The Devil You Don’t: Hidden Antagonists As A Game Design Concept

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I feel like few people have hated me quite like my freshman year roommate in college, who we’ll call Fred. You see, Fred’s bedroom was situated directly in between my bedroom and that of our third roommate, an old friend of mine who we’ll call Nate. The walls in UTD’s dorms were paper thin, and while normally this meant you’d hear your roommates doing the horizontal mambo or just blaring trap music real loud, in Fred’s case, that meant that he heard me, at 2 AM, screaming obscenities and rapidly oscillating between glee, terror, and fury, every night for about a month. And he heard the same thing coming from Nate’s room as well.

The reason for this was the fact that Nate and I, as well as a fair portion of our other friends, had gotten very into a gametype for Garry’s Mod simply called Murder. The rules of Murder are fairly simple: every player is thrown into an enclosed space, their names replaced with NATO callsigns. One person is secretly selected as the Murderer. They are given a knife which instant-kills everyone it hits, and the task to, as the name indicates, murder everyone in the game. The rest of the players are bystanders, and except for a gun randomly given to one of them, they are completely unarmed. Their goal is to find and kill the Murderer. Of course, all weapons can be hidden, so the Murderer’s identity is unknown unless you see them, y’know, murder someone.

Murder is a pure distillation of a game design concept I’ve commonly heard called “hidden antagonist”. The concept is fairly simple: a small number of players is designated the “antagonist”, and are set up against every other player, with their lack of numbers made up for by the fact that team labels are not public information, leaving all players left guessing as to who is “innocent” and who is an “antagonist”. Hidden antagonist games are unfortunately uncommon in video games (although the concept has had great success in Garry’s Mod gametypes, between Murder and the extremely popular Trouble In Terrorist Town). The concept has, however, been a common mechanical concept in tabletop games for decades.

It’s understandable that hidden antagonism is popular in board games, because its strength as a mechanic aligns well with the strength of board games as a whole: it is something that feeds off of the creativity and individuality of your players, rather than limiting them. When I play hidden antagonist games with my friends who ended up in political science and government, the games are often rife with alliance-forging and silver tongued-deals, with fearmongering and blatant lying at the helm as players attempt to win via Lord of the Flies-style groupthink manipulation. Other friends of mine will simply keep to themselves, allowing paranoia and tension to rip apart the innocents without needing to lift a finger. Others yet will adapt a scorched-earth mentality, operating under the assumption that the antagonists’ identities are meaningless if simply everyone is dead.

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Wipe that smirk off your face you smarmy shit

Hidden antagonism is the rare game mechanic which feeds heavily off of social cues, meaning that its particular manifestation is as varied as, well, social situations themselves. Maybe Dave just killed Greg in cold blood because Dave is the murderer, or maybe because Greg was a murderer, or maybe just because Greg yells really loud in the Skype call when he gets murdered and Dave thinks it’s really funny. Not to mention the fact that this game mode relies heavily on lying, and simply trying to figure out when your friends are lying is a tried-and-true mechanism for good game design on its own merit (see B.S, Coup, Sheriff of Nottingham).

Of course, hidden antagonism has its downsides, as well. Because the hidden antagonist/s typically start off the game weak and over time gain power through the collection of resources, sowing of discord, and panic of the innocents, such games are really susceptible to lucky shots in the dark at the very start. I remember a game of Spyfall, a game in which one player, the Spy, has figure out a common location known to all other players, while all other players are trying to suss out the Spy by asking each other questions about the setting. Ideally, the “innocent” players will ask one another vague questions in order to try and verify one another’s identities, while the Spy spends their time trying to piece together what little information is given in each answer. However, I, as the Spy, was selected as the target of the very first question: “So, what do you do here?” With no information available and a 1 in 32 chance of guessing the location successfully, I just had to shrug and say “Espionage?”

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The other big problem comes from a major assumption I’ve been making: that you’re playing a hidden antagonist game with friends. If you’re playing with a bunch of randos, a number of potential problems arise, from a lack of good communication to an unawareness of each other’s personalities and social quirks to just a weakening of the unspoken social contract to not be dicks, which is usually much stronger in an established group of friends.

