“A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.” – analysis of Until Dawn

Do your actions really matter?

1. Game description:

Until Dawn is an interactive drama survival horror, where every decision affects the plot.
Player follows the story of eight teenagers who have to survive on Blackwood Mountain until they are rescued at dawn. 

1.1 Plot:
During a party at her lodge on Blackwood Mountain, two sisters die due to a prank. A year later, the rest of the guests are invited to the same lodge. As the night progresses, they are terrorised by a masked man. Is this another prank or real threat? Is there anything else waiting for them in the mountain cabin?

1.2 Technology:
Game was developed by Supermassive Games using Decima engine. It is a PS4 exclusive.

1.3 Game trailer, gameplay and game website:
Website: https://www.supermassivegames.com/games/until-dawn
Game trailer:

Official Release Date Trailer

Gameplay:

Full game walkthrough

2. Lenses:

Lens #39: The lens of Meaningful Choices
The whole game mechanism is based on butterfly effect1, where a small change in one state can result in a larger difference in another one. Each player choice in game is meaningful and directly affects the story and our possible future choices – relations between characters can become stronger, weaker or, due to our actions, characters can die.

  • There are 22 critical choices in game
  • Certain choices may unlock new sequences of events (leading to unforeseen consequences)

Lens #78: The lens of Story
The story of the game is well designed and complex – with each choice, the events within the game can change dramatically. Storyline is non-linear – with each new game, player might get a different outcomes and discover new information important to the plot. Information given to the player are subjective – each character perceives the events differently.

  • There are 3 main endings (all alive, all dead, some alive) with 256 unique variations (28 based on the number of characters)
  • There are 10 chapters in game with intermissions between chapters to analyse player’s personality based on his game
  • A game script is nearly 10,000 pages2 long.

Lens #41: The lens of Skill vs Chance
The game has almost no luck-based components. The gameplay is decided purely on player’s skills within quick time events, decisions made in the story and player’s will to explore (there are hidden totems, which reveal possible future events). Only player’s decision-making skills, intuition, reflexes and curiosity are the factors that will decide on the characters’ fate.

  • There are 30 totems to be found in Until Dawn – 6 totems out of each category (death, danger, loss, guidance and fortune)
  • Some decisions are timed

Lens #47: The lens of Punishment
Until Dawn uses a strict auto-save system – whenever a decision is made, game is saved to prevent players from reloading the game state before the decision was made. If the character dies, we cannot bring them back to life. The only way to undo our previous choices or mistakes is to restart the game and continue with a new, fresh start.3

Lens #87: The lens of Character Traits
Until Dawn story is mostly about character development and how certain events influence our relations and our personality. Each of 8 characters in game are different personalities with unique their views and beliefs. Every decision in game is influenced by the character we are currently playing. Although, throughout the game, our choices shape the reality and affect our relations and cause character development. Player can also view the personality of each character and his or her relationships with others within in-game menu.4

Articles and references:

  1. Boeing, G. (2016) “Visual Analysis of Nonlinear Dynamical Systems: Chaos, Fractals, Self-Similarity and the Limits of Prediction” (On butterfly effect)
  2. Klepek, Patrick (22 September 2015), “How Until Dawn Ended Up with nearly 10000 page script” Kotaku
  3. Bell, Larryn (30 August 2015) “Until Dawn Walkthrough and Guide” Prima Games
  4. Takahashi, Dean (26 August 2015) “10 tips for surviving the night in Until Dawn”

Streets of Rogue

Streets of Rogue is an action rogue-lite game. You play as a disgruntled citizen making his/her way through randomly generated levels in a city in order to confront a corrupt Mayor. This game emphasises on player choice; you are given complete freedom on how you will approach completing the missions in the game. Will you go in a restricted area guns blazing to get to someone? Or will you poison the air vents to make him come to you? You can also choose from a variety of characters, each with their own perks which drastically change the way you play the game.

Here is a video of how the gameplay looks like.

