Results from Game Design Challenge: Literary Inspirations

By GameCareerGuide.com staff [10.20.09]

 We have hundreds, even thousands, of years of literature to draw from -- yet so little of it has been used for source material for games. Early next year, Electronic Arts will release Dante's Inferno, a very loose adaptation of part of Dante Alighieri's epic poem The Divine Comedy, written in the 14th century.

While it's debatable how respectful the game's content is to the original source material, it's true that the works of the past are a resource that could be tapped much more effectively in the creation of gameworlds.

Game Career Guide challenged its readers to adapt a piece of literature -- contemporary, medieval, or somewhere in between -- into a game. It could be in any genre of literature or gaming -- the core concept is how compellingly you turn it into a game idea. How will you adapt from one medium to the other? What will you cut? What will you keep? What will you change, and what will stay the same?

Winning entries effectively translated literary works into game narratives, while also keeping in mind the medium's inherent tropes and limitations.

What follows are the best and most original entries we received. Here are our top picks:

Best Entries
William R. Spear, The Conquerer Worm
(see page 2)
Spear collects a number of Edgar Allen Poe's works in the unlikely context of an iPhone platformer. The contrast between Poe's morbid seriousness and the frivolity of a mobile constant-motion platformer is brilliant, and the questionable interpretations of Poe's stories fit well with the motives of an amateur Apple App Store developer. Even the hastily mocked up title screen looks like it was taken directly from an actual iPhone title.

Paolo Tajè, The Odyssey (see page 3)
And Then? Odyssey! is an interactive retelling of Homer's epic poem. Using a simple Flash-based interface, players can experience the story in full and explore alternate possibilities not found in the original text. With some modifications, this entry could make an ideal teaching tool.

Emily Greenquist, The Picture of Dorian Gray (see page 4)
Greenquist takes a complex story and weaves it into a solid game concept. The Picture of Dorian Gray, as a horror-themed RPG, puts players in the role of an amoral protagonist who must eventually face the consequences of his actions. Though the experience would be a largely passive one for the player, the depth in narrative promises a rich payoff.

Honorable Mentions
Marius Smit, Noah's Ark (see page 5)
Nicolas Barrière-Kucharski, Animal Farm (see page 6)
Jay Chaffin, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (see page 7)
Srinu Kandela and Fola Akinola, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (see page 8)
Terumi Tamaki, Romeo and Juliet (see page 9) 
Justin Brown, The Mayor of Casterbridge (see page 10)
Shaun Conde Spelman, The Hunting of the Snark (see page 11)
Evan Glover, The Zombie Survival Guide (see page 12)


William R. Spear, GrapeSoda Designs

Edgar Allan Poe: The Conqueror Worm

Edgar Allan Poe has finally made it to the kingdom by the sea in order to court his beloved Annabel Lee. But before the lovers can embrace, poor Annabel is gobbled up by The Conqueror Worm, Poe's personification of the inevitability of death! The intrepid Poe leaps down the thing's gullet only to come face-to-face with his life's work, made real by the Worm's ghastly biology. As E.A.P., you must fight off your morbid creations so you may rescue your child bride. Arm yourself with the Cask of Amontillado, protect yourself with the "Mask" of the Red Death, and befriend the Raven in order to run, slide, and fly past the demonic constructs of The Conqueror Worm!

Will everyone's favorite gothic Romantic save his beloved Annabel Lee from the vermin fangs of The Conqueror Worm? Or will he see her......NEVERMORE?

Gameplay:

Edgar Allan Poe in The Conqueror Worm is a constant-motion platformer for the iPhone. In it, the player must travel through the grotesque anatomy of the Conqueror Worm in order to rescue Annabel Lee. Along the way, the player will face enemies and environments that are reminiscent of Poe's best-known works. The game is notable for three major reasons: its constant-motion control scheme, its literature-inspired levels, and its dynamic user-set difficulty.


Controls:

The game is a "constant-motion" game, which means that once the level begins Poe will not stop running until he completes the level or touches an enemy/obstacle. Should the latter occur, Poe will return to the last activated checkpoint and start running again.

