I’ve become a big fan of games that embrace the losing is fun style of gameplay. Losing is Fun is the slogan of strategy game Dwarf Fortress, the concept is simple; the game gets so hard that you will die and it will be in such a fun way that you will want to play again. The gameplay in Dwarf Fortress lends itself to ‘Losing is fun’ as the game gets gradually harder the complexity of keeping a fortress increases, somewhere you along the line you mess up, perhaps forgetting to give a dwarf the correct bedroom furniture and he will go crazy slaying the stock manager dwarf who owns one to many wardrobes in a fit of envy; eventually your fortress collapses under the lack of proper book keeping (This honestly happened to me). The concept of ‘losing is fun’ seems to have captured the hearts of developers too with a handful of Dwarf Fortress clones cropping up all over the place. Since Dwarf Fortress has ASCII based graphics these clones have taken the formula and tried to make it more friendly, this is all well and good but I would like to see more games taking the concept and applying it to genre other than base building.
That’s not to say developers aren’t trying, earlier in the year I was very impressed by an excellent little game called Faster Than Light which sees you race across the galaxy in a space being chased by an enemy fleet. The game concentrated around micro management of the crew of the ship, basically trying to keep them alive as long as possible. While it was possible to win Faster Than Light I never beat it on anything other than easy mode, but enjoy stretching out the life of my crew as long as possible on the harder settings.
This weekend I stumbled across another losing is fun game. Project Zomboid starts each game with a survivor in a zombie apocalypse stating ‘This is the story of how I died’. It’s an isometric game based in a small city, you have to eat, sleep, drink, make/find shelter and avoid zombies etc. You can escape the city to hide in the surrounding fields but the seems to be a massive list of things that can go wrong with your character that will force you back in to town to scavenge. Eventually you will die. The subreddit for the game seems to be full of stories of funny deaths, including a chap so desperate for water he chanced drinking a bottle of bleach. Here is a nice collection of screenshots by a chap who killed himself setting off a house alarm.
I think this will be a game to keep an eye on, you can buy it now on Steam Greenlight but I recommend playing the demo first. I fully support the ‘pay up front and play the alpha’ model of game developments as I think it leads to games that can take a creative chance, I’ve been fortunate to be a part of Minecraft, Don’t Starve and Prison Architect early in their lives and don’t think they would be possible without that sort of funding model. I do however think it’s worth holding on to see if the developer delivers consistent updates before taking the plunge tho. I particularly like to see British developers being creative and get a buzz from supporting them; so fingers crossed the developers of Project Zomboid -Indiestone will deliver constant updates and I’ll soon join the early access people.
Edit: I purchased this game since playing the demo and you should too, it’s awesome.