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Papers, Please - A Dystopian Document Thriller (papersplea.se)
264 points by flyt on Aug 12, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 73 comments

I am enjoying the rise of video games as political commentary.

It is important to note that "Papers please" was considered the worst case scenario for America. We now must produce driver's licenses for anything, even sporting events.

The guy who wrote Papers, Please, Lucas Pope, has been doing some very creative games-as-political-statements stuff for some time now. He may be the most creative person working along those lines today.

For another example, check out his earlier game, The Republia Times:


(It's free and plays in the browser, no download required)

The storyline there: you're the editor of a newspaper in a totalitarian state. Each day you see the unfiltered newswire, and you have to pick and choose which stories to feature and where to feature them on the paper's front page in order to maximize public support for the regime. It's a delicate dance; completely ignore events that make the regime look bad and you'll lose credibility and readers, but give them too much prominence and you'll drive public support down rather than up.

Oh, and just to make sure your incentives are aligned properly, the regime is holding your family hostage. Fail to get people in line quickly enough and they will all be shot.

Like Papers, Please, it's really a brilliant way to take some pretty simple game mechanics and use them to make a point that sticks in the player's memory.

I appreciated that Republia shows up in Papers, Please. Didn't realize they were the same author.

OT a bit: I remember reading the code and turning my nose up at some of the implementation specifics. But then I remembered that he's the one shipping and getting things done.

If we're musing on who might be "the most creative person working along those lines today", Paolo Pedercini merits a shout.

We now must produce driver's licenses for anything, even sporting events.

Not actually true, but interesting point nonetheless.

I haven't been to a sporting event in decades, but I can tell you that many concerts are starting to require ID in order to pick up tickets at the door. It doesn't matter if you have the receipt in hand, etc. If you don't have an ID that matches the name you're not getting the tickets you paid for months ago.

Still, there is a distinction here: these are all privately owned businesses, and their rules. It's not the government.

Is there another effective defense against scalping that doesn't require ID?

I'll do you one better: explain how requiring an ID prevents ticket scalping.

To be honest, I couldn't care less about scalpers. The limit on ticket purchases already do a pretty good job preventing the "I'm going to buy ALL the tickets and resale them for 10% more" business plan. I see no reason a private individual shouldn't be able to resale their ticket for any amount they think they can get for it.

Requiring ID prevents scalping because you have to be the person who paid for the ticket in order to use it.

IIRC my last TicketMaster ticket was transferable - there was a webpage where I could change the name. But presumably if one credit card/IP address transferred the majority of its tickets, you could say with some confidence that that person is a scalper and shut them down.

The limit on purchases is reasonably effective, though.

Can someone tell me what's so bad about this? I don't see what the big deal is about needing identification to function in / move into and out of a developed society. I really don't find it an inconvenience, more of a practicality.

When I buy a ticket to go somewhere it's no one's business to know where I'm going. I don't have the imagination to see how the information can be abused, but the potential is there. If you don't need to know you have no business asking. That's all.

How else do you verify you're who the ticket belongs to? Do you really think the person checking people's IDs memorizes them all to put into some database?

When I buy a bus ticket at the counter with cash to go from here to there it's no one's business to know that I'm even on that bus. But even then they ask for a drivers license.

I find it strange to see people on Hacker News post-Snowden defend the nothing-to-hide mindset.

There should really be no need to know who I am before letting me board an airplane or purchase a beer. What's the practicality, exactly? It certainly doesn't help me.

So you think people should be able to just waltz right onto an airplane without identification? Someone could easily just have their ticket purchased by someone else, use that ticket, and get on the airplane, which would be a security risk. It helps you by helping you not have someone who stole your ticket get on the plane in your place. And how do you expect age restrictions to be enforced without ID? Some people look a lot older or younger than they are.

Yes, I think people should be able to just waltz right onto an airplane without identification. It works great for trains, why not planes? I don't see how the scenario you outlined is a security risk. There are plenty of other, better ways to make stolen tickets unusable.

How do I expect age restrictions to be enforced without ID? I don't. The US's age restrictions on alcohol are stupid and should go away.

Edit: actually, I don't see how the current regime prevents using stolen tickets in the first place. IDs are only checked at security, not when boarding. So you print out a fake boarding pass with your real name and use it to get past security, then use your stolen ticket to board the plane, where they make no effort to ensure that you are the person listed on the boarding pass you present. Easy! Well, until the real passenger shows up with a reprinted boarding pass and wonders why you're in their seat, at which point you get hauled off to jail.

Yes, I think people should be able to get on an airplane without identification. It is a perfect example of a bogus security check which causes hassle for everyone without materially impeding anyone who wants to cause problems.

What sporting events require you to show government issued ID?

The best part of this game is that it doesn't take the easy way out WRT being a morality tale. The mechanic of having your character also trying to fix his own shitty life while meeting the requirements of the job is what takes it to the next level.