The player reacts to threats by either jumping over them or sliding beneath them. These actions take advantage of the iPhone's touch-screen capabilities. In order to jump over a threat, the player makes a vertical thumb swipe up the left side of the screen. In order to slide beneath a threat, the player makes a horizontal thumb swipe across the bottom of the screen.

As the game progresses, Poe will need to perform more advanced maneuvers such as extending/reducing his slide time, dive-rolling, and making extended jumps (with some help from a pet Raven). These maneuvers will be tied to special thumb swipe combinations.

Levels:

Each level is a combination of the Worm's internal anatomy with one of Poe's famous works:

Dynamic Difficulty:

In order to increase replayability and add an extra dimension to the game, the player is also responsible for making dynamic difficulty adjustments on the run.

Poe is equipped with a Cask of Amontillado, which refills itself over time. The player can drink the Amontillado by tapping the Cask button in the bottom-left of the screen. When Poe drinks, he quiets the Worm's demons. There are fewer enemies, fewer obstacles, and Poe will slow down to give the player more time to react to threats. But as Poe's buzz wears off, the enemies and obstacles return and he increases his running speed.

The player's final score is tied into how much Amontillado Poe drank throughout the game. If this number is high, then the player's final score will be low, and vice versa. This will also be visualized at endgame through unique cutscenes containing Poe and his rescued sweetheart. This will hopefully inspire players to retry the game at higher difficulty levels (i.e. by abstaining from the blessed Amontillado).


Paolo Tajè, Programmer at Siemens Building Technologies

And then? Odyssey!

Platform: PC (concept suited for a Flash game)
Target: 12+ (Odyssey is quite violent)

And then? Odyssey! is a game about the act of narration, inspired by the great Homer's poem. In the game an old Ulysses tells the story of his long lasting and dangerous journey to a group of kids in Ithaca.

The kids are very curious and pay a lot of attention to what Ulysses is saying. They are so eager to listen to him, that they continue to ask him what he did next. And that's where the interactive part starts.

But first, let's talk about what you can seed during the game. The screen is divided horizontally in two parts: in the lower one there are Ulysses and the kids, sitting around a campfire; in the upper part, you can see Ulysses' words coming alive, as if he imagined his story while he's telling it.


The characters talk through speech balloons. As we said before, the interactive part starts when the children ask Ulysses what he did next. While the game shows the balloon "And then I...", the player takes control of the upper part of the screen; using its mouse pointer, he can click, double click, drag and drop characters or part of the environment, trying to find the right way to continue the story.

In the case of a narrated dialogue, the player can choose between two or more balloons that will come out from young Ulysses' mouth.

Let's make a gameplay example now:

We can consider the episode when Ulysses awakes on the shore of Scheria (or Phaeacia), after a terrible shipwreck. He fell asleep with the help of Athena, and in the morning he was awakened by the voice of Nausicaa.

Here's an example of a dialogue between Ulysses and the kids:

U: "So I heard the beautiful voice of a young lady, and I would have talked to her, but I soon realized I was completely naked!"
K: "And then?"
U: "And then I..."


At this point, the player can interact with the upper part of the screen, for example dragging young Ulysses around. The player could put him in the sea, thinking he could have run away in the waves. This is a wrong choice, so the game would return to the previous situation in a similar manner:

U: "I jumped in the sea!"
K: [doubtful] "Really?"
U: "But the water was too cold, and I returned on the seashore... but I soon realized I was completely naked!"
K: "And then?"
U: "And then I..."

In this way the game will give another opportunity to the player, who could put Ulysses behind a bush, or drag a bush in front of Ulysses:

U: "I hid behind a bush and talked to the beautiful girl..."

And the story continues.

Thus the player holds an active role in the story; he's free to experiment new or funny solutions, and watch old Ulysses while he tries to justify them. There are, anyway, no alternative paths, because the story tries to remain faithful to the original one.


 Emily Greenquist, Student, Flashpoint Academy

"The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it."

- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray," is the perfect foundation for a horrifying RPG (platform: PC/Mac). The target audience is a mix of intellectuals and/or gamers intrigued by the psychologically macabre. As the seemingly inconspicuous, handsome, yet wicked Dorian Gray, the player roams the streets of 1890's England, committing acts of hedonism in the pursuit of ultimate influence.

