Earlier yesterday, Vogelsap announced a strange feature to its upcoming multiplayer-only PC game called The Flock. The development team plans on adding a universal kill counter to the experience. When it reaches its maximum value (no one knows right now what that number will be), the game will no longer be available for purchase — and the multiplayer server will shut down.
What happens after all of the inhabitants of The Flock’s world are dead? Vogelsap is only hinting that players who own The Flock will be able to experience a climactic finale. It’s an awesome idea — and a little ballsy.
I covered The Flock before at GDC, where I met the designer, Jeroen van Hasselt. He’s definitely a creative guy, and I suspect a lot more is behind this idea than meets the eye. I got a chance to sit down and talk to him about this decision to create such a fragile concept.
GamesBeat: This idea you just dropped on us today, limiting the overall times players around the world can die, is shocking. Where did the idea originally come from?
Jeroen van Hasselt: We always had this story that the Flock are a tragic race that is doomed to extinction. During development, we had several ideas how to convey that story into multiplayer. It was only when we tried to come up with a solution for a multiplayer game’s often anticlimactic ending that both ideas clicked. That’s how the population idea came to life.
GamesBeat: I remember when we met at the 2015 Game Developers Conference. One of the things we were casually talking about was Left 4 Dead-itis — where Left 4 Dead was a really simple but awesomely clever multiplayer experience, yet at the same time it hit a peak really early. From my personal experience, outside of the hardcore fans, everyone around me seemed exhausted with the gameplay well before part two released. Is this sort of “shutting down of The Flock” tied to that issue?
Hasselt: We are very aware that we’re not the next free-to-play title or MOBA game. We designed our game to be immersive, tense/scary, and unconventional. These things don’t last, unfortunately. However, the other big design problem we decided to tackle was the anticlimactic ending of a multiplayer experience in which people just slowly stop playing. We want the game to be something worth remembering that ends with a climactic finale.
We’ve been making this game in a safe environment in which we were allowed to take risks. We have no debt to anyone, financially or otherwise (because that’s how Indie Fund works) we only have responsibility to ourselves. As near-reckless ambitious game development students we want to create the most authentic experience possible. We want to give our players a one-of-a-kind experience after which they can be proud to have been a part of.
GamesBeat: There is an obvious money issue with the idea as we know it right now. An immediate concern is that we are going to purchase a game that won’t work after a certain point.
Hasselt: Yes, there have been a lot of concerns about this.
We’re retrieving data from our ongoing closed beta and previous closed alpha to make sure we give the game a substantial amount of lives to ensure players will have plenty of time to play the game.
We are 100 percent dedicated to make sure the player will get their money’s worth. We have several plans that we think will tackle this problem quite nicely. All issues will be addressed in due time. Meanwhile, we want to be very transparent and explicit about the population plan, hence, the embedded counter on our Web site, in-game menu, Steam store page, etc.
GamesBeat: I have to say, this idea is also a crazy selling point. Even though The Flock was already on my “to play” list, I don’t want to miss out on either playing the game or experiencing whatever happens when the kill counter hits zero … whenever that is.
Hasselt: We don’t want you to miss out on this either! Vogelsap likes to go on adventures. Adventures are thrilling experiences with an unknown outcome. You don’t often have the chance to go on an adventure. We want to offer players that same kind of thrilling experience, and The Flock reflects that. We aspire to write history of which players have the choice to be a part of.
GamesBeat: Surely there is a threat of trolls and griefers committing mass suicide to shut the game down early. Have you considered that an issue?
Hasselt: We have been working for months on this and have put a lot of thought in it. This is definitely something that came to our minds and we have a plan which will be revealed in due time.