I’m currently working on a game where the theme is the D-Day, and I would appreciate you opinion. It’s about sudden death in text adventures.
In my game, the player will land in one of three sectors on Omaha beach. He can move between the three sectors, but eventually he will have to cross the beach in order to get to the cover of a sea wall. His chance of survival depends on which sector he’s in when he cross the beach. When he moves South (towards the sea wall) the game chooses a random number between one and hundred. If the number chosen is higher than, say, sixty, the player will die, and if it’s lower, he will make it safely to the sea wall. The three sectors each have their own trigger number (so to speak) So it’s more dangerous to move from sector “Dog White” than it is from “Dog Green” and “Charlie.”
I will hurry to add that there is a way to avoid this life and death “lottery” and the player will be given a clue as to what it is. On top of that, the game comes with a built in hintsystem, and a walk-through.
I realize that I’m violating the first rule in the Bill of player’s rights: Not to be killed without warning! and then again, am I? The fact that you are playing the role of a soldier invading France ought, in my opinion, be enough to indicate to the player that he might die a violent death.
What do you think?
I think maybe the randomness part is unfair, but it’s a good idea. Personally, if you want it to happen like that, the first time you try to move (before a certain turn number), if you get hit, you don’t die, but you instead get pulled back( by a comrade) just before you get hit, giving you a warning to what could happen.
Thanks. I see your point. But if the player gets wounded he will not be able to continue the game.
In the location description it is mentioned that people die around him, landing crafts hits mines and tanks get blown up by the enemy artillery.
The way I see it, sudden death is bad mainly because of the punishment of having to replay the game to get back where you were. If you have an UNDO button it isn’t that bad. Alternatively if you can’t undo but you die on the first few turns replaying shouldn’t be too tedious either.
You could potentially build on the death mechanism, too. e.g. It may be possible to undo/redo until you’re through the gunfire. That will just be part of the game if this is the only situation that acts like this On the other hand, you could have more gunfire later that can be avoided in the same manner as the first, or randomly run through (with chance of death) in the same manner as the first.
So if the player realises they’re rolling the dice repeatedly every time they have to deal with this type of attack, and get weary from doing/redoing, that could encourage them to solve the puzzle you’ve got up your sleeve of how to get through safely. Of course, some people will always run through. That’s life with randomness.
Who cares about Bill of player’s right! You are developing a game set in a very violent time, I suspect soldiers were painfully aware that death could come pretty much at random. And your game does that, bonus point for not developing the usual tripe where a lone hero saves the world pretty much by himself.
Having said that, there might be way to properly introduce the mechanic without frustrating the player:
maybe have a clear explanation that some movements will trigger a death lottery (“you feel that moving to sector Xyz carries a high chance of getting shot and dying alone”).
maybe have autosaves at crucial points or every x minutes. This way even forgetful players will have a chance to reload and not replay from the start.
Interactive Fiction is not the most accessible of media — images will always beat text as an immediate way to convey information. What we have on our side is the possibility to experiment with new mechanics, themes, narrative ploys.
Experiment with “fairness”, listen to the feedback of your beta testers, I am sure your game will come up good!
I’m a player who hates random unfair sudden death and having to UNDO or reload a saved game. But 2 things can get me past this hatred:
1.) If the death is part of the gameplay
2.) If the game automatically rewinds me without me having to do it.
But write the game you want to write, and listen to what your testers say about it, and all will be well.
I think the question to ask yourself is: what kind of challenge do you want this to be for the player?
Since you talk about offering a way to avoid the “lottery”, it sounds like you want this to be an obstacle that the player must figure out a way to overcome. But the randomness offers an alternate way to overcome it, i.e. simply savescumming or using UNDO until the dice roll goes their way. This is both easier for the player, because they don’t need to solve any puzzles or think about what to do, and also less interesting/fun, which from a design standpoint isn’t really a great thing.
Is there a particular reason why you should offer the player this option? For example, there could be a reward for going through the “lottery” or a downside to avoiding it, making this a risk/reward choice for the player. Or maybe the puzzle for avoiding it could be something not every player enjoys, like a maze, so you want to give them the option to skip it. But if there’s not, I personally would prefer just dying outright instead of being at the mercy of the RNG. (Of course, other players might feel differently.)
As for sudden death, I think the best thing to do is simply warn the player. Maybe the first time they try to cross the beach the game could stop them and ask, “That could be dangerous. Are you sure you want to do that? Y/N.” Or even just a line in the room description telling the player that crossing the beach seems dangerous. Also, keep in mind that the player’s bill of rights was written before things like UNDO or autosaves were prevalent. If you have one of those in your game, sudden death is a lot less annoying.
I’d like to bring in a bit of advice from the ChoiceScript folks: most people will only play your game once. If there’s a random die roll that only happens once in the game, most people will never know about it. To some percentage of players, it’ll seem like you always make it through alive, and to some percentage of players, it’ll seem like you always get shot and die. Players aren’t going to pick up on a die roll that only happens once.