Corruption, seduction, and even murder are rewarded with increased strength (health), stolen accoutrements (defense), money (for purchasing powerful ornaments), and influence (task others to commit crimes for additional rewards). The player's health bar is denoted by a cracking mirror, and the story progression is signified by the player's portrait, which continuously twists into horrific distortion.

The plot and game begins with Dorian sipping tea with his friend, Lord Henry, who is expounding on his theories about hedonism (that self-indulgence is the moral code of man). Now controlling Dorian, the player is free to roam his ornate mansion, simultaneously learning basic controls (walking, running, and asset/character interaction). Completing this brief tutorial triggers the doorbell to ring. A delivery man provides a portrait of the player, painted by his friend, Basil. Suddenly enthralled with the beautiful portrait and influenced by Lord Henry's theories, Dorian pledges an internal pact with the devil - to sell his soul in exchange for eternal beauty, allowing him to pursue all facets of the human experience, no matter how base, without consequence.

However, as the story unfolds, there certainly are consequences. In the game, all victims fight back and if Dorian accosts someone who is not exhibiting signifiers of guilt (a glowing aura), then the player will not only lose health points, but drop important items.

The first task is initiated by Lord Henry, who suggests that Dorian attend a seedy playhouse and introduce himself to its beautiful ingénue, Sibyl Vane. Through this initial task, the player begins to explore the streets of 1980's England and corresponding parchment map. The city includes a mix of neighborhoods, ranging from the shadowy filth of the underworld to the dauntingly pristine peaks of high society. Within the city, the player has the option of walking, running (in intervals), or hailing a stage coach for a fee.

At the playhouse, interacting with Sibyl initiates the player's next tasks - to gain her admiration by gifting flowers, jewelry, and money. These items can be obtained by caning guilty ("glowing") patrons and pedestrians. After delivering multiple offerings to gain Sybil's trust, Dorian ultimately destroys her on a whim.

Such is the wickedness of Dorian Gray - evil is so encompassing that even seemingly innocent exchanges throughout the game, as in courtship, are twisted into ultimate acts of corruption. Eventually, in the final act, the player is held accountable for such malevolence by fending off the ghosts of previous victims, while fighting the final boss - a distorted image of himself.


Marius Smit, SAP Software Developer, Masters Student (Computer Science) at the University of Pretoria

My proposed game is based around the story of Noah's Ark as presented in the Bible, the Quran, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and other ancient literature. The game does not focus on the religious aspects of the story but rather approaches it as a logistical problem to be solved by the player in a casual puzzle/strategy game.

The player controls Noah and his three sons who are instructed to construct an ark and gather up as many animals as possible before the occurrence of a great flood. Whilst the player is allowed to only gather certain animals and supplies, greater rewards are earned by building a larger ark and filling it with a greater variety of animals.

The game's core mechanic is the constraint satisfaction problem of filling the ark with animals and arranging them in a manner that maximizes their happiness. Noah's sons can be instructed to gather a variety of supplies such as wood, metal, hay, and foodstuffs. These supplies are used to increase the size of the ark, build cages that fit specific animal types, stockpile for the coming flood, and fill the needs of different animals.

Noah's sons can also be sent on expeditions to gather animals which brings random pairs of animals to the ark. Each pairing of animals such as lions has certain needs such as a food type (lambs) and each pair also produce a side effect such as refuse. Other animals need to be placed in proximity to the cages of these animals (lions) to ensure them they will be fed (sheep, rabbits) and to clean up their refuse (insects) which makes the animals happy.


The arrangement needs to be accomplished without placing certain animal types next to one another as in the classic river crossing puzzle with foxes and chickens. The player therefore constructs different eco-systems within the ark whilst keeping the animals under control. Happy animals grant the player bonuses, for example, lions protect Noah from raiders, sheep serve as food, insects dispose of refuse etc.