Hidden antagonism is still, nevertheless, a powerful mechanic to make a game’s multiplayer more interesting, because it forces players to not just analyze the state of the game, but also the players themselves. In a game with a hidden antagonist, a player simply analyzing the game state is missing critical clues that can help them win: a player’s mood or level of stress, the group opinions of certain individuals, as well as the situation as a whole, the gullibility and manipulability of players. While certainly paying attention to opponents as players can be helpful in just about every multiplayer game, in hidden antagonist games it’s a part of an optimal strategy, causing all players to naturally gravitate towards doing it.

This focus on the players as much as the game has some key benefits. An obvious one is that it creates a personal connection with the game, since playing the game is deeply connected with playing with the fellow players. While a regular multiplayer game of Call of Duty is largely a mechanical struggle, one in which players simply use mechanics against other, faceless antagonists behaving similarly, a game of Secret Hitler or Murder is deeply interpersonal: not only do you have to really analyze and get familiar with your opponents, you also become extremely aware of the way you are interacting with the game, finely tailoring your moves in order to create the appearance of innocence.

Furthermore, the social nature of hidden antagonist games can help extend replayability, simply because the game can take on different tones and directions depending on who exactly is playing. Secret Hitler, a hidden antagonist game in which the table attempts to successfully run an abstraction of pre-WWII German government while a subset of the table is secretly fascists, and one person is, well, secretly Hitler, can be played for hours if you have a rotating group of people at the table. The game shifts as the players change, morphing from a bloody game of vengeance and paranoia, to a deeply calculated game of probability, to the aforementioned George R.R Martin-esqe game of alliances and betrayals, all within the same mechanics. I should know: at PAX South 2016, I spent an entire day at a single table playing Secret Hitler, and watched this happen before my eyes.

This is not to say that hidden antagonism is the only way to create such a social game, but it is merely a way. Truly clever game designers should look at those fundamental building blocks of social interaction, at lying and desperately wanting to be believed, at friendships and betrayals, at paranoia towards the other and trust towards the familiar, and use these to fuel multiplayer game design. Ultimately, I think we’ll find, while players definitely love to play our games, they like to play with their friends a lot more.

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Turn It Up To 11: Music In Tabletop RPGs

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I don’t think I’ve talked a whole lot about my relationship with music, but while I’m basically totally tone-deaf and am utterly incapable as a creator, I have a very deep and special appreciation for music in media and pop culture. Specifically, I’ve found that I’m always a sucker for a very stylish usage of music that I have trouble vocalizing. While there is no shortage of franchises known for their music, my focus lies less on things like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings which just, y’know, have good soundtracks, and more on media that embraces its soundtrack and maximizes it.

Instead, my love goes out to pieces which make music an active element of the storytelling. The earliest time I can remember recognizing this was during a musical performance of Romeo and Juliet I saw at the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. During a fight scene between the Montagues and Capulets, the actors timed their sword collisions with the music. Since then, I’ve seen other clever uses of music, from the adaptive soundtrack in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, the synchronizing of the Reaper horns with the soundtrack early in Mass Effect 3, crossing into Mexico in Red Dead Redemption, the way the music soars upon climbing a Colossus in Shadow of the Colossus, and recently, the way the soundtrack is used to such great effect in Baby Driver.

So, of course, since it’s a major focus for me recently, I was left wondering, how can I use music like this in tabletop RPGs? The idea of bringing music to the table isn’t novel. Plenty of resources are available which provide background music for tabletop games, and many GMs, including one of my own and myself, will create playlists befitting certain situations. For example, my Shadowrun game, which frequently features characters getting into assorted niche bars, has spawned a half dozen playlists ranging from industrial punk to Frank Sinatra.

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And were I playing Vampire: The Masquerade, I’d presumably just put Marilyn Manson’s discography on loop

But that’s not what I was looking for. That’s just cool background music, some light window dressing on the mood that usually just comes to conflict with the lighthearted tone with is present at the table 99% of the time (after all, most tabletop groups are just a group of friends sitting around a table hanging out, usually with snacks).

The problem, in my eyes, was that for music to be used the way I wanted it to be used required foundational work in the mechanics themselves, it couldn’t just be slapped on to a session in hopes that it’d work. So, because I’m an insane person who doesn’t already have enough on his plate, I made a game: Leitmotif.

