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Let me tell you about a game I made with the sole intention of watching it die (dominikjohann.tumblr.com)
387 points by janoelze on Aug 28, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 72 comments

I find the irony of the end result -- Impetus died because the players "suffocated" her, not because they neglected her -- fascinating.

Not to mention that the plug was literally pulled to kill her.

i liked that aspect as well. surely a good, unexpected story-twist.

A little OT, but I find the Ludum Dare challenge to be just...awesome. I first heard about it when viewing Lucas Pope's homepage (the creator of Papers, Please), and seeing the astonishing work he made in 48 hours (here: http://dukope.com/play.php?g=six as well as this game, which he did for practice but which I think is the best game ever made about newspapers: http://dukope.com/play.php?g=trt). During some idle time today I started reading the Haxe docs...I got into programming because I wanted to make video games and haven't done any game code since college because the games industry didn't seem fun to work in. But seeing the kind of inspired one-offs at Ludum (as well as Pope's Papers, Please) has really sparked an interest in me to create something memorable that is not a web app.

Be sure to check out "Gods Will Be Watching", another game made in 48 hours with a seriously compelling story and art style.

As long as you're checking out Haxe, I'd recommend Stencyl (which, in 3.0, is being rewritten to use Haxe).

"Gods Will Be Watching" was written using ImpactJS, a JavaScript game engine.

I second that, Gods Will Be Watching is absolutely amazing, in fact it has been so successful that a "full" game has been crowfunded [1] and will be released :)

[1] http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gods-will-be-watching

Yep, that game was on the back of my mind too...and your comment reminded me I need to fund its IndieGogo http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gods-will-be-watching

...unfortunately I'm too late but looks like they surpassed their goal substantially

that game is amazing! I 2nd this recommendation, if you haven't played it and you're into these more metaphoric/conceptual games, you'll really enjoy it

Yeah, LD is a tonic! How many HNers are also LDers?

Here's my entry this time, trying to inject a little current affairs into LD:

The NSA's Where's Snowden? http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-27/?action=preview...

I love LD and participated on the Compo with Multitaskor¹. I played and rated your game, the take on the theme is great, the idea and implementation of the game are brilliant as well, I liked it very much.

[1]: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-27/?action=preview...

Would you care to submit this to the Show HN thread as well? Let's get a good list going!

That's yours? I've seen that scroll by! It's on my review-to-do list :)

I made a Show HN to collect all the games made by people here:


My mind went immediately to "what if it was real life", recoiled in horror at the dystopian-ness of it and then returned in fascination:

There are people all over the world dying right now for lack of some small amount of food or medicine. What if you could click a button and send them a nickel to keep them alive a few more minutes? Like World Vision, but in a Philip K. Dick novel.

This is reminiscent of "The Hunger Site" which started in 1999. http://thehungersite.greatergood.com/clickToGive/ths/home

Also Free Rice, which is quite literally a game that donates rice for every correct answer: http://freerice.com/

It's like if Zynga made Watsi.

A bit more involved than a click, but that's the premise behind http://watsi.com (YC funded).

Thanks for the link.

I just donated some money on Watsi. But I can't help but feel a bit uneasy about trusting them. After virtually ALL big Internet companies have been exposed as liars, whom can I trust?

I just hope the kid that I sent money to really exists and that he gets it.

Watsi are very transparent about their operations. From their site you can get to the google docs accounts that show where all the money is - progress with each of the different cases.

As you say, it's still built on trust but I'd imagine pg is keeping a watchful eye.

Re: Clicking a button to help someone out. This sounds like a project someone I met at a conference this year is working on: http://www.andpeace.com/

It's basically contextual ad-supported donations. Check it out!

Almost. That's more like "click-tivism". Click a button "make a difference".

This game seemed to work because players formed some sort of personal connection with "the girl". Less "do a good deed" and more "we've got to save her!". There's a huge difference. That's why I mentioned World Vision. It would let people forge an actual connection with the being on the other end of it... and mourn when they die.

Hey everyone, I'm Dom, the guy who came up with Impetus and wrote that thing. Just saw this post blow up and figured I could chime in, so feel free to ask more specific questions I could answer!

Not a question, just an interesting comment: This reminds me a lot of the Tears In Rain soliloquy from Blade Runner. I'm sure everyone has their own interpretation of that quote. Personally, I felt like it was Batty's way of proving himself a living being. He talks about the memories that will be lost with his death. And isn't that exactly what death is? Loss?

I see parallels here with the Impetus Girl. It's the loss that brought her to life.

Ref: The Blade Runner quote: "I've... seen things you people wouldn't believe... [laughs] Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those... moments... will be lost in time, like [coughs] tears... in... rain. Time... to die..."