The game has three phases:

1. Construction of Ark before flood. (Build, arrange animals, gather resources) - Longest phase

2. The flood. (Repair, re-arrange animals, ration fixed resources) - Shortest phase

3. Releasing animals after flood. (Dismantle ark, distribute animals whilst keeping happy, build monument from remaining supplies) - Second longest phase

The monument constructed is made from idols representing the animals saved and its size depends on the resources that remain. The monument serves as the player's trophy for finishing the game.


 Nicolas Barrière-Kucharski, 3D Artist, University of Québec in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Animal Farm

Animal Farm, a novel written by George Orwell, stands as a powerful dystopian commentary on how human societies can be shaped depending on the men who lead them. The novel tells the tale of a society of British farm animals revolting against a negligent caretaker and then having to come to terms with their own freedom and eventually a corrupt leadership.

It can also make for a compelling single player farm-simulation game with an emphasis on resource and unit management, simples puzzles and story.

At the outset of the game, the animals revolt against their neglecting owner. During the introductory tutorial sequence, they wrest control of their farm and are now free. Afterwards, the story can branch depending on which character is selected. There are two choices available: Jessie the sheep dog or Napoleon the pig. Choosing Jessie will lead the player across the game as one of the normal animals that directly follow the leadership of the Pigs. Choosing Napoleon will allow the player to enforce strict laws upon the animals of the farm and command them with an iron hoof. Both story paths give access to all the same game mechanics, but feature different story perspectives and endings.

The game takes place over 3 years of a fictional calendar. After the last year the game ends with the appropriate ending depending on the results of the path taken. Story moments happen on different days depending on the success of the farm and are mainly conveyed through cut scenes, in-game voice-overs and text.

The player controls his animal avatar directly in a third-person perspective and navigates the farm buildings and territory by running, jumping, using tools, interacting and assigning tasks to non-player characters.

The main resources to manage are a "Food" and "Fatigue". "Food" is the standard resource and his consumed by animals at the beginning of the day and restored by a certain amount at the end of a successful day. "Fatigue" is a personal rating to each animal type and affects how much food will consumed each day. Animals with higher fatigue consume more food.

Each day of the calendar, the player needs to complete tasks to assure the continuing success of the farm such as milking cows or harvesting fields. Almost any group/type of animals can contribute to any task, but some animal are better than others. In sufficient numbers a flock of chicken could very well repair a stone wall or with cooperation, milk cows. Want your animals to be stronger? Feed them more at the start of each day. Want them to be faster? Upgrade them by making them study books.

On some days, angry farmers or wild animals will attack the farm and the game shifts from managing tasks to strategizing combat for the day. Each animal can be sent in to fight. For example: horses and donkeys act as heavy damage-dealing units while a flock of flying geese can blind enemies temporarily with droppings.


 Jay Chaffin, Ohio University, Athens Campus

A novel that I have always imagined would make a great video game is Victor Hugo's classic Notre Dame de Paris, better known in America as The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The game would play as a third-person action adventure game in an open world, in this case the Paris of 1482.

Playable characters would include Pierre Gringoire, a struggling poet based upon a real historical figure; Quasimodo, the hideously deformed bell ringer of Notre Dame; Clopin Trouillefou, the King of Truands and lord of the mysterious Court of Miracles; and La Esmeralda, the young gypsy dancer who much of the plot revolves around.

Each character would emphasize a different play style and have different abilities. For example, as the monstrously strong bell ringer of the cathedral, Quasimodo's gameplay would focus on brutal, feral hand to hand combat, and he would be able to scale the sides of buildings with ease, allowing his gameplay to focus on a lot of platforming over the rooftops.

I would keep much of the main plot of the novel intact. The Archdeacon of Notre Dame, Claude Frollo, develops a maddening lust for Esmeralda and sends Quasimodo, his adoptive son, to kidnap the girl. This sets in motion the chain of events that lead to a city wide witch hunt for Esmeralda and the downfall of almost every major character.

However, a few character changes would be in order to make gameplay more feasible. In the original novel Esmeralda is fairly helpless, her only notable skill being her dancing, and Pierre is a tremendous coward who only charges into battle reluctantly. Therefore, I would make Esmeralda a capable fighter who is good at dancing around her foes and striking stealthily from the shadows, and Pierre, while still reluctant to fight, engages in battle much more often.