Leitmotif is my answer to the question, and ideally, an inspiration for others to consider using music in their game design as a more active component. I won’t post the rules, because they’re a half-edited mess, but the core principle is this: every character in the game has a small set of stats, typical of any RPG, but also has a playlist, consisting of real world songs. The songs in this playlist are tagged using a system of tags presented in the game, ranging from genre tags (“punk”, “EDM”, “country”) to descriptors of lyrical content (“love song”, “fight song”, “about cars”) to more general descriptors (“sad”, “fast”, “loud”). These tags grant characters statistical modifications. Load your character’s playlist up with love songs, and they’ll be more personal, more of a charmer. Load them up with heavy metal and gangster rap, and you’ve got more of a bruiser on your hands. The idea is that the playlist should be a reflection of the character, an effect sort of cheated into existence by actually forcing the reverse: the character is a reflection of their playlist.

The key of Leitmotif is what I call the Juke, which is just the game term for a physical object on the table playing music, be it a phone, bluetooth speaker, radio, computer, whatever. You see, not only do songs have effects on their character, but like spells, songs with specific tags will have global effects on the game when they’re playing on the Juke. Play The Trooper by Iron Maiden, and a global combat buff will be bestowed upon every character present in the game scene. Play some Barry White, and everyone will get a charisma bonus. The core principle is the same as before: make the music always fit the scene, but do so in reverse, by having the mechanical effect of the music encourage players to play according to the song.

The key, though, is in Quarters.

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Quarters are a fictional metacurrency in the game (although I suppose you could use real quarters) given out by the game master and generated via character abilities. You use Quarters in game the same way you use Quarters in real life: to play a song on the Juke. Specifically, to play one of your songs, a song on your character’s playlist. When a song on your playlist is going, it’s your time to shine, your triumphant scene. Your Rules of Nature is playing, your Imperial March. When you spend a Quarter, the effect of your song only affects who you want it to, so those global stat buffs become yours. It’s time to reload your shotguns, come out of cover, and just blast everyone.

Now, some interesting design considerations come out of this design skeleton. First off, the tagging system needs to be robust enough to handle someone picking relatively obscure music (“I think my character is best summarized by Tibetan throat singing”), or multiple people picking similar songs for their playlist (Ensuring a character whose playlist is full of the Sex Pistols is mechanically different from one whose playlist is full of, say, KISS, two bands which are musically distinct but could be tagged similarly). Furthermore, to maximize the effect of the music, dice rolls and combat need to be clean and fast. After all, it would be a bummer to spend a Quarter, blare Kickstart My Heart, and have the song end while you’re still calculating your first dice roll.

Anyways, that’s Leitmotif in a nutshell. It still needs to be playtested (traveling for a month and a half straight is a real nightmare to schedule around!), but it’s my entry into a conversation I think should be had. In a modern design space where it seems like tabletop RPGs are trying to bring new and interesting things into the game itself, from playing cards to candles to a Jenga tower, I think music is so ubiquitous at the table already that we designers should be seeing what we can do with it.

A Love Letter To The Game of My Childhood: Team Fortress 2

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February 2009. After much saving, price-hunting, waiting, and bothering my parents, I finally am able to convince my parents to split the costs of an Xbox 360 with me. This marks a transitional period of my life: prior to this point, I’d solely played games on Nintendo consoles. The Xbox 360 marked the point where I left Nintendo’s walled garden and could begin to explore the wide world of video games as a whole. And, boy, I had some catching up to do.

My first game purchases were a greatest hits collection of a console that was already experiencing its first major Golden Age, and as a child who would watch G4 while home alone on summer vacation, I knew what games I needed to pick up. Fallout 3 was my first purchase, followed closely by Mass Effect and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. As my wallet began to empty (how did I have so much spending money at age 13?), I knew that the games I was buying needed to be able to fill a lot of time. Open world games like Dead Rising and Assassin’s Creed were good choices, but I also remembered a deal unlike other: 5 games, each critically praised as masterpieces, bundled together. The Orange Box.

The Orange Box as a disk defined my adolescence. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve beaten Half Life 2, but it’s somewhere over a dozen. Portal is a masterpiece that has since been immortalized on countless “Best Games Ever” lists, but the game that I sunk the most time into was on the far right of the main menu:

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Team Fortress 2 was far from my first experience with multiplayer shooters; my friends used to meet up to play Halo at each others’ houses all through middle school. However, something about that game enraptured me unlike any other. The characters in the game had developed personalities, ones that were expressed in their gameplay (we were a good way into the Meet The Team video series by this point in time). Characters had distinct playstyles, allowing for the game to become totally different for the player just by changing classes. Most crucially of all, however, was a simple fact: games were long.