[Slight spoiler alert]

After spending 30 game days stamping hundreds of passports and ignoring a million pleas, I found myself and my family fleeing the country. We had spent all our savings buying fake Obristan passports and had illegally left our designated region to get to the Obristanian border.

Then the game shows you the front of a checkpoint booth, with you handing crudely forged passports through the crack to the checkpoint official who is now in the same role as I've been playing for the entire game.

The sudden realization that "That's who I've been playing. If that was me on a bad day, I would have them turned away or even detained if money was tight" was amazing. I immediately recalled every sob-story I had forgiven, denied, or worse.

And that was all they needed to do to show you the morality of your actions. No hamfisted "you are being bad!", just silently hinting at you to think about it from another perspective.

I just got playing a round of this game. Easily the best political game ever made, even if it's not every gamer's cup of tea (although when you get down to it, is the entity-recognition-under-time-pressure and click-to-do-something mechanic any different in a document comparison game than in an FPS?)

What makes it such a great political game is that the author came at it without much of a political message or agenda. He thought the document-matching mechanic was compelling enough for the game. As it stands, the game has a compelling political message for both border-guard and those waiting in line. Top notch work for a one-man side project.

I'd recommend the ReDistricting Game, which is about gerrymandering: http://www.redistrictinggame.org/. It's got a great core mechanic that makes you despise your own actions.

Those afraid of jumping into $10 might want to try the beta/demo on the game creator's website: http://dukope.com/

My wife is addicted to this game already. Just hearing about the decisions she's making makes my skin crawl. She's a total graphical adventure game snob, so if you're one too it's worth checking out this game. The multiple endings are well done, which is often a tricky part to get right.

My girlfriend is:

- Lithuanian

- Studying "International Migration and Ethnic Relations"

I thought this would be a fun game to give as a joke - international student from a former Soviet country with that specialisation and all that - but she's actually really into it.

Being Eastern European (Lithuanian with a Ukranian last name), I actually found a woman with my last name which was awesome! And actually, it kind of reflects on how living sort of was in that era. Shit.

I'm going through the whole green card "papers" process now with my wife. Compared to almost every other country, the amount of time and effort it takes to even bring family over is incredibly long and arduous.

All that makes me really look froward to this game. Just the fact that this exists is a great conversation starter to raise some awareness about immigration and ridiculous bureaucracy.

I don't know the green card process and what benchmarks you compare it with, but I've heard this about a lot of immigration procedures. Bringing a partner (with possibly a child) into Belgium for instance is also a long and error-prone procedure.

The major issue is that it's time consuming and expensive. There have been real and opportunity costs which my wife and I have incurred simply because there happened to be an international border that separated us.

Playthrough of some of the game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brTJzrXQVLU

Gives you a great sense of what it's all about.

I discovered this game on Saturday after a recommendation from a friend, and I'm loving it.

I ended up buying a copy and running it under wine, even though there's no Linux version. (The purist in me is raging, but the game is, IMO, good enough to set aside my values in the short term.)

Previous Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5589041 (steamcommunity.com) (158 points, 111 days ago, 51 comments)

As far as I know the game is made in Haxe with openfl, so let's hope that author will make a Linux version, as far as I know it's not difficult.

I hope it will get a Linux version since the idea sounds awesome. Recently I have decided to prefer Linux games over non-Linux to let my money encourage those who port their games.

Good for you. I was about to buy it despite preferring Linux, but seeing all these comments on HN convinced me to save my money for when the developer releases a native version.

The developer's website [1] says that it uses OpenFL [2], which advertises itself as "an exciting cross-platform framework that targets Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Flash and HTML5."

So why no native Linux version then?

[1] http://dukope.com/ [2] http://www.openfl.org/

He's said he hopes to support it, but supporting multiple platforms can be a tall order for a single game developer, and not necessarily something they want to do. A quick visit to the Linux forums of almost any indie game that runs on Linux would put a lot of people off for life; there tend to be a lot of enraged users having trouble with their highly specific Gentoo configuration or whatever.

(For Mac ports, it's usually mostly people who insist on using MacOS 10.6.8 for religious reasons)

Maybe I have been lucky but I have never seen any such threads. The such threads I have seen have if anything been more polite than the average with more details and explanations (since Linux users are on the average more technical). Care to share any example?

Agreed, but it does run well enough under wine.


I'm under the impression that the author used some sort of library/framework to build the game; porting that would probably be more meaningful than porting the game itself.

Good news from the game's FAQ: "I'm hopeful to get a Linux version out but there's no timeline for it."

Indeed, but since I do not know anything about the developer it is still a quite weak statement.

I really REALLY wish people would cut indie devs some slack. It's really hard to be a profitable indie gamedev. Windows and Mac make way more money. I love linux but it's way down on the list of dev platforms for my development focus. Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, X-Box one, PS4, PSVita are all better bets then Linux write now and I'm a long time linux user/developer. The money/value just isn't there for most game devs sadly.