Elements of the novel that lend themselves well to gameplay include Quasimodo's attempted kidnapping of Esmeralda, his later rescue of her from hanging, the climactic battle at Notre Dame where the Truands attempt to save Esmeralda while Quasimodo rains down rocks and molten lead upon them, and the devolving of the battle into a bloodbath as the King's guard arrives. In addition to this, I'd add numerous new submissions and plots to extend the main story and offer more gameplay additions. In particular, I'd expand on Clopin's leadership of the Truands and what they do before storming Notre Dame.

If all the elements were to come together correctly, I think that Notre Dame de Paris would make an excellent video game, as well as reintroduce the story to another generation. Ironically, my few changes would still render a game one of the most accurate adaptations of the source material in any medium, as most of the numerous film adaptations stray greatly from the plot. The most important point, of course, is keeping the original title instead of using the more popular Hunchback of Notre Dame, to symbolize the true main character of Hugo's great novel: Notre Dame herself.


Srinu Kandela and Fola Akinola, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Original Story by Patrick Suskund

Game Design Doc by Srinu Kandela and Fola Akinola

Images by Fola Akinola - CG Artist

Setting:

Set in 18th century France, Perfume relates the story Jean-Baptiste Grenouille a misanthropic master perfumer gifted with an amazing sense of smell. Perfume explores the emotional meaning that scents may carry but above all else it is a story of identity.

Ironically, while Grenouille has a superb nose capable of dissecting any fragrance he doesn't have a scent of his own. So fearing his own oblivion he sets out to make an identity of his own by murdering 25 beautiful girls and extracting their scent to create the perfect perfume.

Game Mechanics:

Armed with the protagonist's fantastic sense of smell, the only way players are able to navigate through the mazes is by periodically inhaling and analyzing their surroundings.

The player starts off in the dark environment called the (VOID) phase. By inhaling, the player opens his “vision” to everything that emits as “scent” within a fixed radius. These scents are represented by light, which illuminates the stage and allows the player to see obstacles, enemies and targets.

Initially when the player initiates an INHALE, all of the scents present in the stage come rushing to the player, bringing about the (CHAOS) phase. This phase is remedied by the (FILTER) phase, whereby the player can filter out specific scents (i.e. filter guards and traps only).

After 30 seconds, the light provided from the INHALE begins to (FADE) back to the (VOID) phase. Thus, the player will need to periodically execute an INHALE in order to continue to navigate the maze, find his target and evade traps.


The sneaking portion of the game can be broken down into two phases hunting and evasion.

Hunting:

The goal of the hunting phase is simple, isolate and track down the girl in each stage from her scent and without getting caught by any guards or traps. Once the player captures the girl we move onto the evasion phase.

Evasion:

During the evasion phase all the guards are on high alert and begin to aggressively patrol the level. During this phase the goal for the player is to take the girl to a safe location from the guards to collect her scent which takes time. After successfully collecting the scent, the player must navigate to the exit.

After completing each level the player is rewarded with a new perfume to help them on their next mission. Each perfume has a unique property that affects the world in different ways. For example one perfume might make the guards think the palyer is one of them for a few seconds. The player is allowed to use these perfumes only once per stage. They are refilled after the player completes or fails the stage.

Upon successful completion Grenouille uses his preserved scents to create a scent of his own - an identity that people acknowledge. However, is it really him that they see?


Terumi Tamaki, Romeo and Juliet: Happily Ever After

Romeo and Juliet is one of the most well known pieces of literature in the world. Their tragic story makes for an interesting gameplay narrative.

In the game Romeo and Juliet: Happily Ever After, the idea of the game is to prevent the tragic demise of the star crossed lovers. You play an average day to day citizen of Verona, named Kismet. You are neither friend nor foe to the Capulets and Montagues, but are obviously aware of them and their nature. The key is that as Kismet, you are witness to many of the key moments and elements to the story of Romeo and Juliet.