So my question is—if the player will only see one of these outcomes, if they won’t know that there’s any randomness at all, which outcome do you want it to be? Which makes for the most satisfying story?
Off the top of my head, and not knowing anything else about your game (or about D-day for that matter), my suggestion would be:
If you’ve done the clever preparation thing, you’re always safe.
If you’ve done a less clever preparation thing, you’ll be safe at Dog Green but not at Dog White.
If you haven’t done any preparation, you always die. (Or always get pulled back by another soldier at the last moment, the first time, and die, the second time.)
This means the player actually has to think about the preparations and can’t skip that entire part of the game with a lucky die roll (or undo-scumming). It also means that choosing to cross at a safer place rather than a more dangerous place actually matters, and won’t be nullified by an unlucky die roll.
I agree with this. I understand the importance of getting across the randomness and cruelty of death during wartime. But in a game it’s also important that the player be alive to experience the story. Unless the game is a pure “D-Day Survival Simulator” and meant to be re-playable.
Narration is almost always the answer to most problems, and like a theme park ride, you want the audience to experience a sense of danger but without actual danger. Don’t forget that in most circumstances, you’re in control of the world and the reader will believe what you tell them:
What I might suggest is rig the game in the player’s favor, but use the game-elements to maximize suspense.
The Player Character should know he is in for a lottery “death game” and there could be an internal monologue that runs constantly: “I’m in a squad of thirty, there’s 100% chance that ten of us will die in the next ten minutes…I’ve got my choice, there are three sections of the beach, are they watching? Is it random? Is it safer to follow the crowd, or are they going to aim for the part that has the most potential casualties? The safest looking route is under barbed wire but in five inches of water so even if I don’t get hit there’s a chance I could drown…”
Make the stakes very clear to the player. You could even simulate a dice roll or a “spin of the wheel” in the player’s head - but always let them win it so the game can continue. It can be random. It can even be manipulated so that the danger happens In section A just as the player switched from section A to section B for maximum drama.
Maybe the player has a “lucky coin” they can flip and choose whether to believe it or not believe it. Either way, you get great opportunities to write about chance and fate and causality no matter whether the coin was right or wrong when the player survives!
TL;DR: As an author, always be secretly on the player’s side.
I think about movies where the character overcomes ridiculous odds. Sometimes I find myself saying well what’s the chance of that happening? But then I realize it’s a story, and a story is about the exception, not the rule.
Have the player always die and have to solve a puzzle to avoid it;
Have the player never die. They’re in a story, so they’re an exception.
The game starts out in the LCVP, and the player is Pvt. Adams. Adams gets killed in the surf, the player is now Pvt. Biggs. Biggs makes it out of the water but steps on a mine, the player is now Pvt. Clark…
Firstly, I think you’re going about this the right way by asking for opinions. Here’s mine…
Sudden death occurs when you are killed without warning, so I don’t think this scenario qualifies as sudden death. You are a soldier under fire in a wartime situation. Death or injury is always possible. As a player, you know the danger and have to minimise the risk of death or injury.
I always hate random outcomes in adventures. As @Draconis points out, you could get through the random situation without getting killed and not even know that you got through by sheer luck. It would be better to make the outcome more predictable.
For example, imagine that you’ve just jumped off the landing craft and your helmet falls off. If you run across the beach to get to the sea wall, you get shot in the head. Bang! You’re dead. However, if you recover your helmet and put it back on, then run across the beach, a bullet ricochets off your helmet, thus saving your life. The player can still get killed by doing the “wrong” thing, but you’ve avoided the randomness.
If you wanted to avoid the death altogether, then you could follow @SomeOne2’s suggestion. When you try running across the beach, your CO or a comrade pulls you back by the shoulder and shouts, “Are you trying to get yourself killed? Put your f***ing helmet on!”
As actual Naval & Military historian, I prefer Phil Riley’s option 2. whose is consistent with modern IF concept (of course, doing cretin acts like charging into a minefield or straight toward a bunker bristling with MG42 ought to be cruelly (Zarfian sense) punished…)
If your IF is inspired by Saving Private Ryan, and the depiction of the horrific carnage on the Normandy Beaches is central in your narration, you can put Death alongside the PC as, well, in the movie above.
Actually, I would call that “Polite” on the original version of the scale—it’s obvious when you’re doing something game-ending and then the game actually ends, rather than leaving you in a walking-ghost state for the next three hours.
Cruelty would be if you can jump on a mine to see what happens, the game resurrects you and tells you not to do it again…and then much later you find out that resurrection locks you out of the endgame irrevocably.
I agree with you on that point that a player will probably only play the game once.
I’m making the game using Campbell’s Adrift V.5 (can highly recommend it ) and part of the reason for using the “lottery” as I call it in lack of a better word (sorry. English is not my native language.) is to learn about the various bells and whistles of this developer.