A single game on 2Fort could easily take upwards of an hour, and while there were certainly moments of tension as teams would take turns attempting to raid the enemy fort or batter down ridiculous defenses, there was also plenty of down time as players just sort of goofed off. Your Spies were in the sewers trying not to get caught, your Snipers locked in a pissing contest to see who could headshot each other the most, your Engineers just thwackin’ away at their turrets. You had time to kill.

In this time, because I was a stupid teenager, I’d get on voice chat and talk to the people in game. Normally, these interactions were, to use a modern term, completely cancerous, with people just yelling obscenities, but occasionally you’d meet some cool people, and just hang out and have fun. I met a group of people like this, and ended up joining their regular gaming group, a set of people who would just get on Team Fortress 2 together and just goof off. Sometimes we’d play seriously, and sometimes we’d hop back on 2Fort and just mess around.

I think this experience was extremely positive for me. To say nothing of positive social interaction’s benefit on a young dweeb kid, it taught me how much fun can be had playing games in a social manner. If you look at that list of games that I’d bought for my 360 prior to The Orange Box, there’s a commonality: they’re all single-player games. While I’d played Halo with my friends, that was almost always in a strictly competitive mindset. Even if playing something like Team Deathmatch, that was, in essence, a free-for-all where you aren’t allowed to shoot half of the people. Team Fortress 2 showed me how much fun it could be to form a cohesive team, to devise terrible strategies and watch them fail miserably, to learn a game’s secrets from your friends and to pass on secrets of your own.

Team Fortress 2 was built, from the ground up, to allow for this. Each character is both so mechanically distinct from one another, and so specialized, that it makes it really easy to develop brand new strategies just by forming novel configurations of classes. Each class had its subtle nuances that only veteran players of the class would know, like the various tells that could give away a Spy’s disguise, the best places to set up Engineer turrets, or the precise mechanics of stickybomb jumping as the Demoman. By having each class be so deep, it encouraged people to explore the classes and learn those secrets, and it made figuring them out make you feel like a wise old sage full of forbidden wisdom. You had traveled to the peak, and from the voice of the wind itself, only you had learned the secret of how to make the Spy walk all weird.

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This was the equivalent to knowing a secret Mason handshake

The magic to Team Fortress 2 wasn’t recaptured for me by very many other games. Valve’s own Left 4 Dead series managed to recapture that feeling of mastery, as I have blogged about previously, and Overwatch has as well, while also featuring that possibility space of strategies that’s fun to explore. However, Team Fortress 2 had both that easy-to-learn, hard-to-master complexity and the large strategic possibility space, but also had a design that encouraged low-stakes play, allowing for genuinely fun social spaces to emerge, and for players to really just have fun doing dumb things and seeing if they worked without wasting precious seconds of a short timer, or throwing the entire team back to the start of a level.

That’s the shining core of Team Fortress 2 for me. The part where you take all of the experience you have playing the game, and apply it to a game with innumerable strategic possibilities, and attempt to generate the most moronic strategy conceivable. While I’m sure I had plenty of well-executed strategies in my time of playing TF2, the moments I remember are 12 man Scout rushes, are moments where as a Spy I was in so deep I was participating in the other team’s raids on my base, and attempting to set up an Engineer’s turret deep into an enemy base. When these moments worked out, they felt like an expression of game mastery, like I was bending the mechanics to my will. When they didn’t, I was laughing at how stupid the idea was in the first place.

This, the ability to be dumb, is what makes Team Fortress 2 a masterpiece in my eyes.

 

What If We Had Concerts For Games?

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I don’t go to concerts terribly frequently, but I do really enjoy a good concert. This went doubly so for the most recent show I saw: a concert headlined by heavy metal pantheon members Iron Maiden, opened by a rising star in the metal scene and a personal favorite of mine, the Swedish band Ghost. While I obviously really enjoy the music put out by both bands, there was a commonality between the two performances, which was a noticeable amount of attention put into, I’m not sure how to put it, the things that weren’t music.