Some of those key moments are: the beginning of the story where a key battle ensues between the Capulets and Montagues, the ball where Romeo first meets Juliet, the battle between Romeo and Tybalt, etc. In the game, the player can actually affect the outcome of these moments. It will be possible to steer Romeo away from Montague party, and never having him meet Juliet at the ball. Or it will be possible for the player to inform poor Romeo that Juliet is still alive in the tomb. Ultimately, there will be plenty of options and potential moments where the player can find ways to alter the story of Romeo and Juliet, in hopes of preventing the classic ending.

The gameplay will be played from the third person perspective, with the storyline gameplay elements of a Fallout 3 type game. The entire game will be played in real time so to speak. The game is a timed game, so the player is like an actor in the story. That is the story will play out even if the player stands in one spot the entire game.


The focus of the game is on the story. Many games that adapt storylines tend to use the storyline merely as a skin on a game. This game is more geared towards those who want to discover a storyline.

Of course, many great stories have an interesting twist. If science fiction has taught us anything, is that altering key moments in history can have unintended consequences. Altering the story at different moments creates other moments that are unrelated to the original story. The player will have to discover and resolve these loose ends in hopes of continuing the storyline.

The grand idea behind the entire game is that the ending will always end the same. The original story of Romeo and Juliet heavily invokes the idea of fate. The characters often have dreams or premonitions of the future, depicting their fate. The central theme of this game will be built around the idea that fate cannot be curtailed. The story is already told and ending already set, the only difference is how one gets to their final destination. This makes the title and premise of the game a bit of a tease, but I believe literature fans and gamers will find the irony amusing.


 Justin Brown, Independent Writer

I've always imagined what it would take to get a happy ending in a Thomas Hardy novel. I think quick timing, accuracy, and infinite ammo could have saved the "Man of Character", Michael Henchard. If only someone was there to shoot the bowls of rum-laced furmity. If only those letters about Henchard's and Lucetta's relationship had been blown away... Considering these things, "The Mayor of Casterbridge" by Thomas Hardy would make a perfect casual shooter.

The Challenge: Prevent Henchard from selling his wife and child by blasting away alcohol. If he remains sober he can apply his skills to become the greatest and most honest Mayor of Casterbridge. If he gets too many bottles of alcohol in his system he will sell his wife and child; thus beginning his tragic life as the secretive and angry Mayor of Casterbridge.

What has Changed: There is one defining element that separates Hardy's "The Mayor of Casterbridge" and "The Mayor of Casterbridge" for Wii-infinite ammo. The ultimate purpose of that ammo is to recreate the entire story into something Jane Austen might have written. If the player does an inadequate job of eliminating the onslaught of liquors, Henchard is doomed to the exact fate Hardy designed for him.

Details: 1-4 players control the crosshairs on the GUI with a Wii Remote. Collect points for shooting bottles of alcohol. The more potent the alcohol is (thus served in a smaller glass) the more points are awarded. No points are awarded for shooting empty containers, but doing say may shock whoever is holding the container. If Henchard reaches any alcohol before it is shot, his soberness meter will decrease. An empty soberness meter means Henchard is drunk and will immediately sell his wife and child to the first sailor named Newson he sees.


Shaun Conde Spelman, The Hunting of the Snark

Lewis Carroll's Hunting of the Snark, like Alice in Wonderland, is a whimsical, strange story involving a Bellman, a Boots, a Bonnet-maker, a Barrister, a Broker, a Billiard-marker, a Banker, a Butcher, a Baker, and a Beaver. The Bellman (with a blank map) brings these characters together in a ship to travel across the sea and hunt snarks.

The game could be a simple 2-d flash based game online (since the poem is relatively short), with an interface like an old book,. The purpose of the game would be to promote reading in younger children, using the art to help the children visualize the story and the interactive game section to immerse them so they are more apt to follow the story through and comprehend it.

As they enact the simple point and click adventure, a narrator (a fun English voice like John Cleese would be preferred) will voice over a couple of stanzas before the next section, telling the story and giving the player a clue as to what to do next. Though some of the words might be out of the grade level of the child, the child can click on any word within the stanza they are playing and get its meaning in the formal definition and a picture or animation showing what it is or means. The settings will also have various other things players can click on, causing little animations to occur (like Stephen Biesty's Cross-Sections series).


