There are lots of games that require you to kill zombies. There are less games where you create and maintain a village in a zombie infested world. There are probably a handful of games that gives you the chance to do this with other players. But there is only one where communication and co-operation is absolutely vital.
Say hello to Die2Nite, a game where 40 players have to struggle together to survive as long as possible, despite the constant efforts of hordes upon hordes of zombies
This game is, in my mind, completely unique because utilization of the forums is the largest focus of the game. In many games,even team online games, it is possible to do well with the minimum of input from your teammates. In Die2Nite, this course of action will have you banished, verbally abused and eaten.
The game is set in a stretch of nameless desert, where 40 random players have made a town. At the stroke of midnight (actually, it happens at 11.00pm, and because of time differences, at 10.00 pm for me, but thats beside the point) a horde of ravenous, bloodthirsty zombies will attack the village. Before that happens, you need to build defenses. To do that, you need wood and iron. To do that, you need to venture into the desert and scavenge.
As you come back to the village, aching from the weight of the materials and roasted by the heat of the sun, you find out you have enough for a rudimentary line of defense against the zombies. Hooray!
Now you have to build it.
Each day, you have a limited number of Action points (AP for short), which are needed to move about in the desert (known as the world beyond), build structures, open the gates, close the gates, and so on and so on. I really cannot stress how important a sense of community is in this game.
The number of action points you have each day is pitiful by comparison to the requirements of most buildings. And this is after you have spent a lot of your energy searching the desert to find the materials to build.
This is the very reason why the forum is such an important part of the game.
Organization and discussions go on in the forum. Topics can involve which building to make, who should go scavenging, who’s closing the gates tonight, what do we need, who took what from the bank, etc.
The bank is the communal store of materials. It’s where all the building material, weapons, defensive items and food is normally stored. Citizens can give and take items as they please, but this often leads to trouble.
The problem with features like this is that griefers find it so easy to mess up the game. They take a few vital items, or build something they shouldn’t, and their work is done.
Which is why we have banishment.
On each players page, there is a button that allows you to list a complaint against that player. This by itself does nothing, but if a player gets 8 complaints, they are shunned from the community. They can no longer take items from the bank, they can no longer open or close the gates, they can only scavenge around and eventually die. A most befitting punishment for a griefer.
When the midnight attack comes, the defenses will be pitted against undead intent. Defenses are calculated with defense points. Each defense point will turn away one zombie. During the day, you can help estimate the size of the attack to come. When it arrives, it is a case of simple maths:
Number of zombies – defense points = zombies which get inside the village.
"You let JACK do the maths? When he counts his fingers, He comes up with 24!"
If zombies get inside, a number of them will gang up on a citizen, and eat them. If lots of zombies get in, lots of citizens die.
Each passing night will see an increase in the number of zombies. This means the game is a constant attempt to better your towns defense before the attack sweeps over you.
Most towns last about 4 days. A few get to a week. Less than five villages have ever reached a month.
When you die, you start a new game, with new players, all looking to survive, all of whom will fall
Die2Nite is perhaps one of the few games where, in a case of human vs. Zombies, the human loses. Nearly every time. Unarmed, you have a 1 in 10 chance of killing a zombie. The other 9 times, you get beaten back. Its OK, there isn’t a chance that the zombie wins. Yet. As if that wasn’t enough, you can get stuck in an area if there are too many zombies. This happens if the number of zombies is more than twice the number of the humans in the area.
Hey wait! Here’s some good news: zombies can be easily killed. With pure, fresh water.
Did I mention you were in the middle of a desert?
You have a well, and it has over 100 water rations, but you need those to survive. You can get more water through various methods, but they take a lot of effort. So its better to drink it than pour it over a zombie.
This game is about community, zombies, management and risk. But most of all, its about futility.
The name of the game is not an idle threat. You will die. Repeatedly. There is no final battle, after which the credits roll. You have no chance, nothing to aim for, only a constant struggle against infinite opponents which you will lose. There is no ‘winning’, only lack of losing. Why so do you try so hard to continue?
The answer is the community.
You join a group of people, random strangers, and co operate to survive. You’ll get to know them, learn how they act and what they think. Do you want to be the one who let down the town? Do you want to be the one who gave up?
Or do you want to be apart of one of the few towns to reach the 30th day? To hold back losing for so long, that it looks like your winning?
There are other games which give no final goal, and no possible way of winning. A more modern example is Minecraft. The most famous example though, is Tetris. Pac-man, asteroids, space invaders, all the old arcade classics gave no possible way of winning, but you kept playing anyway.
And as the zombies appear by the hundreds, tearing at your defenses, you know that there will never be a happy ending in all this. There can only be death.
There is no hope. But you might not Die2Nite.