Ludum Dare is this crazy thing that indie developers do where they get together on the internet and create a game in one weekend. This year has had over 2000 (yes, that’s the right number of zeros) entries. The theme of this year’s Ludum Dare was minimalism.
Among the best games of this year’s Ludum Dare is a survival sim. Named “Gods Will Be Watching”, this is a survival sim with only one screen, but with six characters (not including yourself), and a whole series of resources both literal and figurative to manage. And it’s really really hard.
The story goes like this: your team of researchers was on a distant planet researching the Medusa virus when your ship is blown up and your research stolen. Now you have to survive for 40 days before the next convoy passes by, and you’ll need to repair your radio by that time. Unfortunately, you’re stranded on a cold, desolate wasteland of a world. Will you die of cold? Starvation? Will the Medusa virus get you, or will everyone just go crazy and run off into the wilderness?
You have only 5 actions per day, and by day 10 you will feel like it’s not nearly enough. Group morale has about the same level of importance as it does in Dwarf Fortress, except here everyone’s sober. People dying or leaving can cause a chain reaction of quiet but devastating insanity. Food stores drop at an alarming rate. Anyone paralyzed by the Medusa virus will die in 3 days. I’ve died twice to hypothermia because I forgot to kindle the fire. The psychiatrist’s group therapy is incredibly helpful, but needs all 5 actions.
My favorite part of this game is how so much information is conveyed by the sparse graphics and animations. Each character’s temperament is conveyed by their animations, and it changes based on mood; the soldier goes paranoid, staring into the wilderness with his gun at the ready, the psychiatrist huddles up and shivers, the doctor simply taps his foot and drags on his cigarette.
If I had to give any tips (which I won’t, since it is very easy to spoil this game), the first would be to talk as often as you can spare the action points. It maintains morale, and can offer up some hints and tips.
If you want to play something atmospheric, thoughtful, twisted, desperate, and hard as all hell, play this.