Example. (see picture) Reading the stanzas, the player clicks on fashion and the Cheshire Cat helps define what the word means. The Cheshire Cat can also appear magically on the book and make humorous comments on pictures and definitions.

The end of the poem raises the question as to whether the Banker disappears because of a Boojum (a nasty kind of snark) or Boots because all he musters before never being seen again is "It's a Boo-".

The game would serve a second purpose of becoming a simple detective game for those kids who want to delve deeper into the story (at the same time teaching children subtext). The story would be the same as before but from different view points from the first. This would inevitably lead the player into seeing the story if it was Boots instead of a Boojum at the end.

Overall the game will hopefully increase reading and vocabulary, engage the reader's imagination, and show that Lewis Carroll's works might seem absurd but in actuality hold a great many lessons and morals for the reader looking to dive deeper into the looking glass.


 Evan Glover, Student, Ohio University

Zombies recently underwent a change in popular culture. They went from being a slow, creeping, horde of moaning doom to being a tireless, sprinting, nigh-unstoppable, adrenaline-powered brain-eating machine. In the event of the second type of outbreak, humanity is utterly doomed. In the event of the first, however, humanity has hope in Max Brooks and his book, The Zombie Survival Guide. Sadly, though, younger people rarely pick up books as a form of entertainment. The world needs The Zombie Survival Guide: Outbreak Simulator.

TZSG:OS is a real-time simulation game which places players in command of a group of survivors at the beginning of a zombie outbreak with one concrete objective: survive. The player holds a managerial role in the group, and organizes everything from guard shifts to traveling across the country. The player is also unrepresented by any particular survivor, ensuring that the player will be able to remain in command down to the last survivor.

Several pieces of The Zombie Survival Guide are repeated over and over in its pages due to their incredible importance: terrain and climate, classes of outbreaks, sustainability, and group size. Sustainability is absolutely critical for any length of time surviving, group size and terrain are critical in determining how the group moves and the mental stability of individuals, and the class of outbreak is the sheer number of zombies and the loss of civilization.

In TZSG:OS Players are able to tailor their simulated outbreak before they begin by looking through locations in the world and receiving ratings from one to ten of its ease of defense, offense, and travel. In addition, players will receive lists of its guaranteed natural resources, potential natural resources, surrounding terrain types, current climate, population density, and distances to important nearby locations. In order to adjust challenge, players will also be able to adjust their beginning supplies and shelter, the class of the outbreak, and the number of survivors in their group.

At the outset of the game, players have to direct their survivors to find shelter if they selected to start without a guaranteed building of some sort or, alternatively, immediately leave their location for another area. Should a player decide to survive entirely on the move, they will have little to do other than manage their survivors while moving, but this is near impossible, and it is far more likely that the player will establish some sort of base. When the player does decide to fortify their position, they can order their survivors use trees, rocks, urban rubble, vehicles, and many other objects to construct a suitable barrier between themselves and the shambling undeath.

Survivors, however, may not take kindly to the player's suggestions. Just like real people, a survivor will have to eat, drink, sleep, use the bathroom, and even socialize (primarily to take their mind off the moans of ghouls,) or their mental and physical well-being will suffer. And once a person becomes paranoid or weak, happiness and morale in the group start to suffer. There is hope, though: survivors will be able to learn and become more adept at tasks they perform regularly, leading to less physical and psychological exhaustion. In addition, all survivors will begin with several Perks and Quirks. Perks are innately helpful, and will give the survivors bonuses, such as increased mental stability or further proficiency with firearms. Quirks, on the other hand, are innately harmful, and will give survivors detriments, such as a greater tendency toward insanity or abandoning their fellow survivors during combat.

There are ways to win against a mob of ravenous walking corpses. Eradicating an entire Class 1 or Class 2 outbreak is entirely possible alone, as they only consist of around one hundred zombies spread across a relatively small area. A Class 3 outbreak would be impossible for survivors to clear by themselves, and would require severe, well coordinated military intervention. A Class 4, or "Doomsday" outbreak, can only be waited out. It can take decades for the last of the undead to rot away.

In any case, it's a good idea to be prepared.

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