You see, both bands clearly put painstaking work into the entire experience, beyond just “play the music real good”. This is the third time I’d seen Ghost live, and as a result I’m very used to their appearance: 5 anonymous demons play the instruments behind a similarly disguised anti-Pope known to the crowd as Papa Emeritus (I should note that Ghost sings almost exclusively about the Devil).

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These costumes are very good (Papa even has two looks, allowing him to switch into something less cumbersome about halfway through the show), and that combined with the stage dressing, the ambiance (Ghost usually begins a set with about twenty minutes’ worth of Latin chanting and incense), and an assortment of other tools used to get the audience in the spirit of some good ol’ Satanic mass (my favorite being women dressed as nuns passing Communion wafers and wine to the front of the crowd).

Iron Maiden, while perhaps not as committed to their costumes as much as Ghost, still went heavy into the accouterments, featuring massive curtains featuring painted scenes depicting a sort of narrative throughout the concert, giant inflatables of band mascot Eddie, as well as the Devil, and a lumbering, lanky Eddie costume with which the lead singer engaged in a fistfight, before ripping a faux heart out of the costume and tossing it into the pit.

This concert reignited an idea I had a while ago, back when I was at South by Southwest last year: what if games went on tour? They sort of do, insofar as some companies will take their in-development games in buses on road trips to visit press, and there’s also those weird “video game party in a van” things you can rent for a children’s party.

But that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is for you to buy a ticket and go to a venue, along with a large crowd of other people, to play a video game.

So, much like a show where a band just plays their song and leaves, just going to a concert hall and sitting down for just a regular ol’ game is boring. I’m not gonna buy a $25 ticket and drive to Deep Ellum (a Dallas neighborhood known for music venues, for those not in the DFW area) for a glorified LAN party with bad air conditioning, and neither is anyone else.

I don’t 100% know what this idea done right looks like, but I have ideas. For starters, going to a concert where you don’t know the band is never as fun as one where you do and can belt out all of the words. Ghost concerts are usually good for this, as the band is niche enough that people who seek them out and go to the shows are dedicated enough fans to know the relatively small discography, and that feeling of chanting along with a whole crowd and the band is really cool. Even if you don’t necessarily know the band, a lot of more crowd-oriented concerts make picking up what the crowd is “supposed to do” as easy as possible, with an extreme example being a lot of Blue Man Group shows.

For games, this means that you either need to be playing a game that the crowd has already played before, or can pick up extremely easily. Simpler control schemes and familiar genre trends are probably going to be favorable here, instead of trying to get a sweaty crowd of people well versed in Crusader Kings 2 in a couple of hours.

Speaking of which, obvious requirement: length! Whatever you have to play needs to be able to be a complete experience in a couple of hours, and needs to end cleanly by the end of a concert. Imagine being at a concert and halfway through your favorite song when all of a sudden the lights come up and a roadie tells you to go home. The end of the event needs to feel like the end, not just the point where time is up. Although, as an aside, you could have multiple, small games building to a climatic finale.

The key, I’d imagine, is that you need to try and harness the coolest part of the best concerts, which is that sense of being in a sort of positive feedback loop between the performance and the crowd. You know when you’re at a concert and the crowd is just all going wild and you can tell the band is noticing and just feeding off of it? Obviously, a video game cannot in any way harness that raw emotional energy, but what you can do is pick or make a game that meaningfully changes when exposed to a large amount of players.

Consider EVO, or other video game competitions. While games are certainly at the center of these events, in my opinion, the games are merely the setting for the skillful interaction between players. You’re not competing in or even watching EVO because you just really like Street Fighter, you’re really there for the interactions of players. And while the crowd can certainly behave like a concert pit at EVO, they’re not playing. That’s not what I’m interested in.

What this leads me to believe is that a game played live should be a collaborative experience, one where this group of strangers works together, earnestly, toward a common goal, like when the audience at a concert sings in unison to a song they all like. These are the moments that stick out to me at a concert. Imagine being in a group of 1000 Minecraft players, all working together to build a single massive structure (technical issues aside). Imagine playing in a 1000-piece Rock Band band, like a plastic version of the Rockin’ 1000. Hell, imagine a 1000 man World of Warcraft raid, or a 1000 man game of Johann Sebastian Joust (I know this is competitive, but JBJ is a game that definitely changes meaning based on the number of people in the game).

