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Weekly Journal - Survival Mechanics
This week’s journal will be on the notorious topic of Survival mechanics! To understand the evolution of the survival mechanic, we’ll need to go back to the beginning, when we first started conceptualizing the game.
At the beginning of the project, we had a few specific ideas of what we wanted for our game. The first one was that we wanted the game to take place in a procedural city - people had created procedural games before, but very few in urban settings (most in forests, space, etc). . The second idea we wanted to look at was a dystopian society. However, we did not want it to be bleak - it had to be a fun and colorful one. So with these themes locked down, we started thinking about why and what would a player be doing in a procedural dystopian city, and what would this mean gameplay wise?
This led to the idea of urban survival. We chose survival mechanics for two reasons. First, thematically it was super interesting - survival should be easy in a city because in theory there is plenty of food, water and shelter to go around. What if there wasn’t? What if it wasn’t safe? Second, we needed some simple but well understood mechanics since we already had so much on our plate with the procedural city and the social stealth (conformity) - the beginning of a game project is a lot about understanding what challenges we should tackle and what we should choose not to iterate on (risk assessment). With all these ideas fitting into one another, the game started to take shape and we loved the idea of having to survive in a happy dystopian city.
At the beginning stages, we designed the game as a hardcore rogue-like survival game, meant to be replayed a lot with short playthroughs. We didn’t want a tutorial, and permadeath was mandatory - no saving! We wanted our players to learn by dying and doing better in the next playthrough. That went well with the harshness of our fictional world. We had a story in the form of cutscenes, and the player had to survive until encountering each of them, and we were pretty excited at the prospect of intertwining story and roguelike survival.
Between PAX East 2015 and Early Access, things were going pretty well. We were receiving positive feedback from our Kickstarter backers and making tweaks to the gameplay. One important piece of feedback that we implemented during this time was to remove permadeath - a mechanic that is fun when you have short games but can be extremely frustrating as your play sessions get longer and more involved. However, players were becoming more and more interested in the world and story we were building - and that meant their priorities about what they were doing in the game was changing. And then Early Access happened, and that feedback exploded.