Bring Out Your Dead: Peace

What I set out to do with Peace was to make a game about the perils of being a traveler, about how observing a situation changes the outcome. “Peace” was originally for the magical realism game jam, in which the prompt I chose was the game’s first screen. (The title is a veiled reference to the line from Tacitus, “they made a desert and called it peace”.) Writing about the Roman Empire–and the Empire specifically–meant that I wanted to tackle issues of inclusion and exclusion, and limited agency. The story of Empire as produced by those in the machine. And who tells the story.

The problems I see are several:

1) Mechanically, I want the corpus to be more robust, and to respond to more of the player’s choices. If you get a silver mask in Caerulea, I want it to be traded in Flexiloquus for a secret. In that way, even at moments when there isn’t player choice specifically, it’s clear the game is listening. I never had the time to actually implement this.

2) There aren’t enough actions besides traveling in a particular direction, and the final choice. Part of this has to do with the disorientation of indefinite peripatesis, but I also think there’s more I can do here. This piece probably belongs in Undum, since I envision it specifically as a linear story which unfolds but is different in each iteration.

If I were to redo this now, I think it would be mechanically very different: at every stage you’d have a choice to remain, continue, or turn back. But turning back doesn’t necessarily return you to previous passages; the desert, after all, is infinitely vast and variable, and you may not be able to find the way. The further in you go, the more detached from the mechanisms of empire you become. There’s never a center to reach; that to me runs counter to the narrative I want to tell. Which means the ending to this game might feel slightly forced; I’m still grappling with that.

In the end, I wanted a text that that read as text, where player choices influence the minutiae of the story but not the story itself. I’m not entirely satisfied with this–my work is either really branchy, with wildly varying decisions, or extremely constrained and directly about that constraint. I’m not sure this has found a satisfactory balance yet. I’m interested in thoughts, about the direction this might go, if it’s resurrectable.

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