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Good Guy or Bad Guy? Analyse the Game of "Betrayal and Lying"

by Yongcheng Liu on 06/20/22 10:11:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Introduction

In 2017, the social game The Werewolves based on the werewolf culture became one of the keywords of the game industry in the first half of the year due to its popularity, and was even considered a new direction in the industry. After 5 years, The Werewolves of has long lost its lively and brilliant appearance. But in fact, it has changed its face and appeared in the public's view in a new form.

In 2018, a social, survival game called Among Us was released with few users until 2020 when it became popular because of the Twitch streamer and YouTubers. In early 2022, following the buzz of Among Us, a game called Dread Hunger, or as players called it "The Werewolf at Sea" was launched on Steam, and in the initial week of its release, the number of players online for the game quickly soared from less than 3,000 to more than 12,000. Today, the number of people online is still increasing, and according to SteamDB's data (data at 0:00 on May 1, 2022), the game is ranked in the TOP 10 of Steam concurrent player List.

As a cooperative survival game with not-so-new gameplay that incorporates elements of The Werewolves elements, how can it continue to attract players' attention for months after its release?

 

1. RPG Survival in the werewolf game mode

"We are nearly through the passage, the storm bites at our heels, and the crew whispers of blood and dark magic." - Captain's Log April 1847

Dread hunger is a multiplayer cooperative survival werewolf game with the theme of survival, betrayal and competition. The game is set in the snowy Arctic, with the vast snowfields and rolling snow-capped mountains. There is a crew of eight different identities for players to choose, on a 19th-century warship of the British Empire royal family, sailing through the cruel Arctic, and two of the players will be "traitors ", obstructing other players.

The goal of the game is also very simple, players must first ensure their own survival, the "good guys" need to get the ship out of trouble, and the "bad guys" would stop them at all costs. As is common in survival games, players need food, clothes and to arm themselves. In addition, the ship needs fuel to move forward, so everyone has to collect coal while avoiding the icebergs on the driving route.

For this game, survival gameplay and werewolf gameplay are like the heel and sail of a ship. Survival is the heel of the game, deciding whether the ship can go on or not, and werewolf gameplay is like the sail, deciding where the ship is heading.

 

2. What makes Dread Hunger different?

In fact, this kind of gameplay is not first invented in Dread Hunger. As early as 2019, Project Winter has a similar design, with the same cold winter, the same 8 players, the same 2 "traitors", and the same goal to "survive".

Various occupation setting

On the base of the gameplay mechanism of Project Winter, Dread Hunger takes use of various occupation settings in RPG games, as players can play the role of the captain, chef, engineer, or doctor. Different roles also have different weapons and ability; and the game retains part of the survival and construction gameplay, such as collecting resources to build.

This gameplay of constructing and building not only provides richer playability, but also deeply embeds the two conditions for victory: staying alive and reaching the end. The various occupational setting creates multiple dimensions to the player's experience: due to the different performance of the various professions, each player can play the strengths of his own role as a game progresses to the middle. Even if you get tired of playing one of them, there are others to choose from. For players, the rich variety during the game creates long-lasting playability.

 

Everyone plays their part and confronts each other directly

In addition, compared to Among Us, a game that depends on speeches, Dread Hunger completely abandoned speaking, turn-taking, and voting, and put more emphasis on direct confrontation between different camps. The ability to speak well is not a necessary skill for the "traitors", and the "good guys" do not have to organize the language to clear themselves, in addition to exchanging necessary information with each other, players can focus on their own work, which greatly reduces the psychological burden between the players and makes the game pace more enjoyable. Through such a mechanism, players can work together towards the same goal, and also trust each other to catch the traitor.

 

Operation and Competition

In terms of mechanics, Dread Hunger also keeps the gameplay of identity in traditional werewolf games. The ship is the home base for all players, and players often gather together on the ship after nightfall in order to turn in supplies and shelter from the cold, making it a natural meeting place for everyone to do their work while communicating with each other about who might be the traitor, meanwhile, the traitors are hiding in them, spreading rumors and causing havoc secretly.

As going into the later stages, the game also changes from werewolf gameplay to asymmetric competition. The "traitor" will leave the army and act alone for better progress, while the surviving good guys are working hand in hand and resisting the threats from the traitor and weather, instead of being suspicious of each other. The short game of twenty minutes contains the gaming in the early stages, suspecting in the middle, and the head-to-head confrontation in the late stages. With the change of weather and the progression of the traitor, the pace of the battle accelerates step by step, rattling the player's nerves every minute.

The main advantage of the game is that it leaves the choice entirely to the players themselves. It tells you the ultimate goal, but does not deliberately give guidance to players about what to do and what not to do, so players can give full play to their own imagination. As long as you achieve the goal, what happened in the middle is not important at all, which also allows players to operate freely and there could be so many possibilities. So there is much room for learning and improvement, both in the level of strategic gaming and in the details of the operation. And it's easy to understand why people are willing to keep playing.

 

3. The fun of "betrayal" and "lying"

In addition to meeting the social nature of friends, the game is to release the "devil" of players.

For such games, the core attraction is never the rules-based competition of other games, let alone the competition of reaction speed. The joy of the game is also often dependent on the details, so the observation and the understanding of subtle clues are both vital. The process of deduction is also full of the sense of drama, and the moment of uncovering the mystery bursts out of the surprise, along with the thrill of hiding in the dark in full view of everyone, altogether consisting of the fun of betrayal and lying and the joy of cooperation, which is what this kind of game ultimately brings us. It's as if the game is saying: Hey, it's safe now, why don't you try it? Most importantly, this "dark" side exists only in the game, and will not have any serious impact on real life.

The mechanism of the game itself forms a natural social function, and this new online social werewolf game has broken through the restrictions of space. Players have to communicate, cooperate, or compete with each other, and these neutralize the isolation. There are a lot of social or interpersonal games out there in the market, but they tend to be simple in gameplay and lack follow-up popularity, and Dread Hunger, at least for now, has no such concerns.

For players, when friends begin to cheat each other, the game truly begins. The face-to-face questioning and lying, which comes from your close friends, create various kinds of fear and thrill. Imagine the betrayal from a good friend, suspicion under dangerous conditions, or being wronged by others.  Finally, the game is over, it's back to real life, and everything goes back to normal.  You will continue to trust them.  After all, you are friends, how could they lie to you? 


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