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  • Writer's picturejack rosa

The Errand - DevBlog #2

Updated: Jan 25, 2022

After finalizing which game concept I was going to move forward with last week, I began to dive into formulating pre-production documents to present to my studio class. I wanted to make sure during this week of pre-production that my presentation and documents would effectively communicate the philosophy of this game and why it is important to me.

I began by first writing the plot of the game in simple terms and adding a sort of game philosophy mission statement. Your character has been chosen by your village to complete a special religious task that occurs every 80 years. They are told little about this task besides that you must carry a torch up a mountain and use its flame to light a fire in the temple at the mountain's summit. It is believed that the lighting of this flame is paramount to your village's survival and existence. During the player's journey up the mountain, brief instructional messages appear on screen, encouraging the player and guiding them forward to complete their mission. When the player arrives at the top of the mountain they will find in the center of the temple, beyond where they lit the fire, that there is a large and deep pit dug into the ground with stairs leading up to it. The game will highlight the pit in a very 'videogamey' waypoint type of fashion, instructing the player to fall into the hole; upon doing so the player will fall and die, ending the game.

My hope is that upon completing the game the player will have no choice but to question the way in which players regularly toss aside their common sense in video games: seeking danger, senselessly killing, and willingly attempting challenges where failure results in death. Video games offer, in some ways, a safe way to die. The rules of the real world don't truly apply in video games, death is meaningless, simply respawn and try again. When the Errand tells the player they have an important mission to complete and guides them along the way only to instruct the player to kill themselves I hope it provokes the player to consider how often games send players on 'dangerous' and 'important' quests and the consequences of failure will never actually affect the player because they can always respawn or try again. My intention with the Errand is to highlight videogame's strange and wonderful ability to remove us from the logic of the real world. When you die in the Errand, there is no trying again, there is no restart; the player ignored their real instinctual logic by jumping into a huge hole and dying, and the game ended because of it.

I moved forward with some level design work and made an early version of the level with some snowy trees and music I wrote and recorded over the weekend.

One of my most formative gameplay experiences that influenced the design of The Errand happened around the launch of the multiplayer survival game, DayZ in 2014. The game sounded interesting, so I decided to download it and try it out.

After scavenging around the fictional Eastern European country of Chernarus, while starving, and walking extraordinarily long distances on foot, hours had gone by. The gameplay was often slow and tedious, simply holding the W key, pressing onwards trying to find items to survive, yet I was invested in keeping this character alive, knowing that all it would take was one sudden gunshot to kill me and for some stranger to steal everything I had scavenged, forcing me to start all over.

I remember hearing the occasional rifle report in the distant hills and the fear it struck in me. I was hiking down a densely wooded road when a group of heavily armed bandits emerged from the tree line and demanded that I put my hands up and get on my knees. The group joked and said they were going to kill me; I was begging for my life over the in-game voice chat. It was in this moment that I realized how brilliant this game is.

The stakes were so high: If these men killed me, my character would cease to exist, all my work would be erased leaving nothing behind but the possessions that I had managed to accrue. Here I was, begging a group of strangers to spare my little virtual life, never in a video game had I ever considered how little a life usually matters, but DayZ’s harshness and tedium reflected the real world’s and forced me into a mindset where my digital character’s life was almost as important as my own. Feeling like my existence in a video game truly mattered really struck a chord with me and I began to understand how games can be entertaining in experiential ways besides being just being put in the shoes of a badass hero. I was powerless in DayZ, at the end of a stranger’s gun, a failure in many ways, about to see a black screen, yet the experience felt so human and interesting I couldn’t help but appreciate it.

I hope that The Errand can provide a similar, albeit less intense feeling. where the player feels the inefficacy in which most video games handle danger and death.

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