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This War of Mine
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.