Oct 242011
 

A jetliner crashes into the Pacific.

You and the other survivors of the crash wash ashore on a deserted island.

With no hope of rescue, do you work with the others to ensure mutual survival? Or do you compete for the island’s limited resources? The choice is yours.

Welcome to Island Survival.

Island Survival is a 2D browser-based sim game. It is multi-player, but not massively multi-player. You control a survivor with a couple of hundred other survivors, all stranded on a deserted island.  As a player, your job is to keep your survivor alive. In order to survive, the survivors must secure water, food, and shelter. For that to happen, they need to hunt food, gather resources and craft items.

The game’s island is persistent — you can check-in at any time and continue your game. There’s a chat and message system to communicate with both allies and enemies. And since you’ll be rescued eventually, the game is finite. But in all likelihood, not everyone will survive that long — there’s permadeath.

Permadeath
Permadeath has been a contentious topic. Some have suggested it to me without even knowing that it was already part of the game. Others think it’s an outdated remnant of the old arcade games — a way to keep the quarters rolling in. But in a game where each player is a potential resource, with useful skills and abilities, the loss of one ultimately affects all. So it is actually in everyone’s best interest to keep everyone else alive.

Permadeath might end the game for one player, but it makes the game more difficult for the other players.

Or does it?

The island has limited resources. There may be enough food to go around, but it won’t last forever. Eliminating another survivor might actually free-up more food for you.

As long as the players know up-front that permadeath is a consequence, it will make the game that much more of a challenge. Granted, achieving the state of permadeath will not be easy. It takes a lot to kill the characters on this island. But permadeath does exist. And if you’re not careful, it could happen to you.

Plenty of Inspiration
What I didn’t realize when I began developing this game, is that with all of the stories of island survival, this is an entire genre unto itself. We have the stories from literature: Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island, Typee, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Lord of the Flies, and “Survivor Type”. Then we have the movies and TV shows: Giligan’s IslandLost, Three and Survivor. These are all works with which I am familiar and enjoy. So, I was able to draw on these works for ideas and inspiration. Some ideas, like the Swiss family’s giant seashell cistern, or their hollow-palm-tree water pipes might not make the game, but their treehouse was a good idea — I’ve added that structure to the game.

Unfortunately, the genre has largely been ignored by the computer/video game industry. There were a few text-based and text/image games in the distant past. There’s even a few flash games here and there, too. But for the most part, these are all single-player games. No asynchronous, multi-player games on the market.

With Island Survival, I hope to change all that.

Early Development
The game came together quickly. The main features and a wire-frame mock up of the UI were completed over one weekend. It took shape in two days. The game practically made itself.

From there, the front and back ends have been generally developed in parallel. And, as the game is destined for mobile platforms, form and function are really one in the same. The layout and the gameplay have got to be concise. There’s no wasted space, no overcrowding.

In February, I was lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to demo the game for the Silicon Valley IGDA. That night, I was up in front of the projector for over an hour. I was explaining the game, showing off the main features and fielding questions from the audience.

I got a lot of great feedback that night and I appreciate everyone having been there. It was a great experience for me. There was lots of support. If there’s any other game developers out there, even if they’re just aspiring game devs, I suggest getting involved with the IGDA. It’s a great organization and there’s lots going on.

Then, in August I was fortunate enough to be given a table at an IGDA “Meet the Game Press” event at Google. There were over 500 people in attendance. I met a lot of great people — all gamers and industry folks. I was there at the table for about five hours, talking non-stop. I was telling anyone and everyone about my new game.

I’ve promised everyone a closed beta of Island Survival. But obviously it’s taking longer than I  had expected. Island Survival has been a challenge to make. There’s more to do and I plan to keep working on the game until it’s finally ready to deploy.

Enjoy,

Charles Kiptin