Hey Dominik, awesome work congrats—I just asked this on the main thread. Not sure if you saw this, so I ask again: How was the beep sound made? Javascript or a sample? I like its warm sound very much, would be happy to know how to get to this beep. Thanks!

Ello, thanks for the kind words! That beep was created in Ableton Live using a standard square synth, a high-cut EQ and a bit of vinyl distortion (which is also responsible for the crackle). The heartbeat used to be an 808 kick drum that went through almost the same process. Finally, both were laid out on a 10-second bar and implemented as a single mp3 loop. Hope this helps!

>The heartbeat used to be an 808 kick drum

The 808 is the electric guitar of the late-20th/21st century.

Who were your hosts? So we can avoid them.

They answered somewhere else already that they won't tell, but it's not exactly hard to figure out.

The lesson here is rather that you probably shouldn't use shared hosting for things that can go viral quickly because sudden load on a shared server affects other customers and they usually reserve the right to terminate you in such cases.

A surprisingly compelling story. And a reminder that despite intense care, life can end for the most abrupt & stupid reasons.

An idea like this seems risky because it relies on the game getting some considerable attention from the get-go or it's literally all over within seconds. Also, doing this means basically foregoing the normal voting process which is taking place over the next 3 weeks.

I don't think most LD devs could've pulled this off, PR-wise.

There are over 2000 entries on LD27, and Spiegel calls the next morning? Either I'm way too cynical right now or this is the luckiest entry ever. It's hard getting noticed on Ludum Dare and there are a lot of neat concepts floating around.

I know it may seem pure luck to get press coverage from Der Spiegel, but I think this is a good example to consider the value of specialization. A good PR professional could get this kind of press coverage consistently. He would probably have to contribute to the project from early, to add the kind of hooks he knows would make journalists interested.

I know the Impetus creator probably did not benefit from the help of a PR person, so more power to him :)

That's exactly what I meant, I did get the feeling that this story is PR-powered. Odds are this doesn't just happen. There are literally hundreds of comparably interesting entries (not to take away from this one, it's a great idea).

With stories like this often the suggestion is "we did this very unique thing, went to bed, and woke up on a morning talk show" - that's simply not how it works and people are on average well advised to be wary of stories like this. Stuff like this happens to people who are either well-known, well-connected, or actively engage in PR. More power to them, though!

We're not "well known" but the combined audience of 3k followers on Twitter most likely did the trick.

Apart from that we gained experience dealing with press a few months ago, because another game [0] got featured in a german web magazine.

[0] http://tastatour.co/

> but the combined audience of 3k followers on Twitter most likely did the trick.

There you go. I'd say that counts, especially if it's an audience receptive to the topic. Don't underestimate your connections!

I think the Spiegel did an article on Ludum Dare a couple of days ago, so they were already aware of it and had writers watching it. This game just seems very original and went viral quickly, so it was something worthy to write about. I don't think you could get just any Ludum Dare game into Spiegel just by doing good PR.

Ludum Dare attracts game press media, if you make something neat and do a bit of seed promotion on the blog you'll get attention.

It's unfortunate that it ended so soon due to a hosting company being garbage.

I would have loved to see this really blow up and get billions of visitors and see it running a year from now because it's an interesting concept for a game.

Reminds me of another game "4 Minutes and 33 Seconds of Uniqueness", which could be the antipole for this.


For anyone who isn't aware of the reference, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4%E2%80%B233%E2%80%B3

While I appreciate him not publicly shaming the hosting company, I'm curious who it was so they can be avoided.

While I agree that they could've called us before shutting the site down, I think one should note that impetus ran on a shared server and the hosting-TOS likely state that they'll get rid of too much load.

We just didn't expect our little project to get that much attention.

Was it Bluehost? I've heard stories of them just instantly shutting down your server without notice when you generated any form of decent traffic.

I refrained from calling them by name and would like to keep it that way, but I can say that it's one of the largest / most popular German hosting companies. (It's probably easy to figure it out via a whois lookup, actually.)

Over the course of a couple of years, their service was good and I didn't run into any major problems besides this one. The cutoff was a real bummer (especially with a concept like Impetus), but I have to give them a little credit: seconds after my angry call, the site went back up.

Ah good call on the whois.

It was not bluehost.

As someone who works as a admin at a hosting company, I must say its inexcusable to disconnect a customer without first calling them.

I don't know that it was the company, but I do know from personal experience that this appears to be godaddy's approach. Not only that, when I contacted them after the site went down, they couldn't even explain why. Instead they told me one of our scripts had a bug that was using up too many server resources. I explained that there was no bug, even offered to show them the source code (which they refused), etc. Turns out the 'bug' was that it was getting called too much due to high traffic.

