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Independency: Evangelizing Die2Nite

Column By Cassandra Khaw on August 03, 2012

Since first discovering the game a few years back, I've done everything I could to evangelize Die2Nite. Why? Because it's a damn awesome game that deserves more attention and a game that exists in a somewhat unfortunate position. Die2Nite, in spite of being brilliant in its own quiet, horrible way, has a problem: it's a browser game.

Yes, I saw you flinch. Don't deny it. If you cringed and reached for the nearest crucifix, there's nothing wrong with you. Generally speaking, browser-based games are evil. They're mostly Farmville, after all.

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"Most people tend to automatically put 'web-based' and 'casual' together." Sebastian Bernaud, a Ludum Dare veteran and graphic artist at Motion Twin, noted with a sigh. "And, that's fine because there's an awful lot of bad web-games and a whole bunch of 'ville games as well."

A pause. "The Zynga games basically struck a fatality for browser-based games."

Die2Nite, unlike many other web games out there, is definitely not casual. If anything, it's exceptionally hardcore. Though ostensibly a story of people attempting to survive against a zombie apocalypse, Die2Nite's real villains are the people.

The concept behind the game is this: forty people, randomly selected from a pool of available players, are thrown together into a small and ill-enforced town. Every day, each player is allowed to make use of a limited numbers of turns and it is their prerogative as to what happens next. Do they steal from the bank to reinforce their personal shelters? Do they go out to scavenge for food? Do they assist the town's attempts at growth? Or do they stumble recklessly into the wilderness and plead for help?

What set Die2Nite above its peers is the fact that you can choose to let people die, an unsettling thing in a world informed with perma-death. Don't feel like rescuing an idiot? Close the gates on them. Had enough of thieving scum? Hang them. Possibilities for punishment abound. If that wasn't enough, there is the fact that you can't really be held accountable for killing that person off. Because of how the game is constructed, you will not, generally speaking, be able to seek out retribution against the dude that cast the first stone.

"When we first set out making the game, we initially intended it to be more like a 'survive on an island with people and organize your daily stuff' sort of thing. But we quickly realized that that lacked a real threat." Sebastian explains. "Naturally, that quickly evolved to the implementation of zombies because we needed an implacable threat, something that players cannot rationalize. They have to deal with it or die."

“Obviously, the real dangers are not the zombies. Most people don't notice at first but the real danger (and problem) are other human beings. We thought it would be a niched game that would only appeal hardcore Dungeons & Dragon Legacy of Blood fans but most players demonstrated that they were perfectly willing to betray, kill, stab, slap and otherwise destroy their neighbors with everything they had in them."

It's scary.

So, what's the future like for Die2Nite? Sebastian says that there are plans for the next few days. "We will continue to update the game and it'd be partially based on player suggestions."

However, there is no promise of an infinite lifespan. "I think it's a bad idea to stick to a game to make it bloats until it explodes."

Sebastian confesses. "I have (not-so-secret) plans to make another game based on similar principles in the same world, more like a 'road movie survival' game that features a very small team of players. It was inspired by the Walking Dead, obviously."

"Of course, there's going to be perma-death because that works surprisingly well when the whole game is built around it."

You can check out Die2Nite here.

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