is also possible to extort a homeless person and withdraw 200 reais in a robbery. It is also possible to assault any pedestrian over and over again, until you get tired. For now, the hitbox is stuck in some places, creating invisible barriers.
With the lack of a story or objectives, the gameplay is boring, with not much to do. So if you have a weak PC, I don’t recommend this game at all.
If you’re interested in playing 171 and enjoying it as a GTA-style game, wait until the official release. For now, alpha is one more way to contribute to the project (in addition to catar.se).