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Game Idea A Week: The Black Death

Week Twenty-Four (19/03/2010)

The idea for this week is inspired by the theme for the Game Design Challenge for GDC 2010, Real-world Permadeath. Check out the Gamasutra article on the lecture.

You are the Grim Reaper. You must mark people to die based on historical statistics from Medieval Europe. Hunt down your prey as they run from you. Fight off angels who try to stop you, and thwart all the doctors' attempts to save the innocents.

The Grim Reaper





Why it needs to be made:

The games developed for the Game Design Challenge were interesting and diverse. I wanted to find a game that would still meet the theme requirements, be tasteful and fun at the same time. This game is a novel take on an FPS, where instead of characters approaching you to get killed, you must hunt down your prey as they run and hide from you.


In this game you play the Devil's minion, the Grim Reaper, who must mark people to die from the Plague during Medieval Europe. You must meet daily quotas of deaths, based on real-world historical statistics. If you do not meet the quotas, you will be penalised. However, if you reach the quotas very quickly then you are given bonuses.

The game follows the rise of the Plague and finishes when the plague has reached its peak. Each level is a different village, suburb or city. There are a number of stages in each level that reflect different days of the week. On each day (stage), the player must hunt down and target a specific number of characters/villagers throughout the environment. The player can choose who they want to target, so they can choose to only target "evil-doers" or "good Samaritans" depending on their personal feelings. Villagers will hide in buildings and run away from the Reaper if seen in the open. Luckily, the Grim Reaper has special powers so the player can find the location of villagers. In the game this is achieved by using a HUD showing positions of non-marked villagers. Villagers that are marked for death have a black glow around them while they continue to live.

Although the viewpoint is in first-person and you aim at human targets, only a few of the characters (the doctors and angels) will attempt to fight you. You spend the game searching for victims and tracking them like a hunter. To target a victim, the player throws their scythe like a boomerang. As the game progresses more abilities are given to the player, such as how to fight doctors (who can heal your marked victims) and angels.

Why it will be a compelling game:

There will be waves of high death days where the player must find a large number of victims, and then it will become quiet again when the player heads to a new location. Hunting down villagers will be the key challenge and fun here, as their techniques for hiding from the Reaper improve throughout the game.

Other thoughts:

To match the theme of real-world death, I considered many different game options However, games that involved the death of people the player knows would be unlikely to be fun or tasteful. Hence, the game is set in history so that the player will not have any pre-existing emotional attachment to the characters they must mark to die.

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