*I have a game in development that's going to indie published if I can successfully juggle work, a young family, and some bit of a social life. So in reality I have a snowball's chance in hell but I'm fighting the good fight :)

You read way too much into my comment. I never said that there is anything wrong with issuing a weak statement. I prefer that to lies and promises which you cannot hold.

If you buy the Humble Store version, you'll get the Linux version when it comes out.

I've stopped being quite so idealistic. If it's DRM-free and runs on Wine, I'm satisfied.

That's legit. You can definitely tweak a Windows app to run well in Wine. I'd love for every game to have a Linux version but the market is tiny and most of these indie studios are maybe 3 people max working on the game. I don't think Linux users have a realistic expectation if they are strictly waiting for Linux native versions without paying to support this. Despite the brilliant art that is this game, I'm pretty sure Lucas Pope was looking to make some money off it.

Pretty much everything I've tried lately has worked perfectly through Wine.

I have even less reason to care strongly about a Linux version as I often use OS X. I want either all three platforms or just Windows, but working through Wine.

This game, and Steam, actually work perfectly in Wine. Go nuts!

I have just one question, why is the game centered around people trying to enter a totalitarian regime? Anyone who grew up in the Eastern bloc, or even just visited Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, should know that the real tragedy was people trying to exit. Have we forgotten so quickly that Communist countries restrict their own citizens from leaving?

Totalitarian or not, if it is economically stable and the neighboring countries are ravaged by poverty or war (like Kolechia), getting in may be your ticket to having a mostly decent life.

Then there are people passing through, visiting friends, and smuggling.

The people in the game tell you the reasons. Many come for work or to visit relatives. It's not that everyone wants to go there.

Yes but that was a very specific set of circumstances, such a specific set of circumstances that they built a wall around half a city. How often does that happen? It's why it's an iconic site that people travel to look at still today.

It isn't a hallmark of totalitarianism people not be allowed to leave it, although North Koreans aren't.

The game is about a similar checkpoint in a city split in half, I thought it was a deliberate reference...

I was playing this over the weekend. Without revealing any spoilers, there are many different endings based upon what ethos you use to approach your job and on-the-job decisions.

Like all time management games, you must make critical decisions under pressure. I find that the ambiguity and real consequences of the game's decisions make it a ton of fun. An instant classic.

How come it's not available for Linux? Oh well, back to chess.

The Windows version of the full game works flawlessly (sound and all) for me under wine 1.6-0ubuntu1~ppa1 on Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS, although if you use Steam like I do then you'll need to launch Steam itself with the -no-dwrite option to get around a bug in wine 1.6's implementation of dwrite.

You can also set the dwrite library to Disabled in winecfg.

The beta worked very well for me on Wine, except the sound, which I had to mute. Haven't checked the full version yet.

Sound should work in this game, and works fine for me. Please feel free to file a bug at winehq.org. If you CC me on the bug (aeikum@codeweavers.com), I'll give it faster attention :)

Turns out it was my own personal (super-annoying) PulseAudio bug. The standard `pulseaudio --kill` fixed the sound, and the game now runs 100% for me on Wine. Woo!

I know, right? It doesn't seem like it would be a hard port.

But I have a windows box around for Starcraft anyway...

That also works well under wine, in my experience anyway.

I played this game in the free beta when I saw the Yogscast playing it... fantastic and unique game. Highly recommend giving it a go!

I played it too. It's weirdly addictive, atmospheric and compelling, and I can't wait to play it again. Congrats on the 1.0 release, and thanks for the Mac version!

Bought this last night, I must say it's really fun. Though, I was forced to switch to an actual mouse to play. A touchpad isn't quick enough to move all those documents around. I also wish there was a hotkey (perhaps it'll be an upgrade) to get to the regional maps pages.

I love this game. It starts out simple, but as your country's relations with other countries change, the rules for letting people in and the amount of security in place changes.

This game is chilling.

You should buy this game on GOG.com, DRM-free.

Or, better yet, buy it from the Humble Store, which gives you both a DRM-free version of the game and a Steam key. (And more money goes to the developer than Steam or GOG, too.)

Or the Humble Store, which gives you both DRM-free packages and allows redeeming on Steam.

Do you know for a fact that the Steam version is DRM'ed?

Steam IS DRM

Steam is a DRM system, but there are plenty of games on Steam that don't have DRM: if you copy a game directory out of the SteamApps directory and remove any Steam support files (usually the Steam Community DLLs), quite a few games run perfectly.

I've heard this bullcrap forever and it's not true. Steam only restricts access, publishers choose to restrict software. Steam is available on the platforms the games are made available on, so once you download the game via their protected channel you are free to do whatever with a DRM free game.

If you don't like it, don't buy from there. Steam has done nothing but help Linux since its Linux release.

What do you honestly expect them to do, just allow anyone, paid or not, to download all their commercial software freely?

The other games by the same creator are just as awesome!

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