Elemental Tetrad

Mechanics
Controls:
– Zoomed out overview, WASD controls.
– Mouse is used to orientate the player, mainly for aiming with projectile items/ weapons.
Environment:
– Levels are randomly generated. Every third level, there will be an additional challenge on that level (e.g. Killer Robot Is After You!).
– As the game progresses, levels become harder. Players encounter new levels with their unique structures and NPCs (e.g. During the Downtown levels, there will also be many mafia NPCs walking around which will try to extort money from the player.)
Interactions:
– Players have freedom to talk to, attack, hire, or help any of the NPCs that are walking around.
– Depending on the character being played, more options might be open(e.g. threatening, bribing, gifting, etc).
– NPCs will remember their encounter with the player for the rest of the level; hostile NPCs will try to attack you or call the cops, while friendly or aligned NPCs will come to your aid.
Leveling:
– As this game is a rogue-lite, players will always start a game at level one.
– Players can get experience from almost any action performed, with the largest bulk of experience being gained from completing the main missions.
– On level up, players can choose a new perk at the end of the level.
Multiplayer:
– Up to four players can play together locally or online.
– For local play, players have to share the same screen view (meaning players cannot walk too far away from each other)

Story
– Story of Streets of Rogue is shallow, serving mainly to give the setting for the player. During the tutorial, players are shown to be recruited into the Resistance. However, after the tutorial, as the player makes their way through the city, there is no longer any mention of the Resistance.
– Rather than use a main storyline, the game stands out for its quirkyness and randomness. Example: character selection. Players can choose from a multitude of characters, each having a short backstory and their “Big Quest” to achieve along way to overthrow the mayor (e.g. Doctor wants to spread peace, big quest is not being allowed to kill people). Some characters would make sense such as a Soldier or Policeman, but there are characters that seemingly make no sense introduced like the Vampire and Zombie.
– Some storytelling is done as the player progresses through the levels: starting from the Suburbs, the player will eventually reach the Downtown and Uptown areas where there is greater security and more tension shown where the player is denied access or privileges due to not being an “authorised citizen”.
– There are no story-specific events that unfold, until the player finally wins the game.

Aesthetics
– Game looks simple with its pixel artstyle. Since the gameplay is fast paced, this is not a game where you stop to look at the design.
– Minimalist approach is taken to focus on gameplay; NPCs dialogue is simple, when you interact with an object you will see a simple dropdown list of what you can do, similar to using an object there are no unique animations, status effects will be displayed in text on the corner of the screen (e.g. Weak)

Technology
– PC game, standard controls. There are options to use controllers which would be more suited since this is similar to arcade games.

Lens of Surprise

Wow, this game is full of surprises.
– Random events happen throughout the levels, with some events base on the demographic of certain areas (e.g. Ongoing war on the level, so there will be soldiers and cannibals constantly spawning and fighting).
– Similarly, randomly encounters with NPCs (e.g. thieves coming up to steal your items, gorillas attacking you on sight because you are a scientist, a cannibal popping out of a manhole to eat you).
– Note that the element of surprise is so overwhelming at times that it is not uncommon for you to suddenly die and lose the game, which might detract from fun – or, provide an element of challenge (e.g. being caught in the crossfire of a random battle between mafia and the police).

Lens of Time

Wow, this game takes a long time to play.
– Normally for rogue-lites, you would expect gameplay to be short, but one game of Streets of Rogue can easily take an hour.
– This is partly due to the large level size, and the complexity of mission that usually have the objective nested inside a large complicated building.
– Additionally, due to the unpredictability of the game, players would want to navigate the level in a cautious manner versus just rushing through.

Lens of Problem Solving

Basically the essence of the game.
– This is one of the key selling points of the game: being able to complete the missions any way you want.
– To the point where you can complete the whole game indirectly; i.e using circumstances, hiring people, inciting conflicts, and the missions will complete themselves for you.
– This high variability can make the game too easy sometimes, though. Example: The final mission, get the Mayor’s hat. Mayor is accompanied by guard detail, I completed the mission within 15 seconds by giving the guards poison to make them enraged, the resulting shootout killed the mayor.

Lens of Endogenous Value

Wow, this has some amazing rewards.
– The missions that the player has to complete before completing the level, will yield random items of highly variable utility, giving players a lot of options to approach future missions (e.g. Resurrection shampoo, cyanide pill, necronomicon, hacking tool, friend phone, etc).
– Although some items have powerful effects, they are not game-breaking as the items are not able to be used constantly through the game, so it is balanced.