GoDaddy is pure evil. Remember SOPA/PIPA?

Yep, I left them behind after this incident years ago, and good riddance. Have had plenty reasons to not regret that decision since. Have a dedicated server with LiquidWeb now and am really pleased with their service.

ShitHost GmbH

While I appreciate him not publicly shaming the hosting company

Why do you appreciate that? He should be publicly shaming them.

I have nothing technical or special insight to offer; I'd just like to say I teared up a little reading that. I don't know why. I hadn't heard of the game until I saw this article. Never played the game either. The game character is just a made up character with no background story and is nothing more than simple ajax and timers. Any psychologist care to offer some opinion?

I find it beautiful that people could come together --- even for a pointless cause. And I find it tragic that their overzealous response led to the failure of their objective.

Even though the game was "pointless" (aren't all games) I think it lends a surprisingly deep allegory for life, community, and collaboration.

I think the game (and our collective response to it) is fascinating. I would love to study how adding/removing game elements affects players' and observers' emotional responses.

An article I read the other day about human consciousness touched upon our tendency to project consciousness/will/agency onto non-living things, like the puppet controlled by a ventriloquist. I wonder if game elements promote similar response.

Said article: http://www.aeonmagazine.com/being-human/how-consciousness-wo...

I would be interested in extended psychological explanations about the social dynamics and factors that led this concept go viral and engage in such way the people. It's excitingly well-crafted vision and story.

I really appreciate that he didn't bend the rules to relaunch the game after the server issue. He probably could have justified it but it wouldn't have been true to the essence of the game.

Very cool idea! One comment in defense of the host. Hosting a game that depends on users hitting the page every 10 seconds at the least on a shared server was not a great idea. Shared servers are notoriously (and understandably) unstable -- mainly because of sites that overuse their resources. If a single site is taking down an entire server worth of clients, the best course of action is to always disable that client first, and then work with them on a solution after. It's not fair for all the others on that same server to have their sites down or slow because of one site.

Which is why I pretty much always recommend against shared hosting, unless it's some static site that doesn't need constant uptime.

I believe your game went "extinct" not "instinct"

It would be interesting to try this again, but instead a simple button to click to extend the timer, which a script can fake, require a brief reverse Turing Test, like a captcha or something. Would people continue keeping her alive at the cost of more effort?

Amazing stuff, I think this was more of an art than anything else, for me art is also always social experiment, you can observe how people react to things. That is why internet is great you can engage people in ways you did not thought about before.

Given the recent hoohah over strong accents, this author clearly has English as a second language, but writes powerfully and well, structures a story effectively and did not let me stop till the end.

A great game and a great write up. Let us know about LD28 :-)

Hey, thanks! Guy who wrote the article reporting in, I just registered so I can reply. You're right, my English isn't the best (working on it, mostly through lots of reading, though I wish I had the chance to speak it more often). Either way, the story felt like an easy one to write because so many fascinating things happened in so little time. I'm glad you like it, it really means a lot. I'll make sure to jam at LD28 as well!

> [..] working on it, mostly through lots of reading [..]

The Economist has lots of short pieces showing off a nice command of the English language (if you like word play and puns). Good reading material.

As for speaking: don't worry about that too much, but try to listen to spoken material or songs. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comprehension_approach)

I highly recommend the audio edition of the Economist, available to subscribers. It's the whole damn thing, 6h+ of mp3 each week. Made my bike commute into a politics and business briefing.

I'm curious about how you could tell English isn't his primary language. Are there any dead giveaways? Or is it something more subtle?

In a way it was lucky the plug got pulled. The inevitable death is a big part of the game, this way it occurred while there were still many of people involved!

How was the beep sound made (see the youtube video)? Javascript? Happy to get replies or some actual code of that beep

If you find this fascinating and haven't seen the TV show LOST (does such an intersection existing?) - there is a similar mechanism introduced near the end of the first season that has a big impact on the plot. I wonder if ABC ever made an ARG of this, would have been pretty fitting I imagine.

Yeah, I immediately thought of LOST as well.

Without spoiling too much:

There's already a javascript version of the computer here: http://www.enterthehatch.com/ . But since it's a 108 minute countdown (instead of 10 seconds), it's quite easy to keep it going. Still, the record of keeping it up for more than a thousand days is quite impressive.

What a beautiful concept. It's sad that it met such an unnatural end. I think it's more than possible that this game could have lasted much, much longer (perhaps even years).

Stupid webhosts. Why doesn't everybody use AWS? ;)

I wonder how different would it be if the main character was male instead of female. There is a certain frailness that you can't get with male characters

Minimalist Tamagochi?

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