Earnestness would be key. You can’t have griefers in your massive collaborative Minecraft game, nor someone embarrassed to mumble some Foo Fighters lyrics into one of your 250 plastic microphones. I also don’t think an emphasis on “being good” is healthy for the experience either, or else people will be afraid to even go to such an event for fear of embarrassing themselves.

Imagine, though. If there’s one thing that, in my opinion, games have done really bad, it’s gameplay moments en masse. Even games that we tout as “massive”, like Battlefield, usually feature no more than 64 players at a time, spread out over a huge map. Imagine 500 people simultaneously storming the beaches of Normandy in a Battlefield-like game. Environmental sound is piped through the entire venue. The people directly around you are put in a squad with you, and you form an impromptu bond as you save each other from virtual peril and work as a team.

Of course, this idea is still extremely vague, and has massive technical problems (how are you going to get that many consoles or PCs in a room, and it sounds like a fucking technical nightmare, although networking might be slightly easier than having as many machines connect wirelessly over long distances). However, I think that games have the potential to harness the positive power of the concert as a medium, even if it’d require a lot of work.

Deadly Premonition Is Either The Best or Worst Game I’ve Ever Played

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Deadly Premonition is…well, a lot of things. It’s an open-world third-person murder mystery game in which an FBI agent is trying to solve a murder in a small town somewhere vaguely in the northern states? It’s also the game that put creative director Swery 65 on the map as an innovative and creative force in the game development scene. However, most pressingly to me, it’s somehow simultaneously really good and really bad.

Let me clarify. In short, here’s a list of things that I think are really good in Deadly Premonition:

  • The story is gripping, interesting, and is far from typical video game fare
  • The characters are interesting in how bizarre so many of them are, and I was constantly dying to learn more about the people and the town of Greenvale
  • The game sets up really interesting antagonists, that manage to remain mysterious and ambiguous
  • The worldbuilding and the extent that the game goes to establish a sense of this world being real (characters have Skyrim-style schedules, and things like changing your clothes and shaving are given gameplay significance)
  • The game actually has a really solid mastery of tone. Even when it experiences a whiplash-inducing shift from morbid to comedic or nonchalant, that still feels fitting to the characters and the game

And here are some things I think are really bad:

  • Combat is very unsatisfying. Single enemies pose 0 threat, as they can just be stunlocked to death. More than, say, two enemies is meanwhile ball-bustingly difficult, as the enemies high movement speed and the cumbersome aiming controls makes it hard to manage the whole group. Combine this with the fact that there is only one enemy type until the fifth dungeon, and I ended up dreading combat
  • The dungeons are big enough to take a while to clear (probably about an hour a dungeon), but contain very few interesting things within them to make that size feel justified
  • Some of the sidequests are so minimal as to be laughable. One sidequest literally required me to walk four steps and press a button, and I completed it
  • On the whole, the town of Greenvale is stretched across this giant map, but it’s stretched very thin. Getting from anywhere to anywhere else tends to be a long drive, which would be fine for setting mood if it weren’t for the fact that the cars are slow and drive like garbage

And yet, despite this disparity between elements, I stayed up until 4 AM last night binging the game until I beat it. I’ve been shamelessly shouting on social media for my friends to buy it (a request made simpler during the Steam Summer Sale). I’ve been thinking about it endlessly since, enough that I’m now writing this post.

What Deadly Premonition represents to me is the endearing power of going for something. This is a game that’s designed by people who clearly had a goal in mind, and dreamed up this impossible combination of Silent Hill and Twin Peaks into this bizarre and beautiful murder mystery game. The things that are bad in the game all have a common theme, which is that the team just seemed to dream too big for their budget and timeframe. It’s pretty easy to imagine a Deadly Premonition with all of the rough edges finely filed down to a neat and tidy perfection, and that game could have been a genuine classic.

But, that’s not the game we got. Deadly Premonition is full of jank, but you know what? I think there’s a lesson there. I think if you have an idea for a game that your passionate about, that’s unique and interesting and really something close to you, I think Deadly Premonition is an argument that maybe, you shouldn’t wait for the prime moment where your time, money, and skills will allow you to make precisely the game of your dreams. Maybe you should just go for it, and know that your passion will shine through any other imperfections and make an interesting game that people will love.

Also, go buy Deadly Premonition.