Conflict From The Perspective Of The Powerless - This War of Mine - PC -
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This War of Mine

Conflict From The Perspective Of The Powerless

When I arrived at 11bit Studios' small booth near the back of the GDC show floor, a trailer depicted real footage of soldiers fighting in what could have been the streets of any city in conflict. This War of Mine, the developer's current project, isn't a first-person shooter. In fact, you aren't a soldier, freedom fighter, or upstart rebel at all. You are a refugee, and life in a warzone is a daily struggle for survival.

This War of Mine puts players in control of a group of civilians trying to eek out an existence in a warzone. 11bit senior writer Pawel Miechowski tells us that the team has did extensive research on conditions during conflicts in Sarajevo, Kosovo, Syria, Lybia and others. "The pattern is, unfortunately, the same," he says. "There's no water, food, antibiotics, or weapons."

11bit will be sharing its research via the game's blog. In addition to development and technical posts, the studio will be publishing stories of war survivors.

Players will experience two different play phases during their time with This War of Mine. During the day, it's too dangerous to leave the shelter, and survivors will use accumulated supplies to build new improvements. These include beds, simple stoves, water filters, moonshine stills (alcohol is a good trading item), and rainwater catchers. The daytime is also when you'll feed and medicate your refugees, if you can.

At night, you'll want to send out a member of your group to forage for supplies. You'll explore other homes, with the risk of running into soldiers and animals. If you don't make it home before light, your away party will be stuck and might be lost entirely.

Random events, such as shelter invasions, wandering traders, and hungry passersby that might join your party give players situations to which they can react. Taking in a stranger might make your group stronger by virtue of greater numbers, but your resource needs become greater.

The war backdrop isn't just a gimmick, but it also isn't designed to impose a specific belief system on the player. "We are not selling you a morality tale," Miechowski says. "We're just giving you the experience." Players will need to decide how to react, and the consequences play out without any condemnation or praise.

If you're starving, you might kill or rob for food. If you meet someone in need, you can choose to share your meager supplies. These decisions will impact your game, but you won't be told whether what you're doing is "right" or "wrong." The only thing that really matters is your survival.

The art style for This War of Mine is striking. Miechowski explains that the cold color palette and sharp outlines reflect the serious tone of the game. The intent is to create a feel similar to that of a mature comic book.

This War of Mine features procedurally generated shelter interiors within pre-defined frameworks. Currently, the game lasts a maximum of 30 days, but 11bit is considering randomizing that and masking the length from the player.

The reason for this is in war, the end of a siege could come at any time. Keeping that knowledge from the player would provide a more authentic experience. 11bit is blazing a new thematic trail amidst the currently popular survival genre, and so far the studio seems to have something special on its hands.

This War of Mine is in development for PC, Mac, and Linux, with release later this year. A mobile version is also under consideration.

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  • This sounds interesting, I would like to try this out when it's released.

  • No console version? WTF?
  • Very curious to see this game in action. The gameplay sounds real promising. Something different for a change. I like it.

  • know, I really don't think this is a good idea. I think war from the point of view of a civilian is something worth exploring, but I don't think videogames are the proper media in which to explore it. The thought of getting an achievement for watching my brother bleed out from a shrapnel wound just seems incredibly crass. For all their realness and impressiveness these days, I don't think that videogames are up to the task of accurately conveying the civilian's experience of war, if for no other reason than no one wants to play a game that consists principally of you hiding in the corner scared out of your mind, waiting for the shooting to stop. Much like how modern military shooters aren't really a very accurate representation of what actual combat is like, the developers would need to make some concessions to actual playability. And I think that they can't possibly create a good simile of the experience of a civilian in a combat zone while simultaneously making something anyone wants to play. And I have this horrible feeling that, in trying to do so, they're going to create something which is insulting to the experiences of people who have actually lived through the things they're trying to simulate for our amusement.
  • I really like the sound of this. They certainly are good at showcasing the helplessness of the situation. I really enjoy games where the right answer is in the gray, or there is no good/bad way to approach a situation.

    This is going on my radar.

  • I want this game... I want it now!

  • I am really getting interested in this game. It sounds sad and exciting at the same time. I can't wait to play it!!!

  • It's an intriguing concept, one that I definitely want to keep an eye on. The survival situations you're placed in will be extremely fun to play out and potentially tragic. I want to see more.

  • Color me interested. Trying not to impose morality is admirable, but very difficult; this game will almost certainly be anti-war. Regardless of the number of people that agree with it, that is still a "belief system."

    Will the people you meet - civilians and soldiers - have individual opinions concerning the war? Will the player even know what the conflict is about? Or will you and those in your shelter be un-nuanced victims oppressed by the big, bad men with guns? In the trailer, the soldiers are faceless, so I expect the latter.

  • Mod

    THis sounds really great. I can't wait to hear more about it!

  • Not trying to be a debbie downer or that super serious guy talking about how morbidly wrong this game is... just an observation of how disconnected Americans are from the rest of the world. This scenario is happening all over the world right now. Could you imagine being one of these poor souls and hearing that those fat lazy Americans made a game out of your tragic situation. Interested in seeing how this one plays out.
  • I wish my computer could run this but I highly doubt it will.

  • Ever since I saw the reveal trailer on this game, I have been deeply interested in seeing how this will work out. I am super excited to play from a perspective that not too many games have even looked into but I have my reserves for the game as well. I'm hoping that the game will not play exactly like State of Decay did where the game's time continues to run whilst you are not playing it. My schedule does not allow for me to play every single day so it will be difficult if the game continues to run after you shut it down.

    I hope to hear more on this game shortly!

  • This sounds really...really cool. I almost didn't click on the article figuring it was just another FPS, but I'm glad I did. Just hoping that any studio willing to take on a subject such as this is able to do it justice.

  • I'm pleasantly surprised to see that this is being developed for Mac as well (I don't own any PCs, and please take the ancient battle of Mac vs PC somewhere else). I'm really intrigued by the concept. It's the most interesting one I've seen in a while. Also, I really hope the game makes a point about the psychological damage as well (a la Spec Ops: The Line), because there is a LOT to say about that.

    Pull this off, and this game will probably take the place of The Last of Us as the best example I've seen of games as a form of art.

  • X box one - redeem yourself and acquire this title.