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Very impressive article Jake! You are very talented.
nice article! i love seeing the breakdowns.
A small team from Russia discussed the idea behind The Executioner – a game that will you a chance to play as a hangman. What are the reasons for this harsh topic?
Hi. We are Lesser Evil Games. Almost all of our small indie studio members live and work in Moscow.
I’m Lex, I’m the author of all Russian texts and editor in our team. Prior to “The Executioner” I was doing gamification of business processes, so let me better tell you more about the other team members.
Fuad is the game’s idea author and lead game designer. He was also working in gamification area for quite some time. His latest work is a board game “Pathologic”, it was done as a collaboration with Ice-Pick Lodge studio. Fuad is our steel backbone, though he tries to delegate certain duties to everyone.
Tamara is a designer. We’ve lured her to our team by asking her to make a game’s site for us. She’s a great fan of psychological horror, so she made a UI for the game and accepted the role of the producer. Mara has her own publishing studio – Indigo Games, which had a successful Boomstarter campaign for Russian adaptation of the FATE system games.
Anya is our game designer and Fusion specialist. She’s currently finishing her Scream School tuition, so her own first projects will be released to the public access this summer.
Vladimir is our narrative designer. He joined our team not so long ago and currently he’s also working with the game’s voiceover.
Igor is our artist. He’s got plenty of projects in his portfolio: The Forest, The Skies, Eador: Masters of the Broken World, Olympus 2207, The Walking Dead Road to Survival (app), DragonSoul (app), Mysterium (board game).
The idea came to Fuad as he was reading an article “Interesting facts about executioners”. He has this habit of turning everything interesting into a game mechanics so he realized that a game about executioner will be unique. Game’s protagonist does things which can easily drive a person insane. Tortures, suffering, blood, pain, public executions – all of that is a routine for him. That is how game’s 2 main mechanics were born – sanity system and torture chamber mechanics as a “battle” between an executioner and his victim. We’ve tested the idea during Ludum Dare #37 and received some uplifting feedback.
Among our favorite references are games Papers, please!, Sorcery!, the second chapter of “Gods will be watching”. Books – “Master” by Henry Lion Oldie
The game consists of 3 core mechanics and one optional (perhaps we’ll have to loose it in the release version)
To sum it up – protagonist’s sanity is as important as his life. Actions like violent tortures will damage his sanity. And there are very few ways to restore it, since it’s a very valuable resource that defines the protagonist’s actions. You want to get the confession out of victim in a fast and violent way? Then you should be sure that it is worth the cost of damaging Theodor Grim’s mind.
Every meaningful choice done by the player affects one of the seven game’s global variables. Chaos is the most important of all. Six others are defined in pairs: Monarchy against Revolution, Humanity against Sociopathy, Rationalism against Mysticism. Attacked a guard and the Revolution level will rise; didn’t want to finish off a fallen opponent and lost your advantage during the fight – your Humanity reacts to that; attended a secret ritual – Mysticism level will rise.
These variables are called global because of the widespread effect they have not only on the Theodor, but on the world around him. Due to his solipsism the world changes around the protagonist according to his vision of it, and Grim is left to deal with the consequences.
The third mechanics is a torture chamber where the executioner opposes his victim. The game will have one major victim for each of the chapters and a few less important.
The executioner in our game has his agility, sanity, overly enthusiastic Assistant, torture devices arsenal and special skills which the protagonist will acquire during the game. His goal is to get the confession for the Judge out of every victim and additional answers for his personal purpose and motives (these are the keys to the detective lines of each chapter)
Victim too has vitality, sanity, weaknesses which can help the executioner and special attributes which can interfere with his work. For example it’s heavier on the mental side to torture a young girl rather than a hardened criminal.
Combat mechanics – this is the 4th mechanics. It will be added to the game if the project will raise $29’000, but I’ll say a couple of words about it. It’s a turn based tactical combat which is centered around the protagonist. Theodor Grim can use his executioner’s skills to make enemies flee, cripple them, get the information. Depending on the story choices players will be able to get one of three partners to fight by their side: Maid, Assistant or Dog.
Text Narrative and 2D Art
We’re using active layout for text in order for it to be more than only a narrative media, but an active playspace – a text of lies, a text of emotions. We’re planning to increase quantity and density of these elements in text layout so the player can interact with it and not only read it.
We’re planning on doing the same with all the art. At first art pieces were planned as an additional immersive element, something to help players delve into the atmosphere and add details to the whole picture.
A Harsh Topic
We feel that we’re doing something great. There are strongly portrayed executioner characters in movies, books and games. But executioner as a main character.. that’s something new. Not only we want to be the first ones to do this but we also want to make the game a worthy portrayal of the protagonist’s life and his psychological dramas.
For example Theodor Grim has synesthesia. He sees world differently from the others. We were very pleased to get a feedback from the player who has the same condition. He told us that it’s the first time he could really associate himself with the protagonist. We feel great responsibility in moments like this.
As for the public reaction… Yes, we know that not all people like the game’s idea. What can I say… I personally don’t like a reality show, but I don’t have any negative emotions towards it, I just don’t watch it and ignore any mentions of it in mass media.
Yes, there are people out there who consider their duty to write comments about how disgusting the game is and what a bad persons we are for making it but they do not hinder us. Mostly because we get a lot of positive feedback from people who tell us that it’s an interesting concept, texts are good, mechanics are intriguing. They also tell us that games like ours will never be published by the major studios and that what makes them unique and valuable. We can see people’s interest in the game and story and we’ll do all we can so they will not regret playing this small life-game.
You will definitely see us on Steam sooner or later. If the Kickstarter campaign will be successful then the game will be released closer to the end of Autumn 2017. Closest plans – pass the Greenlight. Mac and mobile ports cost more than Steam release but we have these in our stretch goals.