Daily Design: Day 198

Daily Design is a series of game concepts devised daily through all of 2016. These are just basic concepts, designed based on randomly generated words. Today, they are; 

Dying, Rail and  Dimension.

As such, the game I’ve designed today is…

Dead Man’s Handle

Dead Man’s Handle takes place in a world on the brink of obliteration. Due to some kind of (vague) cosmic event, there are only a handful of cities left in the world, each of which relies on a rail network to move supplies about in order to survive.

The conductors and crew of these trains are typically short-lived, and rather than being regarded as heroes are feared for their willingness to travel outside the relatively safe cities. So of course the player takes the role of one of these conductors, because otherwise this would’ve been a wasted intro.

The game boils down to a series of in-lore decisions to make as well as supply management. The crew need to eat, but the more they do the less supplies there are to actually deliver. Conversely, carrying more supplies will attract more creatures and increase the chances of something going horribly, horribly wrong.

The game is pre-written and no characters are randomly generated, so it’s really best going into it in a blind run. Decisions have preset consequences, and while major characters will live or die according to the choices made they’re not going to be replaced with a randomly generated one. So, uh, don’t lose your engineer.

It’s more like a Telltale game than anything, where the game boils down to decision-making and story. The protagonist is actually custom-made, from gender to appearance and some light back story, ala Mass Effect. These back stories may influence other character’s opinion of you, as well as the outcome of some decisions.

Players have to make decisions such as whether or not stopping at a town along the way is wise, and if they do opt to stop, how they go about exploring. One thing that’s always annoyed me about “choice’n’consequence” games is having to make uninformed decisions based on almost no information  (“Quick! Do we run left or right?”). So, I’d love it if Dead Man’s Handle could avoid those.

The resource management comes down to deciding how to divvy out the food at the end of each day. It’s easy to set the rationing so that people can eat just as much as they need to get home (there’s a preset rationing amount designed for this), but as people work hard, get sick or injured or more crew are picked up, the decisions become harder. How much food do you risk on your crew? You’ll need to keep everybody (including yourself) fed and healthy, but remember that the goal is to get back with as many supplies as possible.

This, of course, means that the game has several endings. While it’s entirely possible to die horribly on the way home, getting back with a huge amount of supplies won’t necessarily lead to a happy ending. Certain decisions along the way can carry huge consequences, so think hard before each. For example, you don’t want to get home with the supplies that have become plague-ridden because of a bad choice several hours ago. Or maybe you do, because the best stories are built by players.

That’s it! Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow with another quick game concept.

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