The Decision Makers: Contrasting Our Game with Subnautica

Hey everyone,

Our game is based in Twine so it is a completely text based game with (potentially) some minor visual elements incorporated. There are many games like this out there and they have some advantages to them, like being able clearly state what is happening in the game and give the player certain paths that you want them to take. This allows for a streamlined story that can have multiple endings, but it also limits the player’s experience to the one you want them to have. In this post I would like to delve into a different game that I personally am a big fan of that has major contrasts with our game. I really enjoy survival games, especially one in particular called Subnautica. Unlike our game, Subnautica is not historically based (at least not based on real history), text based, or streamlined in its story line. Instead, it gives a terrific futuristic story driven almost entirely by the actions of the player. This can allow for the player to believe that they are the hero of the story but since there is not always clear options of what to do (or too many options at times) like in text based games, the progression of the player can be halted because they aren’t sure of what they should do.

Subnautica’s story starts with the player frantically trying to launch an escape pod from a ship in orbit above a planet that is only designated by a serial number (4546B). After both crash down onto the ocean world’s surface and after you puts out the fire in your life pod, it is up to you how to progress and survive. All that you have in the life pod is a PDA (tablet that tells you important information that has been collected), a fire extinguisher, two small bottles of water, two nutrient bars, and two flares. You have to manage your hunger and thirst throughout the game as they are always decreasing so these starting goods are only good for a pretty short amount of time. Your life pod crashed a kilometer or two away from the ship and the pod landed in a shallow area similar to a coral reef. Also in your life pod there is a fabricator and a damaged radio, both mounted on the wall of the pod. The reef is abundant with alien life, both plant and animal and it is up to you to figure out how to use items you are able to pick up. As you find materials and use the fabricator to make useful tools to perform a variety of tasks, you learn more about the world you are stranded on. One of the easiest and most necessary tools you can make is the scanner that can scan nearly anything and upload the data to your PDA so you can learn more about your environment to survive. You can make a repair tool as well and once you repair the radio you start to receive distress calls from other life pods and eventually from a ship that says they picked up the distress call and are on the way to help. The ship fails to rescue you for a completely unexpected reason (spoilers for those who haven’t played so I won’t go into detail) and the story gets a new twist. All the time you are exploring and crafting new items to go deeper and learn more you have more aggressive creatures and areas to deal with

This is all just in the first two or three hours of game play and it usually takes the average player roughly 35 or so hours to finish the story line because of how the game is designed to be led by the exploration of the player. While both Subnautica and our game are driven by story, our game, even if we were to turn it into a full fledged game with all of the details that we could want to incorporate to be included, it would not come close to the 35 hours to be completed. This is simply because text based games are usually not terribly lengthy games because it would be hard to keep the player invested and intrigued in the game for that long without an absolutely stellar story and way of presenting it. While both types of games are driven by story and are able to deliver fantastic stories, the way that they are able to do so are very different. Each style of game is better suited for a different kind of story. For example, being a soldier in Nazi Germany may be able to be a survival game but not in the way we are presenting it, being a game in which one character cooperates with others to achieve their goals in wartime. A text based game is much more suitable for this situation since dialogue is a major factor in the game we wanted to design. Likewise, the setting and goals of Subnautica would be difficult to make into a text based game because of the elements that it tries to give the player. Exploring and gathering materials and all of the other key aspects of a survival game are just not that well suited for text based games, like how our game is not as well suited for the ability for the player to sort of choose every action they may want to take in a game. However, both types of games can and have given great experiences to their players.

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