I finished a new, short Twine game largely based on what I wrote about Superman over the summer, and somewhat of a conceptual companion piece to the Pet Loris Simulator. While the Loris Simulator is a game you cannot win, Faster Than A Speeding Bullet is a game you cannot lose. A lot of great games play around with failure, most famously games like Spelunky, Nethack or Karoshi. Sometimes these games use failure as part of a message, sometimes as part of comedy, sometimes to ask the player to use their failure as part of creating a story. But I can’t think of many games that play around with success as often. This isn’t a “reverse roguelike” or a “procedurally generated life dungeon” or anything (those are coming later), but it is an attempt to create a game where success is not just an end, but a means to something else.
The premise is that you are an all powerful super hero, and your task is to do as much good as you can in the 30 seconds until the super villain blows up the city. Every action takes away a tic or so of the clock. Of course, in the end, being an all powerful super hero, you will still be able to save the world no matter what. The play is in exploring your options and considering what your ideal outcome to be. How much good can you do? What, to you, is worth doing?
While the game is unabashedly based on Superman and Metropolis, I never mention anything specifically in the game. I joke that this is to avoid copyright infringement, but the truth is that I wanted to leave it open for the player to invent their own hero. Playing at being Superman means playing at being the best person you can be, and I think a game that tells you the best person you can be is a very specific white dude goes against what I was hoping to achieve. The iconic elements are all there: the doomed planet of origin, the secret identity as a reporter, the sun-based powers, but you can envision for yourself what these elements mean and what your hero looks like.
I made a version of this game and released it on twitter back in the fall, but I wasn’t happy with it and left it to work on other projects. The game was not what I had planned, it wasn’t a game you couldn’t lose. While it is impossible to make a piece of art without a point of view (and even if you did, the audience would give it a point of view and etc etc), I felt like I had gone too far in creating a game that still had a “winning” ending and a “losing” ending. Worse, I felt my writing for the “losing” ending had been hamfisted. This version at least takes care of that problem, but I still consider this to be more of an experiment than a major part of my oeuvre. Not to downplay the game, I really LOVE the idea of playing an omnipotent being who has to do as much good as you can think of within a time limit, and it is a rare chance to be both a self-indulgent fan and also create something new rather than just consume.