It’s a browser-based game that has taken France by storm. Playing as a member of a randomised town, you don’t know when you’ll die, but you know that you will die. Will it be tonight? Tomorrow? Will you make it to the elusive four-day mark? No one knows, but we’re ready to find out.
In 2008, independent game studio Motion Twin released a primarily text-based zombie survival game named Hordes. It received more than 270,000 registrations in its first month of BETA and, three years later, still has more than 20,000 daily players. Not bad for a small development studio based in the French city of Bordeaux, a place better known for its wine than game development. Long reserved for the French-speaking crowd, the English version of the game, Die2Nite, launched last year and, just last month, a third season was launched.
To mark the launch of season three, I’ve decided to share a play-diary I kept when I first played it in 2010. It was originally published in PC PowerPlay and I have republished it here with the expressed permission of the magazine.
I went into the game thinking that it would be a shallow experience because of the lack of art, animation and game elements. As the diary below will show, I was wrong.
—— In Die2Nite, you’re thrown into a town where you must work with other players to increase the defenses of your town in preparation for each evening’s zombie attack, which takes place at midnight in your local time zone. I jumped into the game, rucksack in hand, to see how long I’d last.
DAY 1 – Welcome to TERRIBLE CENTRE It’s not the most original of town names, but here I am in Terrible Centre, population: 25. I’m a resident with a rucksack containing a mouldy sandwich and a packet of crisps. I go to the town well and fetch my ration of water, which I use to replenish the action points that I need for exploration and building. I spend my six action points walking around outside the town and, given that I have no points left after this activity, I decide to retire for the night. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
DAY 1 – Again. Well what would you know – I died. During the evening attack, a pack of zombies climbed over the town wall and I, foolish resident with a rucksack, had not built any defenses for myself. No, I’d spent my six action points going for a damn stroll around the damn town. I type in my last words: “DEATH IS NOT THE KEY!” before starting again in a new town and the wisdom gained from being devoured by a zombie in my sleep. [Note: this particular screen was grabbed from The Googles because I had forgotten to screenshot my own game.]
Surrounded by zombies! In order to help the town construct defenses, I need to explore the area beyond for materials. I’m in search for some wood or scrap metal, but all I stumble across is more crisps. A misjudged move lands me in zombie territory where, in my attempt to escape, I sustain a flesh wound. Man, this rucksacked resident just can’t get a break. Back in town, I drop my crisps into the town bank where other residents will be able to use it. I’m feeling good about myself – day 1 (take 2) and I’m already making a contribution! I see a handy bandage in the bank, a bandage that can be used to treat wounds! Yoink!
Day 2 — Uh oh, what did I do?
I log in the next day having survived the evening attack from zombies. Progress! I’m making it! Hooray! But my flesh wound has turned into an infection, which is inconvenient. I use my bandage, which heals my wound but the infection remains. I leave my computer to get an apple juice (in the real world) and return to find that I’ve received messages. Lots of messages. All in a very short space of time. Oh boy, maybe this is the community spirit that everyone has been talking about!
Am I THAT much of a complete jerk? My inbox is full of complaints from people who have accused me of “selfish play”. What the blast is this? And an abusive message from some “Griffin” character? I don’t get it – bandages are meant to be used by the wounded, aren’t they? Why is everyone so worked up? I head to the forums for clarification.
Apologies! Ugh, I feel horrible. I don’t think I’ve ever copped such venom from anyone in any game, and this is coming from someone with an Xbox Live account. An apology! That is the key! Surely if I explain myself and apologise for not knowing what I was doing, they’ll let me off? I mean, it was only a bandage, right?
Oh man, what am I doing? Man, way to make me feel like a total moron. And why exactly am I grovelling for forgiveness again? I’m reminding myself that this is a game. It’s not real. I shouldn’t be getting upset or feeling bad or believing that any of this actually matters, and yet, I am.
Justice, served? Oh look, I end up dying that evening anyway. Man, now I feel like a twat. But this means a fresh start in a new town where I now know to build my own defenses, not stumble into zombie hordes, and stay the blast away from the blasting bandages.